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Contents of this page:

Just Women Fashions

Suit History began in 1890

Victorian Mourning Period "Widows Weeds"

1840, 1850,

1860, 1870,

1880, 1890,

1900, 1910,


Hairstyles and Jewelry


Opening Comments:

Our commenting is focused on just the women. By repetition of just reviewing photographs from decade to decade, it our hope that you will learn what fashion terms to look for in determining the date of your photograph. You can immediately recognize which decade your photo looks most like. Along the way we give you more information as we come across them in our researching. Most photographs used are found on the internet and copyrights have expired. If we put our name on it, it's because we improved or changed it in someway so if you right click and use it our name circulates (unless you know how to remove it). 

Don't forget that decades overlap in fashion for many reasons and events of the decade are clues to trends. More sophisticated women who lived in the city as opposed to women in rural areas were more likely to wear the most recent fashions from Godey Magazine and country girls or girls with less money or more common sense, would eventually get the latest clothes a year or two later or still be wearing the older sisters hand-me-downs. Some girls just may absolutely love a particular style that looks best on them and kept it regardless of changing trends. A client once told me that she had a photo of her relative in all decades through her life and her hair never changed. You probably know someone that is stuck in a decade of the past.

As stated below from a Godey's Book:

"Fashions creep into vogue and out again with such stealth that the center of popularity can only be approximated. This chronology, consequently, is variable an by no means all-inclusive."



If you don't find what your looking for please check back periodically we are always adding new photo samples as time permits.







List of Fashion Description/Terms Trends Dominating a Decade 



Daguerreotype (mirror image, frequently hand painted). Highly polished cooper, protected by glass usually in a leather case/box image

Pointed bodice

Back closure bodice with fan pleats

Full skirts filled out by petticoats (no hoops from the  60s! different shape) lots of ruffles to achieve this look.

Off the shoulder seams

Covered ears, ringlets

Bonnets hugging the face

Floral wreaths, hair nets and ribbons in the hair

Lace fingerless gloves/mitts

Leather gloves with 3 stripes


Serpent bracelets

Double parts in hair










Dominating look was the pointy fan pleated bodice, wide bell shaped skirt, center parted hair over the ears and bonnets.



1839, this next statement should help you remember bonnets in the 40s looked like dish antennas. I once found an article that said women were be struck by horse drawn carriages because the couldn't see where the were going.


























Godey fashion plate 1841

pointy bodice

ears covered

over the ear side part


small parasols

sleeves with layers of puffs

tiers of ruffles












Bonnets that hug the face, like horse blinders.

Tiny collar

Middle part in hair
















Bonnets that hug the face, like horse blinders.

Off the shoulder seams

Back closure of dress

Pointy bodice visible here.

Short gloves with 3 visible lines

Narrow sleeves

Single middle part in hair














Photo from Fine Dags .com


















fan pleats bodice

off the shoulder seams

small lace collar

middle hair part and covered ears.







This photo is a good sample of the bonnet close to face.

clothes are not clearly visible










bonnet from the 1830s (close to the head and forward on the head like horse blinders)

small white collar

narrow sleeves






late 1840 - 50s



Sleeve caps, 

Off the shoulder seams


Middle part in hair with ears covered. Buttons in the front of the bodice were used later in the decade.














Ball gowns by Godey, 

Rounded skirt to the floor, weighing up to 9 pounds with the invention of a material made of horsehair that was stiff and could support the shape. 


The term "Crinoline Period" brings to mind the hoops of the Civil War but actually the crinoline period was from the 1840s through the late 1880s and included the bustles and crinolettes. 











Lace gloves/mitts long or short, with fingers or fingerless.










fan pleats, gathered bodice

off the shoulder sleeve seams

day cap for elderly or married ladies

small white collar















White wedding dress- is commonly credited to Queen Victoria's choice to wear a white dress on her wedding day in 1840. This fashion plate is from 1835 and it appears to be a wedding dress, including the tailing veil. Notice the full sleeves that went away in the 1840s and will reappear as leg-o'mutton in the late 1890s.












