Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Dress for Every Occasion

Just as we wear different outfits to the office, a night on the town, exercise, shopping or working or lounging around the house, the Victorian woman of the 1860s had a dress for every occasion.
The main feature of all these dresses (excluding formal wear) was that they all fastened in the front, whether one-piece or two. Otherwise, how would they have gotten dressed in the morning without help? Unlike Scarlett O'Hara, most women didn't have maids to dress them. The fasteners used during the period were buttons or tiny hooks and eyes.
One piece dresses, called wrappers, were often worn while working in the house, garden or field. Aprons were worn over all dresses when doing anything that might soil the gown. Aprons were made from leftover material or old dresses, blankets or other items. The Victorians recycled everything.
While the one-piece dress was worn for work, other dresses were constructed of two pieces, consisting of a fitted bodice and skirt. The skirt was then basted onto the bodice, eliminating gaps and making the garment appear to be one-piece, as most dresses of the period matched top and bottom.
Evening dresses were also two-piece, but the bodices fastened up the back. These bodices were low cut, exposing the shoulders, upper chest (but no cleavage), and arms. Fine fabrics were used and unlike the skirts worn every day, these skirts were often trimmed with lace or ribbon.
The links below give more information and pictures of different types of dresses worn during the Victorian period, 1860s and beyond.
http://www.shasta.com/suesgoodco/newcivilians/womenswear/fashion.htm
http://www.victoriana.com/library/Timeline/1861.htm
http://www.tudorlinks.com/treasury/articles/viewvictorian.html
http://www.fashion-era.com/mid-late_victorian_fashion.htm
http://www.shasta.com/suesgoodco/newcivilians/womenswear/dresses.htm
For more information on women's dresses of the 1860s, read:
Who Wore What? Women's Wear 1861-1865 by Juanita Leisch copyright 1995 Thomas Publications ISBN 0-939631-81-4

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