Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | March 24, 2013

Fashion Timeline 1850’s


Bodices: Bodices were higher than in the 40’s, with less emphasis on sloped shoulders; Basques in imitation of jackets or else actual jackets were worn, the more risqué with a waistcoat like a man’s. Blouses became acceptable for morning dress.  Fringe was an increasingly popular edging for bodices, giving some Victorian women’s clothes an oddly Western look to modern eyes.  The princess bodice reemerged in the late 50’s, in which the bodice and skirt are made of continuous segments of fabric, with no seam at the waist.

Sleeves: Pagoda sleeves with engageantes (inserts) remained dominant.

Skirts and petticoats: In contrast to skirts in the 40’s, those of the 50’s were copiously flounced, often pinked edges and stiffened to stick out. A disposition flounces were fashionable and made of fabric with a specially printed border at the edge, usually designed to coordinate with a print from which the rest of the dress is made.

 Morning dresses sported around 3 flounces; evening dresses often had five; Empress Eugenie wore a dress sporting 104 tiny flounces. Skirts in the 50’s became increasingly busy, with the smooth, flowing lines of the 40’s giving way to strong horizontal elements or innumerable bows, ruffles, flounces, puffs, and artificial flowers that imparted an odd sense of massiness and immobility to women’s dress. Skirts expanded in circumference with the advent of the cage or artificial crinoline in 1856, and also acquired a more rigid bell-shape. This crinoline is a descendent of the Renaissance farthingale and the 18th century panniers, also often made of rigid materials such as wood, whalebone or metal.

Textiles: Fabrics for day and evening became heavier and richer, with brocades and shot silks being worn even on morning dresses, one of the most informal stages of Victorian dress. Evening dresses, on the other hand, were diaphanous tartalans and tulles, creating a delicate, fluttery, busy effect.

Headgear:  Bonnet brims shrank, exposing the front half of the head. Hats of silk, velvet, or plush became increasingly acceptable for women in lieu of bonnets, except at formal events. Broad-brimmed “seaside hats” were worn at informal outdoor occasions. Indoor caps were less requisite, even for the aged, with insubstantial clusters of ribbons or lace or flowers being substituted.

Hairdos:  Side ringlets went out of fashion although a center part remained fashionable, as well as the hair pulled into a back bun or chignon.

Accessories: Parasols became increasingly popular. Gloves were still proclaimed essential, even indoors, for women; though period photographs suggest this dictum was not invariably obeyed.

1855 day dress silk woven stripes salmon pink, white & black

Godey's Plate 23. July 1850



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