1842 Eunice Fiske Durfee





fan pleats on bodice 

front closure on bodice

off the shoulder seams 

hair center part

ears covered by day cap

small white collar

small bow

shawl with tassels



In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded











Library of Congress


1844 Ruth Fitts, known date 


Dominating look of the 40s a gathered bodice or fan pleats on pointed bodice, shoulder seams of the shoulder, knife pleated skirt, small lace collar. Not as common side hair part, ringlets.

front closure on bodice

hair side part

ears covered


narrow sleeves

small white collar matching cuffs


In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded








Pointy bodice

front closure on bodice

Fan pleats

off the shoulder seams

ears slightly showing

over the ear side part

sleeve caps

wide sleeve bottoms

white lace collar getting wider

case image in hand


In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded








Photo Dating Notes: 

Fan pleats on bodice,

off the shoulder seams

hair center part

over the ear side part

ears covered, 

small white collars with matching cuffs,

narrow sleeves,

little bows


In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded









Large white collar and matching cuffs

narrow sleeves

pointed bodice

cartridge pleats on skirt

hair surrounding ears

over the ear side part

plaid crisscross bow

book choice of props





In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded










Fan pleats

small white collar



over the ear side part





















Fan pleats on bodice

off the shoulder seams

hair center part

ears covered

small white collars with matching cuffs

narrow sleeves





In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed, more rounded.









lace collar called whitework becoming wider,

off the shoulder seams

fingerless mitts wrist length

hair center part

pointed bodice with front closure and closely fitted

corset covers and flattens the breast

center part in hair

sleeve caps with fringe

narrow sleeves














Fan pleats on bodice

front closure

off the shoulder seams

hair center part

ears covered

small white collars with matching cuffs, sleeves flaring out at the bottom 

ringlets on a young person (up to date fashion),














Most 1840 bodices have back closures, towards the late 40s front closures began to appear.


Fan pleat bodices

front closure on bodice

widening white lace collars

fingerless mitts, mid arm length

center part in hair

youngest girl has V part (latest fad)

narrow and wide pleats on skirts

40s corsets flatten the breast.

long chains earrings brooches

cap sleeves


sleeves widening at bottom


stand up and turned down collars with wide gaps,




In the next decade the bodice will not be as pointed and more rounded








late 1848






wide lace collar

center part in hair

ears showing

case image in hand 

wide sleeves



















large sleeves 

seams off the shoulder

small white collar

center part in hair

ears covered

bodice bottom rounded

front closure with buttons

narrow knife pleats on skirt


















bodice in a V-shape

lace white collars

fan pleats

shoulder seams off shoulders

hair combed straight back in the center part creating two center parts

still covered ears like the 40s

fingerless mitts

apron (new)

large link chain










Susan B. Anthony  

still wearing 40s hairstyle, single center part

hair straight over ears

paisley shawl

wide white lace collar







Godey Magazine fashion plate. 1855

Narrow bonnets, bell shape skirts.






rounded bodice bottom

off the shoulder seams

center front closure

pagoda sleeves

large buttons

white collar

small hat

center part in hair

ribbons tied around each wrist










Ulysses Grant

small white collar

wide sleeves

bodice front closure

center part hair and bun














Photo Dating Notes:


1858 Library of Congress photo



large wide and flat bow tie

short lapels

high black velvet collar from the 30s









Godey 1858
















Photo Dating Notes:

pagoda sleeves

hoop skirt

bonnet back off the face

hair center part


















Photo Dating Notes:

Mary Todd Lincoln, .

If this era interest you most, for more, visit these sites





















Photo Dating Notes:

albumen paper

patriotic souave jacket a variation of a bolero jacket

wide sleeves

narrow brim low crown hat

belted skirt with bustle bottom

small parasol



















large sleeves

belted 15 tier ruffled hoop skirt


small white collar

small bow tie





























Photo Dating Notes:

1862 Rose O'Neal Greenhow, created by Mathew Brady. Young girls wore the same style of clothes only short.


















Photo Dating Notes:


Plain, parted in middle hair, the beginning of the ears showing

Plain lacey collar

Sloping sleeves off the shoulder

Gloves without fingers

Skirt is not as full at the waist

Full body shot, sitting

Plain background














1865 the skirt started to move towards the back in an elliptical shape.












































1869-1876 First Bustle.


This dress is the first bustle appearance, just after the civil war came the recovery of frills and lots of trim.















1870 Louisa May Alcott

note the overskirt, hair piece, lots of ruffles and trim.










In our "Genealogist Corner" you can see images from a photo album from the 1800s.  Just like our scrapbooks today, there are examples in our scrapbooks from the early 1900s from our grandparents and parents, so these books have photos in them from the early 1800s on up.











































Pie Crust Collar, very popular in the 1870s.





















