Due to popular demand, I have added a page for Victorian fashion images. Please note that I do not reproduce pattern designs from 1830-1899. However, I do have links to Victorian purveyors in my Costume Links section. The images on this page are pulled from 19th century cartes de visite (CDVs), fashion illustrations and original garment photographs. Click on the thumbnails to view the the full-sized images.

[Note: Feel free to download these images for your own personal enjoyment. If you wish to share them on a website, please download and save them to your own server and provide a credit line or link back to this site. None of the images are for sale. Thank you!]


Artwork and Cartoons

I just love these spoofs from the 1860s! So many artists found women's new fashions completely comical and worthy of high satire. The first three cartoons (from left to right) poke fun at hoopskirts, while the one on the far right demonstrates how unflattering a "spoon" bonnet can be on the wrong size head!


CDVs and Other Photographs

Here is a wonderful photograph of a fashion seen mostly in the 1840s and early 1850s. The fan-front bodice and stitched-down sleeves with the puffy "bells" above the cuff are typically 1840s. The main difference is in the width of the skirt, which places the gown in the late 1850s. Perhaps this lady just kept the old-fashioned bodice style a bit longer. I am not sure, since I've never seen this sleeve and bodice style used so late. Very interesting! If you'd like to make a reproduction of this gown, there is a good pattern available from Past Patterns. It's called the "Lowell Mill Dress."


Here are two ladies wearing identical ballgowns and photographed in the same studio. This is a puzzling pair of pictures, like the pair below of two women in the same black taffeta gown in the same studio. The names on the backs of the pictures are different, so this isn't just one woman with two different expressions. The gowns are gorgeous. Note the wonderful lace collars and the patterned silk of the skirts.


It is easy to tell that this lady is wearing a corset. Her gown fits very closely over it, and there is a clear line at the top.
Note her full pagoda sleeves and lovely undersleeves.



Here is another photograph where the corset's outline is visible beneath the bodice! It makes for a very ill-fitted appearance, doesn't it?


This lady is wearing a dark gown with large cloak sleeves, a pretty woven trimming and three tucks in the skirt.
Also note her snood with the ribbons hanging behind her left ear.


The knife-pleated trimming on this gown is just amazing. All those crisp pleats around the hem and sleeves!
This lady is also wearing a type of jabot or dickey at her neck, rather than a collar.


These two ladies are wearing dresses made of a similar floral print fabric. Both dresses are very simply designed and have real or decorative buttons down the front. The lady on the left has fancier sleeves with small double puffs at the top. She also appears to be wearing a chatelaine or something else with a chain pinned at her waistline.


This lady is wearing a bodice with a squared yoke and cloak sleeves. Note her ringlets hanging down behind her ears.


Here is an attractive young woman wearing a lovely printed cotton dress with a beautiful jacket over the bodice. Note the beautiful trimming of the jacket and the brooch at the collar of the dress. The lady also has a barrette or comb of some kind over her left ear, keeping her hair smooth and sleek.



Isn't this clear-eyed young lady just beautiful? She is wearing an elaborately trimmed dress, and it is too bad the balustrade hides most of it! Note the wide "boatneck" neckline.


The dropped sleeve seam is easy to see in this photograph of a woman in a plaid dress. It looks like there is a small tuck over the sleeve seam as well. This gown features cloak sleeves trimmed with lace at the cuff. It looks like the lady is wearing a snood, thus the flat bow on top of her head. Note the ornate chair with all of the turned wood.


Another portrait in an ornate chair. Note the tucked diamond-shaped center panel on this lady's bodice. Unusual and pretty.
Her sleeves have been trimmed with a flat ribbon or braid in a criss-cross pattern.



This woman is holding a straw bonnet and wearing a saque jacket, which was often used to disguise pregnancy. It is difficult to tell whether or not this young lady is expecting--but that was the idea!


The back of this photo reads "Mary Sherwood Mapes." Mary is wearing a very plain and servicable day gown,
and it looks like she is wearing a flat lace cap that hangs down each side.


Another plain dress, but notice the brooch at the neckline. This could be a mourning outfit (no white collar or cuffs), and the brooch
could contain the hair of the deceased (a very common practice). This lady is wearing a snood (hairnet).



Here is the beautiful Queen Marie-Sophia of Naples in the mid-1860s. Her cape is beautifully trimmed, and I love her hairnet.



