Clothing Fashion

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This page will discuss clothing and fashion from the past so you can dress the part—with style!

First of all, the 19th century consisted of several fashion periods, the most famous being the Victorian age, starting approximately 1860 and continuing through the turn of the century. (Actually, Queen Victoria reigned for a LONG time—from 1837 all the way to 1901! All this could, technically, be considered the "Victorian" period). No matter where you were in the world, if you were a lady, you did your darndest to follow the fashions from London and Paris that you studied in catalogues and illustrated books and magazines. Even the sturdiest pioneer woman had her frock that was tailored to follow the fashions. Early photos from the period show men and women wearing the latest Victorian styles as they walked the streets of Salt Lake City, Logan, or even small communities.

Regency Period


Predating the Victorian period, the beginning of the 19th century in the U.S. was the Regency period—the period of Jane Austen. Yes, even after a revolutionary war, women in the U.S. followed the styles of London faithfully! The Regency period lasted until about the 1830s. A great link about the costume of the Regency period is this one from Another very informative website is here.

Intermediary Periods


After the Regency period comes an intermediary period. This site is an excellent outline of the period from 1825 - 1840. Many pioneers were still wearing clothing from this period when they started out West. This site provides some excellent, practical information about what men and women wore during the Gold Rush years.

From 1840 - 1860 was the period of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (first published in 1843). You can find some excellent illustrations of this period here. This period that predates the Victorian era is a bit more difficult to research, mostly because the Victorian period is now so popular. However, since early pioneers were dressed during this period, it is important to find material. Wikipedia's 1840s fashion page and Wikipedia's 1850s fashion page are very fine resources.

REMEMBER: however poor you were as a woman—or man—you tried to do your best to copy the fashions of the time! If you lived in the Utah desert and operated a small farm, you still had your nice dress or as close as you could get. If puffy sleeves were "in", you took your sleeves off and made them puffy. Get it?

For you military folks, this site outlines some military uniforms from the Civil War era.

Victorian Period


There was a sudden change about 1860 in women's fashion when women's dresses suddenly became much more elaborate. They added lots of frills, lace, and the sillhouette changed dramatically. They added bustles at this time and other fancy things. Soon Queen Victoria would set the fashion and folks would follow it faithfully. Why Queen Victoria? Because England was the major colonial power at the time. Many of the pioneers were indeed English or Scottish or from some other European country where styles were copied from England.

Edwardian Period


Still have to write this one! This is the period of WWI.


Here are some terrific links for general costume and fashion information:

The Ladies Treasury

Men's Attire (from the Victorian Bazaar)

Demode: a great site with lots of photos and drawings of vintage costume

Want more photos of vintage costume? Try the Daguerreian Society's website

Eras of Elegance has some great tips for sewing, making or finding vintage costume items.

Still needed:

  • Fur trade fashion
  • Military fashion (more)
  • Specifically pioneer styles
  • Pioneer styles from different ethnicities (most were still Victorian, but with ethnic twists)
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