The fashionable silhouette of the Civil War Era is easily recognized by the shape of the skirt, with its large
circumference supported by a hoopskirt of steel. At first glance the styles of the mid-nineteenth century appear
to be simple and uninteresting, but as one takes a closer look at the fashion illustrations one can see that the
choice of fabrics, trims and details of cut can change the appearance of an ensemble dramatically. The basic fitted dress,
with full skirt, that was dictated by fashion, was styled in a myriad of ways with the aid of ladies’ magazines, which
flourished during this period, to make each dress unique and fashionable.
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Godey’s Lady’s Book is the most famous American lady’s fashion magazine of the era, containing a
treasure trove of information on lady’s fashions. Within its pages one could find styles to suit any taste,
and it helped ladies keep abreast of the latest styles. Garments were often given fanciful names like the
Euphemia, the Amalia, Jacket à la Militaire, the Belle, or Lady Franklin to
add enchantment. Godey’s was one of the first publications to illustrate all articles of a woman’s
wardrobe, and report on the latest whims of foreign fashions.
Skirts are made as full as ever, though the crinoline is smaller, perhaps, and the turnure is decidedly
changed to a gradual, sloping flare from the waist to the hem, aided by the flat plaits on the hip.
There is no sign of abandonment, notwithstanding the French bulletins. Flounces, of course, from five to
ten, or even twelve; if five, they are in a group, quite low down. Five flounces on the lower skirt are
sometimes headed by a plain second skirt, falling on the top of the first.
Godey’s Lady’s Book, April 1860
Ladies’ Fashions of the Civil War Era contains a selection of illustrations of dresses, jackets,
bodices, blouses, sleeves, originally published in Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1860 to 1864, intended
to inspire the perfect day-time ensemble. Included are designs for ladies’ dresses for all seasons of
the year and many varied activities including: dresses for the seaside, riding, morning, and dinner wear.
A separate section has been included on elaborate sleeves, as well as varieties of tops, including many popular
Zouave styles and Garibaldi shirts.
This is an excellent resource for anyone participating in an event, be it a Civil War reenactment, vintage dance,
Dickens’ christmas, period theatrical, or other event where a period ensemble is required.