What did people wear in the 1800s?
By the 1800s, most of the people living in North America were of European or African origin. Kids still often wore clothes that had been cut down for them from worn-out grown-up clothing.
Most kids, and many grown people, went barefoot whenever it was warm enough, even to school. Women usually wore shirts and long skirts down to their ankles, or even brushing the ground.
More about American people in the 1800s
Clothes got cheaper
Sometimes women wore steel hoops under their skirts to make them rounder. Under their dresses, they wore petticoats, and shifts (like a nightgown), and corsets to support their breasts.
More about the history of cotton
Who invented steel?
They could afford to use more cloth because people were making clothes of cotton, which was cheaper. Many people now had both an everyday dress and a special dress for holidays or to wear to church.
African styles came to the Americas
African women living in slavery tried to keep dressing the way they had at home – wrapping their heads with cloth, for instance. Some African styles, like the kerchief, became popular with North American women, white and black and Native American.
More about African clothing
Slavery in the United States
But enslaved women usually only had one dress, and even that was usually an old dress that a free woman didn’t want anymore. Sometimes these women had to sew their dresses out of old flour sacks.
Farming women who had to work hard on their farms, or women who were hunters or gold miners, sometimes wore pants (especially if nobody would see them).
Jeans were invented
In the 1850s, men began to wear jeans, made first from hemp cloth by a Jewish man named Jacob Davis. Soon Davis started to make jeans out of cotton, along with his partner Levi Strauss. Now we call them Levi’s. They also wore denim or cotton corduroy overalls.
More about hemp cloth
Men started to wear their pants down to their ankles instead of their knees. By this time, even most of the Native people were wearing mostly European clothes. But clothing styles changed again in the 1900s.
Learn by doing: try walking around barefoot for a while
More about the history of cotton
More about the cotton gin
More about sewing machines
More American clothing styles – 1900s
Bibliography and further reading about American clothing:
This is so interesting! Thank you for posting– this is gonna save my history final project!!! You da best bestie <3
I am trying to find information on what prospering free african americans would where in the 1890s including shoes etc. Do you know where I can find this?
As far as I can see, they wore basically what white people wore. Try googling images of southern cities in the 1890s, like this one: https://libcom.org/history/1892-new-orleans-general-strike. Basically, men wore wool suits over white cotton shirts, and black leather shoes, with black hats. Women wore long cotton dresses, often with white aprons, and generally covered their hair with hats or bonnets or turbans. Children often wore shorter, looser dresses, or shorter pants, in the same materials.
I am doing a skit on the life on an Irish- American woman, any tips for how to dress the part?
Sounds like fun! I think this will help you: https://www.uvm.edu/landscape/dating/clothing_and_hair/index.php
Our county in central Missouri is celebrating its bicentennial this year
I am on the planning committee and would like to dress appropriate to middle classes as possible. Where cam I get information?
I really think the Godey’s Lady’s Book would work for you too – just use printed cotton instead of silk, and not too much lace or fancy buttons.
Um, upon further consultation, I now realize that Godey’s Lady’s Book only goes back to 1830, so that won’t work for you. The styles of 1818 were loose, tunic-like dresses modelled on Greek vases. Watch any of the Jane Austen movies, like Pride and Prejudice, to see the kind of thing ladies were wearing at that time.
I am a part of a Wild West themed corn maze that is in the planning stage for this upcoming fall season. Could tou please di rect me pictures of the dress of ladies who loved in towns and were more affluent?
Wow, that sounds like fun! You might look at these: http://www.accessible-archives.com/collections/godeys-ladys-book/ . Godey’s Lady’s Book was a catalogue of ladies’ fashions that many women used to see how to make their own dresses, or have them made by seamstresses, all throughout the 1800s.