Western Wear and 1850 – 1870 Period Clothing by Fashion & Art Revival
The mid-1800s provided Americans and Europeans with the basics for fashion dress that evolved and
remained popular over the next century. Even today, we see the evident lineage between 1850s
fashions and modern wear. This was the classic age in clothing. Functionality and form finally came
together to produce trends that endure today.
Especially in men’s formal wear and work clothing, we can see how the 1800s influenced what we wear
in the 21st century.
Formal wear for men in 1850 included a collared shirt with tie, a formal tailed coat, tapered at the waist,
with lapels, and a deep “V” buttoned front. Pant material matched the coat. Front leg crease broke on
the shoes. Belts or suspenders and a vest completed the suit. Variations over the decades, across more
than 150 years, have been surprisingly minor. Although fashion and style dictate that design details are
changed every few years, the basic ensemble has remained structurally unchanged.
Work clothing is designed with function in mind. Look and style take a back seat to practicality. Obviously,
the human male body has not changed drastically between 1850 and 2010. Therefore, work clothing has
been changed more by the introduction of synthetic materials than by style.
Women’s clothing tends toward visual presentation and style above functionality. Classic origins are still
evident, but obfuscated by fashion dictates. Women’s 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s clothing is distinctive to
the period and makes the wearer stand out in a modern crowd. Costumes for the period define the
decade, the event (formal evening, Sunday best, informal event, or daily wear), the wearer’s age (young
ladies wore different styles than did matrons), and the social class of the wearer.
When assembling a costume for the mid-1800s, men must pay careful attention to detail of design and
accessories in order to clearly identify the period being represented. Women’s costumes tend to be easier
in that the selection of the main article of clothing, be it dress, pant, coat or shoes, will likely provide a
clear identification of the intended period.
In addition to formal and work clothing, the mid-1800s can be identified with western wear. Western wear
is usually defined as relating to a horse-based culture. For large parts of America in the mid-1800s,
especially the West, the horse was the main means of transportation. Clothing design facilitated the
relationship between man and horse.
The Civil War, 1861 – 1865, placed American men in uniforms. Variations in uniforms make authentic
reproduction problematic. homemade uniforms, especially for the South, were common. Materials, color
and cut varied from individual to individual. Nevertheless, many facts and pictures survive from the era
and costumers are able to produce amazingly accurate and detailed replica uniforms. If you are just
starting to assemble a Civil War uniform costume, be warned. Some historically focused persons may
become irate if you are inaccurate in your portrayal. American history lives in the hearts of many. Stay
happy and healthy. Don’t be disrespectful.
Fashion & Art Revival is compiling an authentic collection of mid-1800s clothing and costumes for
sale online. This is a process and takes time. We are accomplishing it bit-by-bit. Check back often to
see what new styles we have added.
If you are traveling in Texas, stop by our store in historic Jefferson.
Every weekend you have a chance to see people in accurate period dress on the streets of this antebellum
river port city (population ~ 1900). We look forward to your visit.