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Major Fashion Trends and Styles of the 1800s

CEO Tinh Phung
The 1800s marked a significant shift in fashion as people began expressing themselves through their clothing rather than conforming to societal expectations. In this article, we will explore the major fashion trends and styles of...

The 1800s marked a significant shift in fashion as people began expressing themselves through their clothing rather than conforming to societal expectations. In this article, we will explore the major fashion trends and styles of the 19th century, highlighting the evolution of both women's and men's fashion.

Beautiful Gowns and Dresses

During the early years of the 1800s, women embraced a more natural form with long flowing muslin dresses inspired by classical Greek and Roman designs. These dresses were sheer and gauzy, allowing women to embrace their natural figures without the need for restrictive corsets. However, as the century progressed, the fashionable feminine figure returned to the small waist, and corsets made a comeback. Elaborately designed dresses with rounded busts, full hips, and sloping shoulders became popular, influencing Victorian fashion.

Undress Style

From 1795 to 1820, women adopted a more casual and informal style known as the undress style. These loosely falling dresses gathered over the natural waist or under the bust were usually made of white and almost transparent muslin. While they revealed the body's contours, the chemise, the standard undergarment of the era, prevented complete transparency. Women would wear half dress during the day and full dress for formal events, embracing comfort and simplicity.

Morning Dresses

Morning dresses, worn inside the house, featured high necklines and long sleeves. They were usually plain and undecorated, emphasizing modesty and practicality. The sleeves were often emphasized with collars or tippets that rested on gigot sleeves, adding a touch of sophistication to the overall look.

Evening Gowns

Evening gowns became a staple in women's fashion during the 1800s. These gowns were often decorated and trimmed with lace, ribbons, and netting. In the early years, they were cut low, with bare arms covered by long white gloves. As the century progressed, gowns had wider necklines, shorter puffed sleeves, and were worn off the shoulders. The addition of wide flounces reaching the elbow in the 1840s added elegance and drama to evening attire.

Bouffant Gowns

Bouffant gowns, popular for special occasions in the 1860s, featured a wide, full skirt resembling a hoop skirt. This style exuded opulence and grandeur, making it a favorite choice for formal events throughout the century.

Dresses with Long Trains

In the 1870s, the trend of long-trained gowns emerged. Elaborate overskirts placed at the back, supported by a bustle, added volume to the skirt. These skirts were heavily trimmed with pleats, ribbons, flounces, frills, and rouching, creating a dramatic and eye-catching effect.

Tea Gowns

Tea gowns, an informal at-home dress for entertaining visitors, gained popularity in the 1870s and became mainstream in the 1890s. These gowns were made of light fabrics, featuring unstructured lines and not requiring a corset. Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and Japanese kimonos, tea gowns offered a departure from the highly decorated Victorian styles prevalent during most of the 19th century. Initially intended for home wear, they eventually became acceptable for fashionable summer resort outings.

Empire Silhouette

The Empire silhouette, popular during the Regency era, featured a light, long, and loosely fitting dress. It offered a high-waist appearance and helped elongate the body. This style, linked to France's adaptation of Greek and Roman principles, waxed and waned in fashion throughout the century.

Undergarments and Frameworks

Undergarments played a crucial role in shaping the fashionable silhouettes of the 1800s.

  • Chemise: Worn by fashionable women, the chemise was made of white cotton and served to protect outer clothes from perspiration. It prevented the sheer muslin or silk dresses from being fully transparent.

  • Corset: Corsets evolved during this period. Initially, high-waisted classical fashions did not require corsets, but corset-like undergarments called "divorce" were used to separate women's breasts. Corsets made a comeback around 1810, compressing the breasts from below and creating a lifted appearance. They were made of satin, damask, silk, and reinforced with metal and whalebone.

  • Petticoat: Petticoats, worn between underwear and outer dresses, had scooped necklines and often featured decorative lace, tucks, ruffles, or ornamental designs.

  • Crinoline: Crinolines, cage-like structured petticoats, were designed to hold out a woman's skirt. They grew to their maximum dimensions by the 1860s and underwent changes in shape, contracting at the front and sides while maintaining volume at the back. The crinoline later evolved into the crinolette, a hybrid of the crinoline and the bustle.

  • Bustle: The bustle, an under framework, expanded the fullness at the back of dresses. It became popular during the 1860s and replaced the crinoline completely, dominating women's clothing during the 1870s to 1880s.


Women's outerwear in the 1800s offered both warmth and style.

  • Shawls: Shawls became popular as clothing fabrics became thinner. Women favored Indian shawls, as they complemented the sheer muslin and light silk dresses prevalent during the period.

  • Pelerines: Pelerines, cape-collars that covered the shoulders, were popular during the 1830s. They were typically made of sheer or thin muslin, adding an elegant touch to outfits.

  • Tippets: Tippets were scarf-like pieces worn over the shoulders for warmth or to emphasize the shoulder area. They were later adopted by Anglican priests and other religious ministers.

  • Mantelet: Mantelets were short capes popular in the early years of the century. Over time, they evolved into shawls, offering both style and functionality.

  • Cloaks: Cloaks and full-length coats were worn by women during cold or wet weather, providing protection and adding a touch of sophistication to outfits.


Sleeves played a significant role in defining women's fashion during the 1800s, evolving in different styles throughout the century.

  • Juliet Sleeves: Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, Juliet sleeves were long, tight sleeves with puffs at the top. They gained popularity during the Empire period and were trendy until the 1820s.

