How to Dress Like a Woman in the 1800s
The style of dressing for women in the 1800's differs greatly from the normal fashions of today. Back then, clothes were also designed to help keep warm during winter. It is still possible to dress like they did back then.
Wear something on top. This can be a tank top or sleeveless, deep top. This is the first and basic necessity.
Wear tight leggings that end in the middle of your knees and ankles. These helped to maintain warmth in the days before heating was around.
Wear stockings, preferably woolen, over the leggings. Any gaze at a doll from that time period conveys this. No outfit from the 1800's was complete without stockings.
For the later 1800's, you might want wear a bustle of some sort. The can be purchased online, or you could make one by tying a pillow underneath your skirt in the back. This can be used instead of some of the underskirts.
Find and wear three to four underskirts. These can be purchased at most clothing stores. The underskirts should be thin but not too thin, and made of cotton. They help make the skirt look puffed up, and like everything else, maintain warmth.
Finally, you are ready to wear the dress. Wear a one-piece, ankle-length dress that is not deep. If it is sleeveless, you can choose to let it be or wear a long-sleeved top underneath it. While many colors were used, the most common colors were earth tones. Cotton garments are most common, but wool would do too.
If you would like to go on, wear a corset. Try to purchase one online and follow any directions that come with it. Remember that as time passed by, corsets fell out of use, but not until the early 1900's.
To give your hair the look, tie it up in a bun on your head. In the early 1800's (Regency era) you might have a high bun and curls at the temples. Later on, in the mid 1800's, there would be a low bun with or without thicker curls over the ears. In the late 1800's, you could do a french twist or french braid with bangs.
Depending on the decade and the social status you are trying to convey, you might consider wearing a day cap. These were worn by working class women in the earlier part of the 1800's for modesty, as well as for more practical reasons: the hair was not washed very often, and the day cap helped keep it clean. This is best used for the early 1800's or elderly women.
- Remember to look at pictures online or in books to get a feel for your specific decade's look. You wouldn't want to be wearing a Regency gown and be talking about the Civil War!
- While constructing a costume at home may cost less, remember that it is fully possible to purchase one too.
- This is ideal for Halloween.
- Be careful in lacing your corset. Lacing it too tight can make it uncomfortable to breathe or move if you don't wear them often. Although, between 1800 - 1900 women wore corsets that were too tight and that caused their health problems.