How did the Civil War impact female fashion?

major bill

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I have read in books how other wars, such as World War One and World War Two. So did the Civil War impact female fashion and how?

Can we assume at some point Southern women switched to different cloth or different trim due to the lack of availability of certain cloth and trimmings when the South switched to war manufacturing. In the North the Civil War probably impacted female fashion. I have seen the possibility of some female attire taking on a bit of a military look, or perhaps a patriotic look. Some author must have written on this.
 

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I have read in books how other wars, such as World War One and World War Two. So did the Civil War impact female fashion and how?

Can we assume at some point Southern women switched to different cloth or different trim due to the lack of availability of certain cloth and trimmings when the South switched to war manufacturing. In the North the Civil War probably impacted female fashion. I have seen the possibility of some female attire taking on a bit of a military look, or perhaps a patriotic look. Some author must have written on this.
Thanks for starting this thread! I'll be back to share some information shortly. Hope some others will as well.
 

major bill

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It is likely that many North industries that provided items to females would have switched to making items for soldiers. This would mean shortages of some items. For example a hat maker switched from civilian hats to military hats. Some hats for women would still have been made, but there are only so many skilled hat makers.
 

major bill

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Perhaps it was mostly in photographs, but there are many Civil War images of women in patriotic dress, some as almost resembled female versions of military dress.
 

major bill

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An example of female patriotic atire.

Women in Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids, Kent County) wore a type of semi uniform. In 1861 when the 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment was presented with a regimental flag 20 young ladies were attired in red Zouave jackets and brown jockey caps trimmed in red, white and blue. The rest of the ladies, 6 in number, wore blue dresses with white and red sashes pinned at the shoulder with a metal star. https://civilwartalk.com/file:///C%3A/Users/Billlthekid/Documents/randy%20working%20copyies/older/Mar%202010%20%20Mich%20uniforms%20APR%202011%20l.doc#_edn1 These 6 ladies also carried blue parasols with 13 gold stars.


https://civilwartalk.com/file:///C%3A/Users/Billlthekid/Documents/randy%20working%20copyies/older/Mar%202010%20%20Mich%20uniforms%20APR%202011%20l.doc#_ednref1 Silon, Gordon L., A Grand Rapids Sampler, GHistory .R. Hist. Commission, 1992.
 
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At the beginning of the Civil War women’s clothes were generally based on English, French and New York fashions. The fabrics were spun in the Northern cotton mills or imported from English fabric makers. Both Northern and Southern ladies were familiar with the fashions featured in Godey’s Lady’s Book.

When the Civil War began and during the subsequent years women’s dress changed to match the economy. With husbands, fathers, and brothers fighting, women were forced to take over the work at home. Fancy hats and dresses were replaced with sunbonnets and simple dresses to wear for work in fields or factories. The fashionable finery became bandages for use in the many Civil War hospitals. Women’s fashion was now defined by simple cotton or muslin dresses.

According to an article published by Vicksburg National Military Park entitled, "Fashion Sense or Sensible Fashion":

Fabric during the Civil War was conserved by piecing together smaller sections of matching prints, and using the pieced bits in inconspicuous places. Work clothes used reversible, solid fabrics or fabrics with woven prints with no “up” or “down,” so that the panels (especially in the skirt) could be turned upside down and inside out for re-use when a garment became faded. Prints were usually used for work dresses as they hid the dirt better. Dress fronts were generally fastened with hooks and eyes, straight, or safety pins; buttons, if used, were covered with the same fabric as the dress. Metal and jet buttons were saved for use on outer clothing, while wooden ones were sewn on underwear."

19th century ladies’ fashion was "far from comfortable or practical", but during the Civil War the "Southern opulence and Northern high society fashions basically ceased to exist."


Source: Clothing Through American History - The Civil War Through the Gilded Age 1861 - 1899 by Anita Stamper and Jill Condra.
 

grace

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One thing to think about is that the structure of "fancy dress" for women really became set firmly in the bell skirts and low tops. How many "typical" princesses' dresses could be pulled straight from this time? :smile:
 

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