Ladies’ 19th and Early 20th Century Summer Day Wear
by Patri and Barbara Pugliese and Katy Bishop
A brief overview of period styles.
A Ladyís daytime outfit in the summer would most often be a dress or skirt and blouse (and
perhaps a jacket) in plain or patterned lightweight fabric in white or a pastel color,
occasionally with floral patterns or stripes. A brightly colored sash or belt adds a dash of
Specific styles of bodices, sleeves and skirts vary by decade or even by year. A few
pictures are added here to illustrate some of the most common silhouettes.
Accessories A lady of the period would not consider herself dressed for outdoor
activities without a hat. Straw hats and bonnets, plain or decorated with flowers, ribbons
and/or feathers will not only protect you from the sun, but will finish your outfit beautifully.
Parasols and fans are also attractive and useful accessories in summer. Cotton, kid, or
crocheted gloves add formality.
Bathing Costumes varied in style throughout this period. The main elements of a period
bathing costume are usually a blouse and bloomer combination, with front button closure and long or
short sleeves, often trimmed with nautical details. Over this would usually be worn a knee length
skirt. The most usual fabric was wool, although cotton was also used. The styles of trimming and
color combinations were most commonly navy blue with white trim, grey with red trim, or white with
Where can I get patterns and sewing supplies?
Past Patterns has many patterns suitable for 19th and early 20th Century day wear, especially
skirts #208 and #1097, blouses #212, #404, #405, and #406, bodices #701 and #702, dress #302,
polonaise #904, and jacket #113. Folkwear skirt pattern #209, dresses #220 and #227 and outfit
#216, blouses #205, #210, or bathing costume #253 (excellent for a trip to the beach) are all
very useful patterns. Simplicity and Butterick have Victorian inspired patterns which can be
made more accurate by using buttons or hooks and eyes in place of zippers. Visit our Suppliers page for information on where to purchase patterns and sewing
Men’s Summer Day Wear for the 19th and early 20th Centuries
Gentlemenís daywear of this era would consist either of a light colored suit in linen or
cotton or light colored trousers with a lightweight jacket and vest. Bow ties or wide long
ties (in colors and patterns) are both appropriate. Knickers are a pleasant alternative to
long trousers, while a vest worn without a jacket is comfortable for lawn games. Hats were not
considered optional in this period: a straw hat or boater looks particularly good and will
deflect the sun while playing croquet or other games. A more formal alternative would be a
morning suit (cutaway or swallow-tailed coat) in black or grey; black or white vest; black,
grey or grey striped trousers, with top hat, spats, and cane.
Any of the views in Folkwear vest pattern #222 (which also contains a bow tie pattern) or
Simplicity often has vest patterns that would be appropriate. These work especially well when
done in light colored linen or cotton.