What to Wear
We encourage formal period attire at our December
Ball because it adds so much to the period atmosphere. However,
no one should miss the ball because they don't have an extensive
If you prefer not to come
in costume, ladies may wear a modern skirt and blouse or dress
(preferably long and full), and men may wear a modern tuxedo,
dark suit, or dress slacks and sport coat. Whatever you wear,
don't forget your smooth-soled shoes for dancing. (See our suggestions
for dance shoes.)
Here are our suggestions
for what to wear, for both ladies
and gentlemen. In addition to comments
on period dress, we provide hints for how you can approximate
the look with modern clothes.
Dress for ladies in the first half of the 19th century ranged
from high-waisted gowns with long, simple lines to gowns with
low, pointed waists, large sleeves (in the 1830s) and full,wide
Fabrics in the early 1800s
were usually soft muslins, some figured or embroidered, and silks.
Gowns were high-waisted and closed in back with buttons or strings,
later with hooks and eyes. Skirts were gathered at the top, smooth
across the front, and more full in back. Elbow length white kid
gloves were worn, and jewelry was simple, such as pearls or a
locket on a chain.
nets and satins were favored in the 1820s, the waistline became
medium-high, and skirts more A-line in shape (gored and not gathered).
More decoration was used on the bodice and skirt hem. Gloves
and jewelry were similar to the previous decade.
In the 1830s, the waistline
started medium-high and ended low and pointed. Skirts became
much fuller. Sleeves were full and wide and dropped. A great
deal more decoration was used. Gloves were shorter.
The 1840s continued to have
low, pointed bodices and fuller skirts, but smaller sleeves.
Short gloves were worn.
throughout this period sported curls, braids, ringlets -- more
Grecian in style at the start of the 1800s, piled on the head
in the 1820s, then worn more to the back and sides in the 1830s
To recreate the look of the
early 1800s, wear a simple scoop neck cotton nightgown with short
puffed sleeves, and tie a ribbon under the bust, doing it up
in the back. Add decoration to the bodice and hem to give a more
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Men's formal dress during the first half of the 19th century
began with a high-cut coat with tails, worn with a colorful high
cut vest, knickers and hose. The coat and pants would be of different
colors, for example, a robin's egg blue coat, with tan knickers
and white hose, worn with a brocade vest, and a jabot or stock
at the neck.
became long, though still snug, in the 1830s, and color was still
interesting. Black was seen more frequently.
By the 1850s, the style for
formal dress stabilized to tail coats similar to today's, worn
with a vest and black trousers. A stock or cravat was usually
worn at the neck.
White gloves were always
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What to Wear to Other Period Events
Follow these links for our suggestions for dressing for other
Mid to late 1800s (Victorian)
1920s and 1930s