Womens Dress Attire Civil War Photos


Civil War era women's clothing includes crinoline, was one of the most distinctive styles in the history of women's clothing. The increasing prosperity of the middle classes in the 19th century, new dyes and new methods of producing fabrics and trims gave even the amateur dressmaker the ability to produce a fashion statement.


Day Dresses, or Informal Wear - A Day Dress was worn in the mornings or afternoons, for informal occasions such as breakfast, or household chores. It usually had a closed or close fitting sleeve and was often fitted, gathered, pleated or fanned in the front. The skirts were less full, but could be worn over multiple petticoats or a hoop.


Afternoon Dresses, or Semi-Formal Wear - An Afternoon, Tea, or Promenade dress worn during the Civil War era had more trim and a more open or pagoda sleeve. Bodices were usually the same design as the day dress with more trimmings added. The skirts usually are fuller, to accommodate a fuller hoop, and have more fullness to the back of the skirt, which was slightly longer and training. More expensive fabrics were used for this style of dress: silks, wools, and finer cottons.

Evening or Formal Wear - These dresses were made of the most lavish styling one could imagine. They usually had short sleeves, though a three-quarter length sleeve was also acceptable. They could open in the back or front, with buttons, hooks and eyes or eyelets. Very fine silks, cottons and blends of silk and wool have been known to be used for formal wear. The skirts were very full and sometimes had training in the back. Expensive laces and trims were generally used for eveningwear.

Children's clothing, during the American Civil War era was functional. Boys' shirts and trousers buttoned to other underthings, as did some of the clothing for the girls.


Styles for your young lady reflected social and economic status. The dress and deportment of the daughter of wealthy parents will be markedly different than the daughter of working class, farm or frontier families. The closet of a wealthy girl would contain several dresses in the latest styles, with elaborate trim. A farmer's child would have only a plain dress or two, most likely altered from an adult or older child's outgrown clothing.

Most have heard that young girls from the age of 8, sometimes younger, would be started in corsets. This would be true of wealthy families, but not working class families. The extremes of fashion featured in Goodeys Ladies' Book were intended only for the privileged classes. Daughters of working class families needed full freedom of movement to assist with household chores and little money could be spared for fashion undergarments a child would outgrow rapidly.

A young girl would wear short skirts until about the age of 13, when she was allowed the rights and responsibilities of a young lady. At reaching the teens, she would be allowed to wear more fashionable, long skirts & hoops, attend dances and social events, and begin beguiling prospective beaus. At that age girls would be fitted for corsets to support their developing torso.

Girl's dresses were one piece affairs, rather than a separate skirt and bodice. Dresses fastened up the back with buttons or hook and eyes. Aprons were worn at all times during play to protect dresses from soiling. Girls wore aprons in several styles, the most common type having a one-piece bib that covered the bodice front to back.

Dresses were universally fitted into a waistband. The shapeless "Prairie Dress" is a fashion from a later era. A looser, shift type of dress (approximating the ladies wrapper) was sometimes worn by frontier or farm girls, but it marked them as backwoods and low income.

Skirts had plenty of fullness provided by petticoats, hoops were saved for fancy occasions. More flexible petticoats of horsehair or piping were used for children's fashion dresses. A chemise and drawers were worn underneath. Cotton and wool stockings were worn with boots that laced up the front and had flat heels. The petticoats and drawers would sometimes peek below the hem of the skirt, and might be trimmed.

Older girls were dressed as little miniature ladies, with the look of the period for women's wear adapted to be more comfortable and allow for greater freedom of movement. These dresses had jewel necklines and long sleeves. Although still one piece dresses, these sometimes fastened up the front.

A type of two piece dress inspired by the Zouave uniform was very popular with girls and teens. This garment consisted of a skirt, a bolero type of jacket with large, bell sleeves, and a Garibaldi blouse. The blouse was usually red, sometimes white and had trim on the cuffs and blouse front. The skirt and jacket were usually crafted of matching fabric.

A shawl was most commonly worn by girls for warmth. This was usually a square piece of wool fabric folded in half diagonally into a triangle. A type of long, rectangular shawl called a "heart warmer" is sometimes seen--the ends of this shawl cross over in front of the breast and is tied in back, or the ends are tucked under the apron. Coats, cloaks and capes were also worn.

Hairstyles and Headwear - All girls hair, short or long, was parted in the middle, did not contain bangs, and was neatly contained. Short hair was common for little girls and young teens. The hair was blunt cut, usually at a length to about the base of the neck. The hair was neatly pinned back or a ribbon was tied in the hair like a hair band to keep it off the face.

Long hair was usually braided for play (parted in the middle and braided on each side just behind the ear), then pinned in rolls to the sides of the head. Braided hair was rarely left to hang down, this is only seen on farm/frontier children. Long hair might also be contained in a hairnet or rolled into a bun at the nape of the neck. Long hair would only be left down for special occasions, when it would be curled into ringlets.

Bonnets would always be worn when outside. Fabric sunbonnets were most popular for girls since they could be laundered and were durable. Straw hats are an excellent choice for hot weather, and were common during the period because they were inexpensive. Hats were worn squarely on the head, not tilted back.

Hats & Caps, Bonnets in felt & straw (Spoon, Old Fashioned, Prairie and Settler) 1850's, 1860's, 1870's and 1880's, Lace-Up, Button-Up, Ladies Shoes, Ladies Accessories, Aprons Underpinnings, Camisoles, Corsets, Bloomers, Chemises, Slips, Hoop-Slips & Corded Petticoats, Bustles, Caps, Skirts & Blouses / Bodices, Dresses, Fichus & Pelerines, Vests, Riding Habits, Hoop Skirts and Bustle Dresses, Bodices & Skirts, Fichu, Formal, Ball, Wedding, Reception, Fancy Bodices & Skirts, Work Dresses, Camp Dresses, 1830's & 1840's Dresses, 1850's Hoop Skirts & Dresses, 1860's, Mother Hubbard, Capes, 1881 Visiting Dress.



Womens Dress Attire - Civil War Ladies in Hoop Skirts with Parasols

Civil War era women's clothing includes crinoline, was one of the most distinctive styles in the history of women's clothing. The increasing prosperity of the middle classes in the 19th century, new dyes and new methods of producing fabrics and trims gave even the amateur dressmaker the ability to produce a fashion statement.

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