1872 bustle getting larger and train longer.


















1874 becoming narrower and longer train. Little girl has a bustle too, and the hem is below the knee.

















Photo Dating Notes: bishop sleeves on the lady on the far right, necklace of large beads, mens beards, trimmed narrow lapels. 














lots of layers and ruffles. 

The more trim the better.

Train trailing behind











1874 Met Museum


early bustle















1875, this overskirt is trimmed with tassels.


Overskirt sample sketch 






























































1880 Second Bustle Period Samples



Godey's Fashion February 1880

narrow in the front, bustle in back into train.























































































Georgiana Burne Jones 1884


This dress seems to be one piece and simple. It may be what was know as "natural form".

















1890 Samples 

 Dominant look of the decade were, tall decorations on hats. Hat shape accommodates the hairdo. mutton sleeves is all sizes, short curly bangs.



left: short mutton sleeves on an evening gown.

Photo Dating Notes:

Not everyone cared for the top knot,

short bangs, giant sleeves mid 90s








Photo Dating Notes:

Top Knot hairdos, another name could be applied, the Unicorn.

Large or wide lace collars and large jacket collars to match large mutton sleeves, top knots and short bangs all the rage. 

very wide collars to sit on the very wide shoulders do to the large mutton sleeves.










One clue is that hats often accommodate the trending style at the time. The top knot can fit in this hat for example





Top Knots are hair twisted into a knot at the top of the head. 

Usually worn with bangs in tight ringlets. Take note of the large mutton sleeves and high collars. 





Boa's, muffs and fur were popular.


























Date range 1896-1898 height of the largest mutton sleeves.

Entire birds on hats, not just the wings or feathers. 















also the boa was popular.

























Date range 1896-1898 height of large mutton sleeves.



Photo Dating Notes:

Cabinet card, gold single line on border,

large mutton sleeves at the height of size.














both fashion plates are from the Delineator (left to right) February and December 1898

complete birds on hats

narrow sleeves toward end of decade

mix and match separate skirt and blouse












Suit History

 1890 -1919 was the range of popularity for the walking suit.

By the 1890s the suit appears and stayed strong until present day for it's practicality. After the WWI more and more women joined the work force and the suit was perfect for work and travel as well. From this point on we will include samples of the  suit as it evolved were every we can find samples













Date range 1895-1898 Top knot height of popularity. 





Photo Dating Notes:


Center part with top knot, Spanish turtle shell hair combs. 






short curly bangs.








Hats accommodated the hairstyles of the times and whole birds were used.






Photo Dating Notes: 

curly bangs, small chinon.

Nurse outfit with mutton sleeves.

towards the end of the 90s the sleeve began to get smaller. The accent began to be only at the shoulder joint.





Day dress with mutton sleeves. The man wears, narrow lapels, 5 button collared vest, small bow tie and a mustache.











Day Dresses with sleeve and hair variations.

Read about these American Indians.








 Read "The Move Towards Rational Dress" footnotes, for details on health problems due to the corset. 


Visit the website of "The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Fashion". Read up on "Amelia Bloomer" and Annie Oakley's western wear  for more on reformers. In the 1870's was the decline of the hoop skirts and in came the Bustle made with a horsehair pad, whale bone and wire springs. Along with "Women's Suffrage" and the invention of the bicycle and the acceptance of the more athletic women.  "The bicycle craze killed the bustle and the corset, instituted "common sense dressing" for women and increased their mobility considerably. In 1896 Susan B. Anthony said that "the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world". This statement was quoted from "Cycling Community".  Another interesting site "Women and Social Movements in the USA 1775-2000" has the documents/letters from dress reform activist. By the 1900's dresses were shorter, straight, closer to the body and loose, think Titanic.




1900 -1918 

The Edwardian Period


1890s of coarse will overlap with some styles like variations of the Gibson hairstyle and large sleeves 

Photo Dating Notes:

"S" Shape silhouettes, bodice hangs over the waistline,  

Dresses were constructed in two parts, bodice and skirt longer in the back

Parasols still in style.

The hour glass shape.

up swept up pompadour Gibson style do.



up swept up pompadour Gibson style do.








Helen Taft


up swept up pompadour Gibson style do.












Photo Dating Notes:

lots of lace, 3 feet of train past shoulders.











Photo Dating Notes: 

Gibson style pompadour with large bow.


The more casual day wear pigeon breasted blouse. "S" shape still obvious.














