American Women's Fashion of the 19th Century

  • 1800-1809

    Dresses with high waistlines and lightweight materials are popular. There is an interest in antiquity, and therefore women sought to reproduce ancient Greek and Roman dress.
  • 1810-1819

    Waistlines remained high, but tubular skirts gave way to a more angular shape.
  • 1820-1829

    Antiquity stops influencing fashion. Romanticism takes its place. Fashionable women look to the past for inspiration. Skirts become wider and more layers are added.
  • 1830-1839

    Women continue to look back to the 1600s for inspiration, adopting wide collars and puffed sleeves.
  • 1840-1849

    The Victorian image of a meek, constrained woman comes into vogue. There is an emphasis on modesty.
  • 1850-1859

    Fashion is defined by dropped shoulders, small waists, and large skirts. This last is achieved with the introduction of the cage crinoline in 1856.
  • 1860-1869

    Due to the need for ready-to-wear uniforms during the Civil War, the use of the sewing machine grows. Cage crinoline continues to be fashionable, and skirts reach their largest around 1860.
  • 1870-1879

    The bustle becomes popular, with the fullness of the skirt being concentrated at the back. Vibrant colors are also fashionable.
  • 1880-1889

    Tight lacing of corsets, though fashionable, is criticized for health reasons as the extreme silhouettes of the 1870s continue to be popular. Some women opt for more relaxed dresses with loose waists and puffed sleeves.
  • 1890-1899

    Menswear begins to influence women's clothing. Shirtwaist ensembles consisting of a tailored blouse and a simple skirt and popular.