Clothing 1600- 1650

During Colonial America, there were obvious European influences due to the fact that all of the settlers had just sailed to America from Europe and brought their clothing with them. This period is characterized as the disappearance of ruff around the neckline and hose on men. The settlers clothing were very simple, with basic patterns, cuts and colors they always covered the entire body. Both men and women wore wigs, which were necessities, and sometimes as expensive as the houses they lived in.


A trend among poets and artists to adopt a fashionable pose of melancholia is reflected in fashion, where the characteristic touches are dark colors, open collars and unbuttoned gowns or doublets and a generally disheveled appearance. Males wore linen shirts with deep cuffs and cloaks along with knit stockings and breeches. The shirtsleeves became extremely full and were often paned or slashed to show the voluminous sleeves of the shirt and the chemise beneath.


The women wore long dresses with bright colors along with a hooded cloak. Both men and women started to sport broad lace and linen collars, and women began wearing dresses with higher waistlines. The silhouette was close to the body with tight sleeves and a low pointed waist that slowly stated to broaden. A woman’s dress dropped down to her ankles. Wealthy men and young boys wore a black suit, a hat, and black shoes for Sunday church ceremonies.


Children wore wool or light linen in blue, grey, red, green, yellow, and brown. At home the men would wear tri-corner hats instead of wigs and women were still were bound to corsets through this entire period. It was also common to see people in wooden clogs or some form of painted wooden shoes. Clothing during this period was very uncomfortable and not very glamorous. The photo shown below illustrates a typical colonial outfit with neutral and dark colors, a cape covering the head, a skirt down to the ground with not one bit of skin revealed.


Pilgrims and the Puritans homespun their clothes at first but as the mill towns, such as Lowell, Massachusetts grew and employed thousands of young people, ready made clothing became much more available. The wealthy still had their dressmakers but everyone else could now go to a clothing store for their wearing apparel if they did not need or want to do their own sewing any longer. The more readily available clothing however did not mean that people had more outfits, both men and women still only owned a few outfits.





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Clothing in America 1900- 1914

Commonly called the la Belle Époque era, European countries still heavily influenced the clothing during this period and the elegance carried on from the late 1800’s. Women modeled their behavior and appearance upon the Gibson Girl the popular image of the “New Women” and were highly influenced by advancing feminists. Styles were formal and romantic, shoulders were padded and fabrics were light. Women often wore straight front corsets to accentuate slim waists and long torsos. The trends for both men and women were designed to accommodate their rapidly evolving lifestyles and also represented a ‘costumy’ feeling. Fashionable women started buying more dresses for every occasion, some which were basic and meant to be simply worn around the house.

Clothing was more accessible and could be produced for lower prices so women changed their outfits quite frequently throughout the day. Surprisingly, women wore suits with blouses and acquired sporting clothes for more active events, ideas that were previously only applicable to men. People starting to test the elements of fashion, mixing men and women’s clothing, styles and patterns and the idea of fashion started to represent a form of expression rather then simply a social status. Men reflected the changes in tailoring and fashion after the Gilded age, undershirts were made of silk and tops and trousers were both short and long.

Fashion rapidly spread throughout the country, from designer stores and department stores to tailors, so the concept of custom fitting clothing according to the client’s measurements was not uncommon. People started to experiment with fabrics, making bolder statements and taking risks that were new to the world such as belts around the waist, velvet skirts, and beaded trim. Although many women did sport corsets it was not as bizarre to go without one, some thought it to be a passing fashion and the corset-less empire dress from the early 1800s came back into style. The photo below shows the favorable slim waists, long torsos, vibrant patterns and colors, and  a looser flow.

Designers such as Paul Poiret and the Tirocchi sisters heavily impacted the revolutionary changes in American clothing with their influential loose gowns, high waistlines, colorful peasant embroidery and free- falling form. The haute couture movement in Paris set a tone for the rest of the world and wealthy men and women sought these Parisian designers out and had their clothes imported. Quite frequently, horse races served as a debut for important new fashions and well-known designers sent models to attend these races wearing their latest creations.

In 1914 after the start of WW1, attention and materials were drawn away from fashion design and no significant developments occurred again until peace was declare at the end of 1918.