This lady looks like she is ready to go visiting in her heavy cape and pretty bonnet!



Another lady in cape and bonnet, ready to visit friends.


Here is an older woman dressed in a light gingham gown with a fan-front bodice. She has full cloak sleeves and a very full skirt.


This is a picture of "Betsy Low" taken in 1866. Betsy's plain daydress appears to be of a serviceable
cotton with a belt at the waistline and buttons down the center front.


This young lady wears a silk gown (note the sheen) with a beautifully ruched bodice, neatly tailored yoke with piping
and a black tie at the neckline. Lace trims the cuffs. Notice this lady's short haircut.


This photograph was probably taken in the late 1860s. Note the garibaldi blouse with the zouve vest over top.
The skirt is not as full as those in the early-to-mid-1860s. I love the simple trimming of the skirt.



This woman is wearing a dress with gently gathered (rather than fitted) bodice. The front buttons are decorative. She appears to be wearing a hairnet.


This is my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Foster Ethell. The photograph for her CDV was taken in Cumberland, Ohio, during the 1860s. I wish the top part of the photo had not been smudged, since it makes her face hazy. Note the tasseled belt at her waist and the bolo-style tie at her neckline. The daydress that I wear to Civil War-era living history events and reenactments is almost an exact copy of Mary's gown, except that I opted for small pagoda sleeves rather than cloak sleeves.


This lady is wearing a striking outfit of the early to mid-1860s. The garibaldi blouse with its full sleeves is covered by a "waist," a corset-like vest that emphasizes the wearer's waistline. The skirt features ruffled flounces. I think the full sleeves are flattering and feminine and just wish the photo hadn't been overexposed, so we could see more of the details of this outfit.


Here is a woman who was photographed in San Francisco around the late 1860s. It is difficult to make a guess at her age. While she looks older, it could just be premature aging due to the fact that she has already lost some teeth (note her sunken cheeks and drooping mouth). Her dress appears to be made of shiny silk or tafetta and features fringed trim on the sleeves and peplum.


Here is a young lady who was also photographed in San Francisco. Her dark dress is accented by white or colored buttons down the front, a white collar and a large brooch at the neck. She is also wearing a belt with belt buckle. Probably early-to-mid-1860s.


These three photographs were taken by the same photagrapher in the 1860s. On the far left is a young girl, probably just entering her teen years. Note that her bodice is fan-pleated and not as fitted as a grown-up lady's would be. In the center is a seated lady wearing a tartan printed skirt and a dark bodice with white undersleeves and collar. She appears to be holding a handkerchief. On the right is a young woman in a beautifully-fitted ensemble with two points coming down from the bodice into the waist. She wears undersleeves beneath her pagoda sleeves, which are trimmed along the seamlines and at the openings.


Here is a puzzlement. These photographs certainly depict two different women, but they are wearing the exact same outfit and posing in the same studio. Perhaps studios kept clothing on hand for clients who wanted to "dress up" for their portraits? I've never heard of this practice, but I can think of no other explanation. Unusual!


What a dress! This is definitely attention-getting. I'd place this around the end of the 1860s or early 1870s, since the lady's hairstyle is up on top of her head with cascading curls and because the trim on this gown is more typical of that time period. The dress must be a walking outfit, since the skirt is shorter than many I've seen. Perhaps for a day at the races?


This is a late 1860s/early 1870s gown. Note the longer skirt back and the bodice trimming with its squared yoke. The lady's hairstyle is very interesting--showing how women were moving away from the low, flat styles of the Civil War and into hairstyles that piled everything on top.



Here is a lovely Irish lady, photographed in Dublin. Her gown shows the trend toward the bustle that began to appear in the late 1860s. This was probably taken in the early 1870s--note the elaborate trimming of the dress and her "high" hairstyle.


I am not certain of the date of this photograph. The fact that the young woman has bangs makes me think it is late 1860s or early 1870s, but the neckline of her ballgown is purely 1860s. Note her ornate cross necklace and earrings. I love these hand-tinted photographs.


This also looks like an early 1870s picture. You can easily see the slight train at the back of the skirt, and the woman's
hairstyle is high rather than flat across the crown. Note the lovely dark lace shawl!


Here are two early 1870s ladies posing with their CDV album. Note the braided coronets of hair on top of their
heads--very 1870s. And the princess-lined styling of their dresses is lovely.



