1850s and 1860s

The elegant styled green velvet mantle has ball trim to relieve the stiffness of its circular form. Still in vogue is the drop shoulder line which has been further emphasized by gathers and trim. A pin decorates the neck. A pink (maroon velvet) bonnet which sets back on the head covers the hair when out of doors. Inside the brim is blond lace with roses interspersed. The ruffle in the back is called a curtain. In the early Victorian era, the bonnet was considered the only correct form of head covering for the mature woman.

Pink hoop - 1856

In 1856, the legs were freed from the layers of petticoats by the re-invention of the hoop. While the hoop alleviated some problems, it caused crowding in rooms, and exposed the ankle. By 1858 one manufacturer was producing three to four thousand hoops every day. Cartoons ridiculed their size and street cars show them hanging on the outside. The invention of the sewing machine also had its effect on the women’s fashions, especially when it made its way into the home. This shortened the time spent on making an outfit, and American women used the time saved to add yards and yards of flounces and ruffles to the skirts. The weight of these skirts made the hoop a necessary evil, but also an elegant era for fashion.

The hoop supported the weight of this three-tiered skirt of pink antique satin trimmed in pink floral braid. Many dressed had both a day and evening body. This evening bodice is pointed front and back. The low neckline, edged in satin ribbon, has a fall of fine lace. Hooks and eyes close the back. The correctness of one’s attire was always under scrutiny. Every detail of the costume must be correct. Small hands were the symbol of gentility. Fingerless mitts were proper inside and were worn even when eating. Painted and decorative gloves were given to wedding guests as favors. The hair, covered most of the time, is uncovered and adorned with flowers when dressed for a ball or wedding.

The chatelaines worn throughout the previous centuries continued to be used but with different necessities. When dressed in the tight corsets, a vinaigrette with smelling salts was needed in case you had a “fit of the vapors.” Also a touch up of perfume might be appropriate.

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