Newport Vintage Dance Week
6 March 2006
Ladies' Evening Dress for the 1860's
by Katy Bishop and Patri & Barbara Pugliese
Please click on the pictures for the original period descriptions of the gowns.
Ladies' evening gowns of this era typically consist of a full gathered or pleated skirt (115"-140" at the hem), worn over a wired hoop (105"-125" bottom hoop circumference), a fitted bodice with rounded open neckline and short puffed sleeves. The bodice is usually fastened at the center back by either hooks and eyes or lacing. Fabrics used were most often silks in taffeta, moire or brocades; patterns can be solids, stripes, small prints or plaids. For summer wear lightweight silk organza and cotton muslins were also used. Colors would be lighter for young ladies, darker for older women. Bright red should be avoided, as should black (in America) and very dark colors. The gown can be decorated with contrasting trim and black or white lace. Decorative elements (ruffles, bows, geometric designs, etc.) on the bodice and skirt usually matched, with the skirt decoration reflected on a smaller scale on the berthe (neckline trimming) of the bodice.
Patterns and Resources
Men's Evening Wear of the 1860's
Gentlemen's evening wear of this era consisted of a black tail coat, white or black waistcoat, usually with lapels (cummerbunds are not appropriate), without points at the waist. The trousers matched the coat, without satin ribbon at the side seams and with no crease down the front and back. The outfit is completed with a stock or cravat in white or black, and white gloves. Flexible soled shoes such as Capezio black jazz oxfords are comfortable for dancing.
A modern tail coat is a good approximation of the period dress coat, and the Folkwear vest pattern #222, view B, produces an excellent vest for this period. See resources list for information on the CVD stock (19th Century necktie) pattern.
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