Time for some hairdo pictures! The lady on the far left was likely photographed in the late 1860s. Her hair is not quite as high as the styles of the 1870s, but she has the frizzled little "bangs" and the waved sides typical of the late 1860s. Note her fancy neck ribbon. The young lady in the middle has braided her thick hair (or is wearing a "fall") and has created a coronet on the top of her head. This picture is dated 1876. The photograph on the far right shows a most elaborate 1800s hairstyle--almost reminiscent of the 1960s "beehive," if you ask me!


This young lady is wearing an 1870s dress with a bustle at the back. This was a transition period from the early 1870s fashions
with trains to the "upholstered" fashions of the 1880s with their huge bustles and furbelows.


Cute hat! This is so typical of the 1870s. See how it perches on the head? And what about that trimming? Cute!


This lovely young lady is wearing a style so typical of the mid-1880s. The form-fitting basque bodice is accented by jet buttons and a pretty appliqued trim. The high collar is fastened with a brooch. Note the ruffled trim at the back of the skirt. This is right after the bustle went out of style, but trimmed skirts were still seen for a few years.


Here is a rare look at a group of house servants, circa 1880-90. Each gal is holding something to do with her occupation. On the far left is a cleaning maid with her broom and dustpan. Next is a young girl holding what looks like a cup and saucer. In the center is a lovely cook with her rolling pin and bakery pans. Next is a very young girl holding either a pudding or small cake. Finally, we see a girl holding a rather mysterious object (a shoe? a sugarloaf?). Fascinating!



This photo is dated "Summer, 1886." This young woman looks demure in her beautiful white dress and broad-brimmed hat. She holds a small nosegay in her right hand. I love all the elborate lace insertion and trimming!


Oh, those feathers! This young lady was photographed standing behind a "fence." We can't see much of her outfit, but her smart circa-1880s or 1890s cape is trimmed with what looks like jet beads, and her feathered hat is typical of the late 1880s through late 1890s.


A lovely portrait of a young woman in an elaborate afternoon dress. Note the velvet trim on the bodice, the lace-trimmed neckline and sleeves, and the necklace hanging down. The hat and gloves complete this visiting costume.


Here are three dramatic photographs of the same Illinois woman. The styling of the dress she wears in the center is unmistakably 1890s with those huge leg o'mutton sleeves. The topknot hairstyle is also typical of the period. I think the profile shots may be slightly earlier, since her hair is worn differently (more along the lines of the late 1880s).


Ah, the topknot! This hairstyle was extremely popular in the early-to-mid-1890s. I personally
think it makes a lady look like she has a knob on her head! Note the ruffles over the puffed sleeves.


This picture looks like it comes out of the late 1890s. The leg o' mutton sleeves are not overwhelmingly huge as they were only a couple of years before, and the skirt is slimmer, reflecting a change that would carry over into the early part of the 20th century before giving way to a fuller sweep in the back.


Here are four fashion illustrations from an 1897 issue of Ladies Home Journal. The wasp waistline of the time is particularly evident in the first and last illustrations. The third illustration from the left is a bit more forward-looking with its "pigeon" bustline, hinting at what would come in the next few years.


From the same 1897 issue of Ladies Home Journal come these illustrations of fashionable coats from the period. You can see the pigeon waistline on the first three coats, and note all the emphasis on the trimming around the front closures. The final design is for a fur cape--very elegant.


I love to find pictures of friends posing together. This is one of my favorites. What an artistic shot, with the ivy in the background and the young ladies' profiles! Written on the back of the picture is "Misses Swartz and Grugan." No date, but I'd place this in the late 1890s or very early 1900s, since their sleeves still have that leg o'mutton shape to them. Note the beautiful eyelet petticoat ruffle peeking out from under the skirt on the right. This is a large image, so be patient for it to load when you click on the thumbnail. You can really see the details of the outfits.


Original Outfits



Karen Augusta of Antique Fashion.com has graciously allowed me to share some of the photographs she has taken of original garments she is selling in her online shop. Studying original clothing is essential for recreating the correct look of the period, which changed from year to year. Thank you to Karen for sharing her knowledge and her beautiful pictures! Be sure to visit her site for more breathtaking gowns from the 18th-20th centuries!