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Clothing in America from 1900-1914

In the time period of 1900-1914 clothing develops into a business much more then before, dresses are more complex and the designs are more unique as artists give ideas for dresses. Clothing in this time era tried to show off your assists like your torso, breast, and legs much like today. Much dresses were custom made only to fit their body so every part of their body looked perfect on the dress. Some women made transitions into dressing like a male, wearing jeans and other male clothing, which trademarked the beginning of a new fashion statement.

In this time period World War I is still happening as more women worked and worked longer hours; they had to change their clothing attire to relate to their daily lifestyles. Some skirts rose above the calf where it was more comfortable and helped with better movement. The richer ladies who didn’t work had to have a dress for the morning, afternoon, and the evening. Females also started to wear suits which were with shirtwaist blouses, designers like A & L Tirrocchi, Jacques Doucet, and Mariano Fortuny were influential in this time period as designed many differnet styles of clothing. Males started to wear more knee pants with tunic and long socks as this became heavily popular. Men continued to wear a black frock coat with gray striped trousers for formal day wear and a black tailcoat and trousers with a white waistcoat for evening wear if ladies were present, although in America the tuxedo, or dinner jacket became popular. Flat caps with beaks, sailor hats, and straw hats became popular for young boys as it was designed and marketed well in this time period. By the end of this decade everyone was buying already made clothing and the dress code became pretty strict.

This picture illustrates the style of dresses ladies wore in this time period. Dresses that were designed and well fabricated with beautiful designs swept the nation, and once the designers got their name it became a popular business. Also dresses were first sketched out before they actually made them, so they passes out sketches and if anyone wanted to but it they would make it for them. This picture also illustrates the designs of the hats back then, where hats for women were very colorful and floral. These dresses also went down to their ankles, and illustrates the tight fitting dress that was custom made for only one person.

This period of time really demonstrates the booming of businesses for clothing especially women’s clothing. As designers of clothing became more popular and rich, clothing starts to become an important figure in the economy. Clothing designs also is looked at as an art, not just some random cloth you put on to work in the field, but to make a statement about your personality. Clothing for women also starts to become more comfortable as many have to work in factories because of the war.

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Clothing in America 1900-1914

During in the early 20th century, Victorian styles were still popular among Americans. Women following this trend wore many buttons, buckles, and layers of clothing. Some women even wore clothing that they could not dress or undress themselves in. Not only did some women need assistance to get dressed, but the clothes women wore were also hard to move around in, making it hard to perform daily chores.

During these times, undergarments were not made to be comfortable, but to absorb sweat, body odor, and sometimes to hide a woman’s body. Other than fancy Victorian styles, in the early 1900s, some average families continued to wear clothes handmade by the mother. This long-lived tradition of homemade clothing was soon to come to an end, because starting around 1910, more people started to buy fitted clothing from a tailor or pre-made clothes. Men wore heavy suits, usually a dark color, with a hat, or derbie made of either silk or straw. Women wore skirts that touched the ground, along with many decorations.

This image is of Teddy Roosevelt representing a common style during the early 1900s. Like all fancy-dressed men back in these days, he is wearing a dark-colored and heavy suit, along with a pocket watch, which was a popular accessory. His clothing in this picture is well-fitting, and looks like its been fitted by a tailor, which was common among men in these days, since people started to buy pre-made clothes, over hand-making them.

Although styles at this time were similar to styles the century before, this was the beginning of a new way of dressing, because Victorian style was dying out, and people began to wear more comfortable, and casual clothing. People lost interest in dress codes, and the traditional “man in suit” was now some men wearing suits and others wearing casual clothing that fit their work. This was somewhat the beginning of modern clothing.



-Grady Kinnoin

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Clothing in America 1850 – 1900

Clothing at the turn of the century was very formal but yet also somewhat romantic. Styles became darker and drabber, a concept that came from London, due to the city’s soot that would collect on the bottom of their clothes. The idea of fashion and style for wealthier women became prominent and clothing stores opened around the country with exclusive collections. However the majority of Americans did not fall into this luxurious category and most were content with their more affordable, humble ensembles.

Men often sported long slim trousers, balanced out with fuller, broader tops and caps. Lightweight cotton was a popular fabric of the time, and was worn in styles such as the knit shirt, often to the beach and sporting events. Women moved away from the natural, loose, elegant look to more glamorous evening attire, consisting of tight corsets and shorter skirts. The previous decade embraced the natural figure where as these women emphasized small waists and long legs. This shorter skirt was however not just for fashion but also necessary to easily enter the new automobiles and trolleys as well as to walk greater distances. Shoes also accommodated walking, most had little heels and laced up to the knee.

