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Fashion of the Napoleonic era
Fashion from the olden era has always had a certain kind of charm. Although the fashion scene is constantly changing, there are certain elements from earlier eras that have a unique appeal. These elements have been revamped and reused as trends of the modern age.
Fashion in the 1800s has been a source of inspiration to many creative minds! Here, we shall take a historical trip and find out about the various styles of clothing that were prevalent back then. Different countries saw different fashion trends during this period. European countries like Great Britain and France influenced the world of fashion in the United States.
Fashion for Women
  • Women typically wore dresses that were floor-length, during the day as well as at night. Dresses went through a lot of variation in style during this period.
  • The high-waist Empire style gown was a characteristic feature of the fashion in the 1800s. Although there were different versions of the same early on, by the early 19th century, the Empire dress changed to a certain extent and was seen particularly with a square neckline. Tassels and trims in particular were used to beautify the gowns.
  • Sleeves were often puffed at the shoulders and could be either long or short. With time, the leg-of-mutton sleeve, which was a combination of a fitted and puffed sleeve, became popular. In the later years, formal occasions witnessed women wearing bustle dresses that were sleeveless.
  • A dress had a snug fit on the upper half of the body while the lower half of the garment was free-flowing. This high waistline often took attention away from the natural shape of the waist. In keeping with the free flow of the dress, the Grecian style of draping was quite popular.
  • Fabrics used to make the dresses were generally muslin or batiste. Lightweight fabrics with minimal embroidery were preferred.
  • Wearing white Empire gowns was considered to be a status symbol during this period. The reason for this was that whites soiled easily with regular wear. Hence, a woman who could afford to soil her dress without any worries was considered to be an important figure in society. However, during the second half of the 19th century, darker colors gained popularity and women opted for gowns in colors like dark green, purple, dark blue.
  • The mid-century saw the hoopskirt being worn commonly by many women. Petticoats and crinolines were used to achieve the desired shape.
  • With time, the skirt became flat in the front and bustles and tournures were used to make the back look puffed out.
  • Women wore multiple layers of clothing. The first layer consisted of a white, cotton chemise. Then came the corset that was used to achieve the hourglass figure, worn just below the dress. The corset was extremely tight and uncomfortable. However, it was a popular favorite as it helped to make the waist look very small.
  • Cotton shorts known as bloomers were worn under several other layers to add volume to the skirts.
Womens hair and accessories
  • Long hair and curls were dominant in fashion and a major classical influence was seen on hairstyles.
  • Hats and gloves formed an integral part of clothing during this period. Women had to wear bonnets or hats each time they stepped outside the house. These bonnets were often exquisitely decorated. With time, this was no more a compulsion. However, most women preferred to keep their head covered.
  • Parasols, which were fashionable umbrellas, were carried to protect the skin from the harsh rays of the sun.
  • Practical boots and shoes replaced the delicate sandals and slippers.
  • A renowned piece of jewelry, towards the end of the century, was the choker.
Fashion for Men
  • In case of clothing for men, those who belonged to affluent families wore garments that had excessive detailing.
  • The Revolutionary War influenced the way a man dressed. An outfit that was convenient for horseback riding was preferred by most men.
  • Tailcoats were a common feature and were typically worn with a vest. The tailcoat was later replaced by the frock coat that resembled a knee-length skirt.
  • The sewing machine was invented during this century. This brought about noteworthy changes in the fitting of clothes. The sack suit worn by men on special occasions became more fitted towards the later half of the century.
  • There came a change in clothing when Napoleon Bonaparte became the Emperor in 1804. Trousers made their appearance and clothes had a less formal appearance. Loose-fitting trousers were worn with suspenders for support.
  • Cloaks were worn on many occasions, but men preferred overcoats which were comparatively easier to manage.
Mens Hair and Accessories
  • Sporting short curls was the most popularly adopted style. Long sideburns too were a major trend during this period.
  • A tall, conical hat was a very prominent feature. This evolved into the top hat and was worn to special occasions for many years to come.
  • Knee-high boots, the Wellington boots, that were cut lower at the back were commonly used.
These were some of the main characteristic styles of fashion in the 19th century. We see how the style became more informal, yet retained the elegance and simplicity of outfits.