Basics of Civil War Lady's Style

During the Civil War era, there were very strong rules about what a lady wore for different activities.  They wore Work Dresses, Day Dresses, Tea or Party Dresses, and Ball Gowns depending on the situation.

The silhouette of the Civil War Lady was a cone, or pyramid. Starting at the top with a close-to-the-head hairdo and ending with a very full skirt on the bottom. It took many layers to achieve this look. Check out the Layers of Fashion below.


  Snapshots of History

See what they actually wore in Snapshots of History .


Civil War Ladies Sketchbooks

You will find more information of this sort in the Civil War Ladies Sketchbooks.


  Fashion Plates

You can see the Fashion Plates that show the Civil War ladies how to dress.


Layers of Civil War Fashion



Click here to download a FREE information sheet telling you about the Basic Styles of Clothing worn by women during the Civil War period 1858 - 1865.


Layer 1


A Civil War lady started dressing by putting on Pantalettes, Chemise, Modesty Slip, Corset, and shoes and stockings. The underclothes were made from fine, white cotton. This layer was worn to prevent the outer clothes from being dirtied and stained by the body. This layer was changed often for cleanliness.

Layer 2


Next a lady would add a Corset Cover to keep her corset clean. Then a Hoop Skirt was added to hold out her skirt. A ruffled Slip was worn over the Hoop Skirt to hide the rings of the Hoop Skirt. This was the start of the cone-shaped silhouette. White cotton Undersleeves were added to fill-in her sleeves.


Layer 3


The final layer was the lady's Dress. The skirt was very full and could have ruffles or decorations to add to the fullness. This Pagoda-style sleeve was very wide at the bottom. The skirt decorations are repeated on the bodice. The look is finished with her hair in a Chignon or bun at the nape of the neck.


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