What did people wear in the 1800s?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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