The advance of the nineteenth century brought with it increasing comfort in men's dress, looser bodies and lower collars. It also brought the discomfort and ugliness of luxuriant whiskers and garments made of stiff, ungraceful materials. Women's costume was much more whimsical in this period and in the 1840s it adopted a graceful, ultra feminine and tasteful style. Examples of this are demurely parted hair arranged in puffs or glossy curls, small poke bonnets, gypsy hats, tight smooth bodice with long lean waist sleeves revealing the arms and long full skirts held out in a moderate bell shape.
In 1855 the charm was vanishing and materials became heavy, colors were somber or garish with chenille fringe blighting decoration. With the invention of the sewing machine, pleating, puffing, tucking and braiding became popular. The skirt grew wider and wider and more ornately trimmed and just when the women were saying they could hold no more weight on their hips, the steel-wire-hoop-skirt was introduced. The skirts grew more and more. Towards the end of the American Civil War the hoop began moving to the back which is the transition from the crinoline to the bustle.
For men in this period curly hair rose to the top of fashion. Men brushed their hair straight back and then brushed it forward to make a `cowlick'. Men also used lots of oil in their hair called macassar oil. If there were a mustache it was very small and the face was often smooth shaven. Some men wore facial hair and sideburns were very popular in this period but mustaches were not. Goatees became somewhat popular toward the end of he period. The beaver hat was the hat for formal occasions and less formal hats were round brimmed and flat crowned. The tail coat and the frock coat dominated the fashionable world. Knee-breeches were obsolete and peg-top trousers were fuller around the upper leg than at the hem were occasionally seen. The tubular shaped trousers, no front crease, prevailed and the whole garment was tighter than it was in the twentieth century.
The average woman moved the hair knot to the back of her head then down lower. In the fifties the coil of hair was at the nape of the neck and fashionably large. Black or colored silks were used to hold up the hair and gave the opportunity for decorative effects. If a woman did not have ringlets a woman would elaborately braid her hair over or around her head to be in fashion. The principle hat was the wide romantic leghorn, often turned down to frame the face in a graceful curve. There was variety in necklines, some came up above the pit of the throat, whereas others, usually more formal, threatened to slip of the shoulders and all preserved and emphasized the sloping shoulder. During the whole period the long shoulder and small waist were often emphasized. Short dresses were out and dresses cleared the floor or touched it. Under the skirts were a multitude of petticoats in addition to a chemise and a corset.
Men rarely wore bright hues and coats were black, dark gray, very dark blue with gray tan or gray blue for trousers. Women's clothing had no limit on what to be used, yet the popularity of certain shades fall in two periods. In the first period there was a strong reaction against the garish combinations. Decoration moved from the bodice to the skirt throughout the period. Well-dressed women wore lavender and lilac, tan, silver-gray, gray-green and sliver blue. For evening gowns they wore pastels and white. The second period had women wearing heavy dark colors: red, blue, crimson, maroon, brown, dark bright green, purple, plum, magenta and violet.
Notable Crinoline Costume Elements
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