Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | March 25, 2013

Fashion Timeline 1860’s


Bodices: A straight line at the natural waist or higher slowly supplanted the pointed waistline; the waist was sometimes emphasized with a broad sash. To avoid too close a resemblance to a gumdrop, this bodice required changes in the crinoline, as well.  Garibaldi blouses became popular after the Italian nationalist’s invasion of Sicily; they were suitable for informal attire, or could be dressed up with a jacket, such as the popular Zouave jacket, for going out.  Blouses would increase in popularity during the rest of the century. tasseled peplums were added in ’66-’68. Square necklines began to be worn. Berthas were out.  Some “empire” (high-waisted) dresses were worn with narrow crinolines, but never became common.

Sleeves: The bishop sleeve began to give pagoda sleeves a run for their money, and engageantes ceased to be Broderie anglaise.

Skirts and petticoats: To accommodate the new waistline, crinolines became narrower below the waist, creating a more tapered and less dome-like effect. Goring the volumes of the skirt material at the waist, rather than gathering it, enhanced this slimmer (versus “gumdrop” look) silhouette. The hem of the skirt, however, remained as wide as ever, or possibly more so.  At the same time, the bulk of the petticoat began to move towards the back of the body, with slightly flattened front to the skirt. This allowed women to pick up things (and children) without knocking over with their protruding hoops. This backward-moving tendency continued, resulting in the bustle (of the 70’s and 80’s).

 Trimming moved to the lower half of the skirt. In informal settings, such as the country or beach, the skirt could be looped up in swags, revealing the shorter and less expensive petticoat and protecting expensive skirt material from mud, water, dirt, etc. Inevitably, however, petticoats became fancier – even made of dress material – to withstand observation, somewhat defeating the initial purpose.  Toward the end of the decade, a different form of looping became popular: over-skirts draped across the front of the dress and gathered in a “pompadour pouf” on the back, prefiguring the bustle. Petticoats now came in scarlet, magenta, flannel, taffeta, and alpaca.

At this point distinction was made between walking dresses (barely ankle-length) and visiting dresses (to the floor –presupposing the wearer uses a carriage).  Walking dress hems were cut out in scallops, vandykes, and turrets. Hems also became narrower. Women frequently owned two petticoats: one short and cone-shaped for walking, and the other longer and wider for evening.

Textiles: Fabrics became heavier than in the 50’s with moiré silk (watered silk) being very popular. Aniline-dyed fabrics grew increasingly popular, especially purple, mauve, magenta, and solferino. Altogether a vibrant and sometimes garish period.

Headgear:  The spoon bonnet came in, resembling the bonnet of the 50’s, but with a triangular point above the face. It was replaced by the Bibi in 1864, a tiny cap-like bonnet that revealed the back of the neck in public. Hats were still increasing in popularity since the onset of their acceptability in the previous decade, but they were considered less formal than bonnets.  Hats and bonnets from this time on would have delighted the heart of the taxidermist, as they sported dead birds, insects, and reptiles, in addition to more usual artificial fruits and flowers. To accommodate the new hairdos, hats came to perch precariously on the front of the head, more decoration than a covering.

Hairdos: In the early 60’s, a loose gathering of the hair into a hairnet was acceptable; but chignons and more elaborate configurations requiring the admixture of artificial hair became the norm.  These moved higher and higher onto the head, displacing hats in the process. In the mid-60’s, curled bangs began to be worn (immortalized by Pa in the Little House books a “lunatic fringe”).

Outerwear: The loose mantle predominated during these years, giving women a massive, mountain-like outline.  A loose jacket called a sac paletot or casque, made of the same material of the dress, could be worn, a precursor to the tailor-made suit.

Plate 37. May 1865


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