The more practical attire for women consisted of bobbed hair, and even pants, due to their busier lives. One of the most revolutionary inventions during this time was that of the Blue Jeans created by Levi Strauss. The women pictured below, signifies a turning point in the clothing for the working women in America, not simply because she is wearing jeans but because she is one of the first women to wear pants at all, a trend that still carries on today. The safety pin was also an invention that made the idea of tailored clothes much more accessible to the common man.

With all of these inventions and changes to clothing, the lives of Americans became much more comfortable. Clothes began to serve a purpose and were appreciated for their functionality. Hats were worn to protect the face rather then as a social status and dresses were more rational to support events such as riding, cycling or swimming. A great deal of the changes made during this time period carry on today and the ideas behind these changes are still essential in our society.

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Clothing in America in the 1850-1900

American clothing in the time period of 1850-1900 substantially changed a great deal as accesories became a great deal for men and women. Merchants from the old world were quick to appreciate the rapidly expanding market for clothing as business thrived in this time period. European styles became popular in America for females as the gradual return to a narrow silhouette thrived after the full skirted fashion. For men, patterned or figured fabrics for shirts and the general replacement of neckties spread in America. Like era’s before this time period, your income depended on how you dressed and how good of a quality the clothing is.

Clothing in this time started to thrive more unlike the other time periods, as more and more people bought clothing from businesses. Women’s dresses filled up in the rear end and this fashion required an underskirt.Day time dresses had high neck lines as the night dresses had low neck lines, they also wore short gloves and they also included velvet ribbons on the neck. Hair was also important to their look as they usually pulled it back and had bangs. Women also wore straw hats and hats with veils. For the men ditto suits became popular which was a three piece suit. Only the rich males had full length overcoats which was luxury in the winter. Top hats were still a main accessory for the upper class, and this time period started many different ways you can tie ties. Children’s fashion at an early age didn’t have different genders as all young children wore the same types of clothing. Young men usually dressed like their father as they also wore blazers, for the young ladies their dresses got longer as they grew older.

This image illustrates the type of fashion ladies were into in this time period. Their hairstyle which was knotted up in the back depicts the hairstyle of this time period. Their dresses bunched up in the rear end for style and it had patterns on them which was originally from Europe. Accessories illustrated the income of your family as this picture illustrates the wealth of these two young ladies with their colorful scarf and their expensive umbrellas. They also wore dresses that were down to their ankles which is a necessity as all the ladies in this time period did.

As the styles of each decade changes, fashion always goes back to their roots and this is what this time period had. As styles went back to the old days, but with a fresher look, men’s clothing also became more fashionable as accessories became more and more popular. Clothing in America starts to develop now as their own even though they are taking ideas from Europe. The businesses in America start to finally thrive and later on they start designing their own clothing.





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Clothing in America 1850s-1900

In 19th century America, clothing styles were beginning to become more modern, and more fancy. For example, during 1850-1900 a typical, fancy American man wore silk vest, with metal buttons. Although clothing styles changed greatly, fashion continues to define a persons social status.

In 1850, the popular clothing style among American men was known as Victorian. Men influenced by Victorian styles typically wore a fancy, often luxurious vest over a nice dress shirt, along with a slim, dark colored coat called a frock coat. Styles of course were reflected differently among age, and young men were often considered more stylish. In 1960, Tailcoats, similar to frock coats, but with a longer tail, became popular among older men.

business man

This is a photograph of a typical business man in America during 1850. The style of his fancy clothes and his pocket watch reveal him as a wealthy man. Wearing an asymmetrical cravat, this was another fashionable item among fancy-dressed men, and very popular during this time. Like this gentleman, men often styled a wave in their hair, or parted it in the middle. Common coat colors were black and dark brown, often thought of as a conservative color.

Starting 1900, many of these 19th century trends had gone out of style, such as middle-parted hairstyles. However, the traditional dress shirt, tie, and coat was still popular among men, and being fancy was still common among wealthy men. Despite fancy trends, new styles like Western were now becoming popular among American men, especially in the west.


– Grady Kinnoin

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