826NYC Post
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826NYC Post

Women’s Fashion in the 1860s

By Sofia Merino

Have you ever wondered what fashion was in the 1860s? The fashion before was influenced by European clothing.

Women’s fashion was different. They wore a dress called a silhouette. It was a hoop skirt with many layers of fabric under the hoop skirt to make it look fancy and elegant. They would wear them to parties.

You may be wondering what were the dresses made of in the 1860s? They were made from crinolines. Crinolines were made of hoops of whalebone, with layers of fabric that made the dresses puffy. The main dresses were made of sumptuous fabric such as velvet, brocade, taffeta, and silk.

There were always two different types of dresses that women wore. The dress for ladies typically had long sleeves and a high neckline and were most often made from cotton, fine wool, or silk. Their second dress was an evening or ball gown that would have very short sleeves and small puffs, and an open neckline and would be made out of silk or other especially fine cloth. This is what the two dresses that the women wore.

The first shoes that were in fashion were Hi-low boots or also known as half boots. They were first worn as fashionable boots in the early 1800s. They were made from silk or wool and laced to above the ankle. Women began to wear boots as practical alternatives to delicate slippers in the early 1860s.

During the early 1860s, younger women often styled their hair in long crimps and waves which made them look fancy. Some hair styles were parted in the center and pulled back with combs and wrapped in a bun. The wigs were made of horse, goat or yak hair.

Stars were the most popular jewelry. They were carved into the tops of amethysts, brooches, bracelets, lockets, and pavèd with pearls, and diamonds. This was considered very fancy in the 1860s.

About this piece:

During the Fall 2021 semester, 826NYC’s journalism class, Write All About It, dug deep into our local Brooklyn history with support from historians at the Center for Brooklyn History and the New-York Historical Society, alongside independent research. In emulation of one of the first Black-owned newspapers in the country, The Freedman’s Torchlight — which was published in the town of Weeksville, now part of Crown Heights, in the 1860s — students wrote about the news and culture of 1860s Brooklyn in this time-hop special edition of The 826NYC Post.



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