Here is an 1830s Summer Dress of white linen mull with cotton thread embroidery and handmade linen bobbin laces. Karen writs, "This summer gown traces back to the descendants of a prominent Massachusetts family: Rebecca Kingsbury (b. 1713, d. 1807) of West Dedham, MA. The beautiful linen mull fabric has a very fine hand and is worked in the most exquisite embroidery and drawn work. The neckline, sleeves and hem border has a sculptural floral embroidery with needlelace fillings." This is simply a breathtaking piece of work. And it is amazing how beautifully it has aged!



Another beauty from Karen Augusta's shop, this 1838 afternoon dress is made of green-gold figured silk with a linen bodice lining. It fastens with brass hooks and eyes. "This unaltered dress shows the transition between the styles of the 1830s and the later 1840s. The bodice has not yet acquired the pointed front as is found in most stylish 1840s dresses, and the sleeve still has some volume to it, though not nearly the amount found in earlier dresses (until c. 1836). This imported figured silk was expensive goods in the 1830s and today it still retains its luxurious hand." Yummy!!



This is a heavenly silk ballgown with its original reticule purse, circa 1830. "Silk satin, cotton net, embroidered cotton ribbon, cloth flowers, muslin lining. Owned by Harriet Van Schoonhoven-Roy. The Van-Schoonhoven family came to America in 1695 and settled in Waterford, New York. The details and construction of the sleeves of this evening dress are wonderful, especially the charming bouquets of flowers at the back. The waist ribbon is not original to the dress. It is quite rare to find an 1830's dress with it's original reticule."


This is a gorgeous green taffeta dress recently sold at auction on eBay. This is post 1865, as you can see the longer skirt back, which hints at the trains that would follow in the late 1860s and 1870s. The square yoke with the ruffles is also a good indicator of a post-1865 date. This is just a smashing ensemble and would be marvelous to reproduce!


Four drop-dead gorgeous ensembles by world-renowned designer, Frederick Worth. These costumes are owned by the Museum of the City of New York. Breathtaking! From left to right: Ballgown, circa 1865, of nougat satin trimmed with tulle, swansdown, crystal beads and glass pearls; visiting Costume, circa 1880, of brown and lavender striped satin trimmed with silk patterned in pastel colors and silk fringe; dinner dress, circa 1891, of primrose yellow and devonshire cream satin with chiffon ruffles (worn by Grace Wilson, who married Cornelius Vanderbilt III in 1896); Summer toilette, circa 1900, of black and white engageantes, black satin trim.



Here is another original Civil War era day dress which was recently sold at auction on eBay. Very pretty brown and blue plaid taffeta with buttons down the front of the bodice.


This is an original Civil War era day dress which was recently sold at auction on eBay. The bright colors often surprise people who are used to seeing only black and white photographs from this period. Jet buttons march down the front of the bodice, and the gown is made of plaid taffeta in rust and blue. The cloak sleeves are trimmed at the ends.



Here is a fantastic 1870s bustled polonaise sold on eBay by USVainen, a seller whose knowledge of vintage fashion is astounding and whose descriptions are delightful. This seller has graciously agreed to let me share her images and words on my site, and I think you'll enjoy them as much as I have!

