Fashion In The 1800s
by JC Pinkerton
The Early 1800s:
When Napoleon proclaimed himself emperor in 1804, he decided to restore the grandeur of Versailles. He called Leroy, a popular tailor of the rich and famous to his court, to consult on matters of fashion. It wasnít long before Leroy was known as an authority on design.
Once again womenís clothes were decorated with trimmings and laces and men turned to embroidery military uniforms and short, knee-length culottes. Napoleon wanted his court to look superb and at the same time establish a successful textile industry. His court donned clothing such as cashmere, satin and velvet created in Italian and French factories.
Womenís dresses were designed with a high waist under the bosom and low round or square necklines and sleeves came in different shapes. Some were short and worn with long gloves past the elbows and some were long with padded puffs. Hems were decorated with light ruffs, and colorful embroidery. The seam between the bodice and skirt was covered by trimmings or embroidered belts held with pins. It was fashionable to cover womenís shoulders with a cashmere shawl to keep warm and give an added touch of decoration to the dress. Women wore leather or cloth slippers for shoes and leather boots.
Menís clothing continued to be fashioned after the English style consisting of trousers and a short jacket. Pins and other decorations were worn on the collars and ties. Men wore leather shoes and boots. Nobels wore leather shoes with buckles and some peasants wore wooden clogs.
After Napoleon, womenís waistline returned to the middle of the dress and corsets became popular once again. Sleeves widened along with the skirts and were decorated with embroidery or sewn-on ointments. Material used for making dresses became brighter with printed fabrics and shawls were still used for the added touch of fashion.
The crinoline skirt became popular and required padded material for the stiff underskirt. The crinoline was costly due to the enormous amount of silk, satin or taffeta required to make it. During the summer crinolines were made with a cooler material such as crepe, muslin or tulle.
Many women wore their hair braided and gathered in a bun. For eveningwear they were decorated with ribbons, flowers and lace.
Popular Clothing Shops:
Men were as interested in having a slender waistline as women and tied wide sashes around their waist to make it appear smaller. Three-quarter coats and cloaks became popular along with shirts having high collars. By the 1850s tails were popular for eveningwear and the cane gave the added touch for menís fashion.
Clothing shops appeared with ready-made dresses of a variety of material and prices. Shops such as Quenin in Paris, Korn and Hostrupp in Hamburg were quite popular among the wealthy. Soon an American, Issac Singer produced a sewing machine, and opened a whole new world for women.
Ladies learned how to operate the sewing machine and created decorative clothing that was once only available to the privileged. Women now had the advantage of designing their own clothing and producing it at a much faster speed. Todayís clothing is not only more comfortable but requires less material to make and the crinoline skirt (slip) was still popular in the 1950s.
Lexicon Universal Ency.New York
The Readerís Companion to American HistoryBoston, MA.