Civil War Dresses for Every-Day Wear
The purpose of this article is to help those who want to make sure that their Civil War wardrobe is historically accurate, or are interested in the Civil War time period and would like to know more about its fashions. The majority of dresses from the Civil War, although varying in their particulars, hold true to certain guidelines.
Skirts were very full so as to accommodate a crinoline or hoop skirt, and were usually knife pleated or gauged, (hand-gathered in a time consuming manner), into the waistband.
Shoulders on bodices were gracefully dropped so that the top of the sleeve sat on the upper arm. Sleeves were wide, often peaking in width at the elbow, so as to make the waist appear smaller.
The bodice was lined and very form-fitting. The bottom of the bodice sat a little above the natural waist and was generally either straight or pointed to the front. The back of the bodice was made in three pieces - a center back and two side backs. These met in elegant curves and formed a kind of "V" design. The shoulder seams sat far back on the shoulder. The front of the bodice fastened with hooks-and-eyes or buttons. Necklines were made in a high, circular, jewel style, and were worn with white collars.
If you wish your dress to look period correct you will need a corset; undergarments do make a difference.
Coat sleeves (to the right) were very popular in the Civil War era. These were made in two pieces which were curved on both sides so as to follow the bent of the arm. They were gathered into a cuff or left open.
Pagoda sleeves (see picture at top) were tapered; they were narrower at the top and wider at the bottom, which ended before the wrist and were left open. They were worn with full under-sleeves.
Bishop sleeves (see picture below) were made of one piece and gathered into the armhole at the top and the cuffs at the bottom.
A side note:
A Further Side Note:
For further research see:
Fanny & Vera's Helpful Hints for Civil War Reenactors.Gotham Pattern's Woman's Clothing