Boston Public Library
À la Mode, 1795 to 1920
Fashion Plates
Rare Books Department


Fashion Plates 1862-1896
A Tour of Women's Fashion


1862: In a Cage. During the American Civil War, skirts reached their largest circumference, supported by cage crinolines, or hoops, made of whalebone or steel. Sleeves and bodices were tight at the shoulder, although sleeves loosened at the elbow into bell shapes or kimono sleeves. The invention of chemical dyes created a new universe of fashion colors: Queen Victoria of England was the first to wear the new shade called "mauve." Hair continued to be dressed tight and close to the head.

From: Le Bon Ton, New York.

1875 and 1877: The Bustle. The hoop skirt collapsed and fullness was concentrated at the back of the skirt. The increasing accumulation of drapery required the support of a bustle, another cage-like undersupport. The skirts were worn fairly tightly, hampering the gait. The extremely close-fitting "cuirass" bodice followed the shape of the corset smoothly over the hips. Elaborate hairstyles, worn high on the head, required an abundance of false plaits. Hats sat high and tipped forward. The invention and proliferation of the sewing machine made it easier to add ever more decorative frills, trims, and ribbons.

From: La Mode Illustrée, Paris.

1896: Freedom Begins. As more and more women began to work outside the home, they sought practical clothing that allowed for greater movement. The first American working girls, immortalized by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson in the 1890s, wore ready-made shirtwaist blouses and plain skirts. Their skirts flared smoothly out from the waist and often ended slightly above the ankle. The sensible blouse was modeled on men’s shirts. Corsets created an hourglass figure. Wide bouffant sleeves, full "pompadour" hairstyles and huge hats balanced the simplicity of the basic costume.

From La Mode, Paris.

Fashion and Classicism
Fashion Plates 1818-1846
Changes in 19th Century Male Fashion
Fashion Influences from Abroad
Fashion and Modernism
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Exhibit Images

Le Bon Ton, 1862

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Le Bon Ton, 1862

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La Mode Illustrée, 1875

women of fashion
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La Mode Illustrée, 1877

women of fashion
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La Mode, 1896

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