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Last updated:29 dec 2010/csb

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 color.

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.

1859 Day Dress
1880 Walking Dress
1896 Sailor Style Walking Dress
1897 Tea Gown
1901 Afternoon Dress
1918 Afternoon Dress
1912 Afternoon Dress

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 blue trim.
1909 Bathing Dress
Bathers at Newport, 2003

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 supplies on-line.

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.

1868 Walking Dress Suit
1892 Walking Suit
1896 Checked Suit
1900 Golf Clothes
1900 Frock Coat
1920 Morning Suit

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.


P.O. Box 9, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908
phone: (617)  819-4283

Last updated 23 November 2005/csb