Gorgeous and interesting 19th century clothes

I have found a use for Pinterest besides reposting snarky commentary on relationships. Several of my Civil War reenactor friends and historical costuming friends have been pinning pictures of museum pieces throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries of historical clothing. I wanted to put some of my favorite ones into a blog.

We’ll start with a couple of very interesting corsets.

The blue corset (top) dates to circa 1851-1861 based on the shape and construction. Ordinarily I would pass right over this corset as looking like any other, except one major difference. It’s blue. Personally I have never seen a corset of color dated that early in the 19th century. The vast majority of corsetry throughout the 19th century through the Civil War were white without much embellishment, if any at all, and that was to make cleaning easier. All underclothes of that period were simple, white and could withstand the harsh ingredients in cleaning agents of that time. Corsets of color as a rule did not come into fashion until the late 19th century and even then, most of them were still white but with colored embellishments like embroidery or trim. A solid blue corset was a very fashion forward idea in the 1850s. I like that lady already!

The gray corset (bottom) dates to 1851 based on the shape and construction. It would probably not have been used after 1855. The corset itself is pretty standard but there is an extremely interesting feature. See the “wings” on the hips? Those are called basques and they were apparently meant in this case to help support the weight of the skirt and petticoats. Remember the cage crinoline was still a few years away, so the bell shaped silhouette was achieved by the use of multiple petticoats layered on top of each other. So many petticoats became heavy on the body. This lady had the great idea of adding basques to her corset meant to help support the weight. I have not personally seen this before and I think it’s fabulous.

So now let’s look at some dresses.

Couldn’t you just die over this dress? I was immediately drawn to it because it’s so timeless that I would use it as a wedding dress today in the 21st century. This dress is supposed to have been a wedding dress from 1869, made of silk satin. The lines are so simple that they’re strikingly modern and the fabric looks to be in great condition. The belt with the adapted rosette embellishment looks like waistline decorations I’ve seen on those wedding shows my grandmother endlessly watches.

Next dress.

I really wish this picture was bigger because this dress is way too fabulous for such a small viewing area. It reminds me of a beautiful piece of cake. This is a ballgown from 1865. You can see the skirt silhouette evolving from the bell shape during the war into the eventual polonaise revival popular toward the end of Reconstruction. The ballgown is made of a pink taffeta underdress with an overlay of pink silk organza and satin stripes. I’d throw a party just to wear this dress!

Next dress.

Just take a minute to breathe in the details of this beauty. I don’t know very much about this dress except it’s dated circa 1853-1854 because of the cut, sleeves and neckline. I’m not sure what this dress is made of but my educated guess is painted silk with some woven detail. The colors in themselves are stunning aside from the construction of the dress. The lady who owned it would have worn a white blouse or her chemise under it, as well as white undersleeves to protect the dress from the oils, dirt and sweat on her body. The detailing is what makes this dress stunning.

Next dress.

This is a beautiful woven silk (maybe a silk/wool blend?) dress from the mid to late 1850s.  I think it could have been used early in the Civil War as well, judging by the shape of the bodice.  The pagoda sleeves are distinctly 1850s, however, and the woman would have worn white under sleeves underneath as well.  What’s really striking about the stress to me is the pattern of the fabric and the color combination.  There is a silver sheen to it that suggests to me that the woman would have maybe worn it for a nighttime event that did not require being fully dressed up.  It’s really stunning.

That’s just a small slice of the wonderful examples of historical clothing I have found from users on Pinterest.

One response to “Gorgeous and interesting 19th century clothes”

  1. Jenny says:

    I keep coming back to stare at these! If only I could have a reproduction of the second to last one, that gorgeous blue one with the stunning details! And the pink ballgown! I love it – wish there was a bigger pic of it.

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