1908 walking suit


The sports suit, for playing golf.













Pigeon breast, dead give away of this period.









A two piece dress with a small ruffle neckline. High waist on this fitted tubular skirt.  

April 15, 1912 the Titanic Sank. 













Photo Dating Notes:

Pigeon breasted waist shirt. Top knot hair, short curly bangs.




















1912 Poiret Designer

Photo Dating Notes: Hobble skirt, wide at the hips and narrow around the knees

Photo Dating Notes: 1913 Hobble skirt with a side slit.












Researching Social Movements 


While researching clothes and historic events you may want to pay close attention to the resources at the bottom of these pages. They were referenced to create the article or statements being made.  They are often times more helpful, as you glean what's important to you instead of what the author of that site choose to highlight. This is how I found information about the "natural form". 

1862 natural form.

Joliet sleeves

Art movement - Aestheticism - It is clear that even before 1909 the idea that women could wear loose-fitting artistically inspired clothing in public was a reality. Women not only became accustomed to wearing more comfortable clothing in their homes and during physical activities, but they also began seeing actresses, dancers, and opera singers wearing simpler artistically designed dresses on stage and in public. These entertainers sought out two of the most celebrated avant-garde designers in the early twentieth century, Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny.


1872 natural form.








Notice the simple style on the two ladies on the left in yellow and green with the child, as opposed to the ornate lace, ruffles and trains to the right or behind them.







Rational Dress Reform Movement 1838-1881, wikipedia, The Rational Dress Society was an organization founded in 1881 in London. It described its purpose thus:

The Rational Dress Society protests against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly-fitting corsets; of high-heeled shoes; of heavily-weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible; and of all tie down cloaks or other garments impeding on the movements of the arms. It protests against crinolines or crinolettes of any kind as ugly and deforming….[It] requires all to be dressed healthily, comfortably, and beautifully, to seek what conduces to birth, comfort and beauty in our dress as a duty to ourselves and each other.





Victorian Mourning Period

 1861-1901 40 Years   

Depression fell over the entire Nation and the widows in their mourning weeds made matters worse. The Governor of Mississippi tried to pass a law banning widows weeds because of the poor morale. 

 Stages of Mourning for Widows, totaling 2 years ( men two years and children one year)


Details on Widows Weeds (Garment)

#1 Full Mourning

q One year and one day

q Dull black crepe, under garments white trimmed with black

q Without decorations/trim/lace or jewelry with except of jet.

q      Weeping veil always down

q Only when absolutely necessary and restricted to church services only

q Weepers Cuffs, black handkerchief, black stockings and gloves

#2 Second Mourning

q Nine months

q    Still black lusterless cloth

q    Allowed for minor decorations/trim/lace

q    Mourning (jet, black) jewelry only (popular during CW)

q    Weeping veil can lifted overhead

q    Hair art jewelry, brooches most popular. Gold, Gutta-percha (plastic, jet imitator) and pinchbeck (faux gold).

#3 Half Mourning

q    Three to six months

q    Decorations became elaborate

q    Grey, mauve/burgundy, all shades of purple and white could be used. Also subtle prints of these color were acceptable

q       All jewelry permissible 

The Civil War lasted 4 years and it is estimated that 618,000 men died.  Wakes were long and the tradition of sending flowers for the bad odor, still holds today even though it is no longer necessary.  Depression fell over the entire Nation and the widows in their mourning weeds added to the depression. The Governor of Mississippi tried to pass a law banning widows weeds because of the poor morale. Mourning clothes were the first ready-made clothing in stores.  Some families would hire “mutes”, professional mourners to pray for the deceased.

PMP has researched this topic and created these tables with the information found from many sites. 

England’s Queen Victoria = Victorian Era – 64 years – Born 1819-Died 1901


Era by Fashion 

Known As:


1750 – 1850

Romantic Era / Regency

1837 Victoria is crown Queen

1850 – 1856 Pre-Civil War

Early Victorian/Crinoline Era

Large bell hoops, 1839 first photograph

1856 – 1882

Mid Victorian – First Bustle Era

1861 (Albert dies) -1865 Civil War

1883 – 1890 Naughty Nineties

Late Victorian – Second Bustle

1901 Victoria dies

1891 – 1914

Edwardian - think Titanic

Tailored suits, off the floor dresses


Widows weeds - (from old English "Waed" meaning "garment") - Clothes that widows wear, usually black crepe. See Mourning History.




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