High Fashion 1871 Silk Bustle Dress Polonaise: 1870-1872 were amazing years in fashion. The Franco-Prussian war abruptly ended the Paris fashion houses' stranglehold on world style when Napoleon III and his trend-setting wife, Eugenie, (along with many of the French nobility) left France for safety in Europe. Freed from the the tight constraints of Paris fashion trends, American women looked to history for inspiration when choosing their wardrobe. Styles were adapted from the Italian Renaissance, Dutch Classical, and (most importantly) from 18th century French Court opulence. At the same time that the Franco-Prussian war was occupying Europe, American fashion styles had been adapting to more realistic lines -- hoop skirts had been shrinking, and a new emphasis on walking encouraged fashion to place loops on the dress bottom hem so that the skirt could be raised and then fastened to either side seam to allow ease of walking (and incidentally show off a trim ankle and lavish petticoat). When the dress was fastened in this way, puffs (or bouffants as they were called in the Victorian era) were incidentally created on the sides and back of the dress. This style caught on, and quickly filled the fashion vacuum left by the departing Parisienne trendsetters. These "puffy" styles effectively signaled the end of the hoop skirt era of the 1850's and 1860's, and would evolve into the 30-year-long Victorian bustle period. Since the puffs in the back of the skirt were so reminiscent of the 18th century pannier look, women soon decided to incorporate more of that style into their dresses, and by 1871 a fashion fad was created that took the simple Civil War 1860's bodice, elongated it vertically, similar to 18th century panniered basque bodices, and created elaborate folds in the back of the bodice top just behind the waist. Copious use of laces and pleats were further added to 1870 fashion to closer match the 18th century look. This fashion statement lasted only 2-3 years before the Parisienne fashion houses (most notably, Charles Worth, who introduced a "basque" bustle dress that effectively removed the puffs and shrunk the skirt around 1875) reasserted their dominance in the fashion world. This dress is an amazingly preserved artifact of that wild and interesting 1870-1873 period. In this polonaise (bodice and attached overskirt), the influence of the 18th century pannier style is clearly evident in the wide hips and squared puffs in the back of the overskirt. Large pagoda sleeves (a natural extension of the 18th century huge cuffs) graceful smooth side lines all identify the age of this unique bodice. The polonaise's edges are lined with bands of shiny black silk piping and then further edged with matching black lace. Matching black silk covered buttons provide decorative accents on the bodice front and pagoda sleeves. The three bouffants in the rear are separated by self-fabric and black silk-trimmed bows. The inside of the bodice is boned and features bustle ties to hold the shape of the bodice; and the button holes are all carefully and professionally hand sewn. In addition to its peerless style, this polonaise is constructed of midnight black, fine-ribbed silk faille - among the most expensive of the silks in the Victorian period. Silk faille is thick, has a ribbed texture and notable shine. Only the wealthiest and most affluent of society's upper class could afford a dress of this quality and amount of material. The faille and silk piping is complemented by scallop-edged lace sporting a leaf motif. This lace trims all of the important lines of the 1871 style of this bodice. The only thing this polonaise needs to create an absolutely stunning style piece is a black underskirt. This is haute couture at its finest - obviously worn by a woman of prominence in one of America's major East Coast cities.

Here is an original 1890s walking suit which was recently sold at auction on eBay. Note the tailored
fit and the fullness at the back of the skirt to allow fo walking. The trimming details are interesting as well.


Reproduction Outfits

Note: If you have a reproduction outfit you'd like to share, please feel free to send scans of photos,
along with a description of your dress, to me at webmaster@sensibility.com. Thanks!

Doesn't Becky look fantastic in her daygown? This original outfit was created for Becky by Kay Demlow of Lavender's Green. Kay does spectacular work. You can see a ballgown she made for me below. Thanks for sharing this beautiful dress, Becky!


Marna Jean shared these beautiful images of herself and her daughter in outfits she created. The adorable dress on her daughter is ca. 1880, and the stunning ballgown is also from that period. The walking dress at the far right is from an original 1881 pattern. Marna Jean runs Shooting Star Enterprises and offers custom-made Victorian outfits for ladies, gentlemen and children! Be sure to visit her wonderful site.


Here I am in my custom day dress by Mrs. Martin's Mercantile (unfortunately, Mrs. Martin has now retired). The skirt and bodice are made of 1860s reproduction fabric with a tiny black pattern on brown. Pagoda sleeves are trimmed with black cotton and piping, and the hemline of the skirt is trimmed all 'round with black cotton. My undersleeves were made by Harriet's TCS, as was my corset. I am also wearing a wonderful Garibaldi belt by Lavender's Green. My hoopskirt, hoop petticoat and corset cover (all unseen, of course!) came from R & K Sutlery. The only things missing from my outfit are my white lace-trimmed collar and my bonnet. I need to get a brooch to pin my collar in place, and my poor old bonnet has seen its last event, so I'm having a new one made.


This is my golden silk ballgown, made for me by Kay Demlow of Lavender's Green. I told Kay I was ready for a new gown (two babies quickly "moved" me out of my old gown!), and I said I was thinking of a pale gold. Kay knew exactly what I wanted and got to work right away. The results were breathtaking! I just love my new gown with its skirt flounce, deep "V" waistline, double-puffed sleeves and shoulder-width neckline. I trimmed the gown myself with crocheted ivory lace. I also made my head-dress of fabric flowers and ribbons. What amazed me is that when I got the gown, the ribbon Kay had used to lace the back of the bodice exactly matched the ribbon I had already chosen for the head-dress! The gown fits me like a glove, and I highly recommend Kay's beautiful work!


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