  • Gigot Sleeves: The 1830s introduced the distinctive gigot or "leg of mutton" sleeves. These sleeves added volume above the waist and were often accompanied by large, full conical skirts. Gigot sleeves made another comeback in the 1890s, growing in size until reaching their largest size in 1895.

  • Pagoda Sleeves: Pagoda sleeves, popular in the 1860s, featured a wide, bell-shaped design over an engageante or false undersleeve. The sleeves were narrower at the shoulder and wider at the wrist, showcasing parts of the undersleeve. This style influenced the funnel-shaped sleeves referred to as pagoda sleeves today.


Bonnets played a crucial role in women's fashion during the 1800s. They ranged from small-brimmed styles that revealed the face to high-brimmed bonnets with elaborate trimmings. Women often had at least two bonnets, one for summer and one for winter, and wealthier women possessed a wider variety of bonnets. Bonnets became a symbol of style and elegance, often accessorizing dresses or gowns.

Aesthetic Dress Movement

In the late 1800s, the Aesthetic Dress Movement emerged, emphasizing comfort and natural beauty over rigid and uncomfortable fashions. Influenced by the Aesthetic trend in art and literature, this movement opposed tight corsets, thick crinolines, and bustles. Instead, it embraced wide-flowing lines, natural fabrics like cotton and wool, and softer, muted colors. The Aesthetic Dress Movement laid the foundation for subsequent reforms in women's fashion and contributed to the more relaxed styles of the early 20th century.

Men's Fashionable Coats

Men's coats underwent notable changes during the 19th century. Early 1800s fashion featured lavish coats similar to the previous period. However, as the 1920s approached, coats began to be crafted in a new way. The coats had separate tails and lapels for a better fit. The tails were narrow, pointed, and fell just below the knee. These coats were padded at the chest and waist, creating a structured and sophisticated look.

Different types of coats emerged during the century:

  • Waistcoats: Waistcoats evolved throughout the years, starting as high-waisted and squared off at the bottom. Gradually, they required higher buttoning and featured stand collars and wide lapels. Waistcoats with high collars were fashionable until the shawl collar trend emerged.

  • Greatcoat: Greatcoats or overcoats gained popularity, often incorporating contrasting collars of fur or velvet. They provided warmth and added elegance to men's outfits.

  • Frock Coat: Frock coats featured sleeves that gathered or pleated into a slightly puffed shape. Wool or velvet were commonly used, and colors like midnight blue and bottle green were fashionable. Frock coats remained popular for most of the century, but shorter versions emerged in the 1870s.

  • Sack Coat: Introduced in the 1850s for leisure activities, sack coats gradually replaced frock coats and became the predecessor to the modern suit coat.

Dandy Style

The 19th century introduced the term "dandy," referring to a clothes-obsessed man who took pride in his appearance. Beau Brummell, a British dandy, became the model for fashionable men during the period. Dandies focused on natural excellence, tailoring, and refined dressing. Immaculate personal cleanliness, perfectly tailored dark coats, high collars, and exquisitely tied cravats were the trademarks of dandy style. The shift from breeches to tailored trousers also occurred during this period.

Men's Trousers

The 1800s witnessed the transition from breeches to trousers as fashionable streetwear. Trousers gained popularity during the French Revolution when they symbolized the working-class revolutionaries in contrast to the upper-class symbol of breeches. Trousers evolved throughout the century, with looser fits, flared hips, and pleats. Light-colored trousers were worn during the day, while dark-colored trousers became evening wear. By the 1930s, trousers featured modern fly-front closures, becoming a staple for men's fashion.

Ditto Suit

The ditto suit emerged as a novelty fashion in the 1860s but gained popularity in the 1870s. It consisted of a sack coat, matching waistcoat, and trousers, offering a more informal alternative to the ensemble of a frock coat, waistcoat, and trousers.

Dinner Jacket

The dinner jacket, also known as the tuxedo, provided a less formal and more relaxed alternative to formal coats. In Britain, the dinner jacket featured a shawl collar with satin or silk facings and one to two buttons. It became a dress code for "dressing for dinner" at home or in men's clubs, worn with a white shirt and a dark-colored tie.


Boots played an essential role in 19th-century fashion, with various styles emerging throughout the century.

  • Hessian Boots: Hessian boots originated as military riding boots worn by German soldiers in the 18th century. They became popular in England during the Regency period and were later worn by civilians throughout the century, featuring heart-shaped tops and tassels.

  • Wellington Boots: Wellington boots were adapted from Hessian boots, featuring knee-high tops in front and a lower cut at the back. They gained popularity after being worn by the Duke of Wellington in 1815 and became practical shoes for both the aristocracy and the middle class. Today, Wellington boots refer to rubber waterproof boots.

  • cowboy boots : The Texas cowboy lifestyle influenced the fashion of cowboy boots, which emerged during the 1860s. These boots became popular with cowboys during the cattle drive era and remain fashionable today for various professions, from modern-day cowboys to business attire.

Top Hats

Top hats were commonly worn by both men and women for outdoor activities during the 1800s. As the century progressed, they gradually increased in height, ultimately achieving the stovepipe shape in the 1850s. This iconic accessory was often paired with formal dress, and by the 1860s, top hats were known for their extremely tall and narrow "stovepipe" shape.

Fashion in the 1800s underwent significant changes, reflecting social and cultural shifts throughout the century. The era established contemporary fashion styles and laid the groundwork for the major changes that would occur in the 20th century. From the evolution of women's gowns and dresses to the refinement of men's coats and trousers, the 1800s marked a transformational period in fashion history.

Fashion Trends of the 1800s Image source: Evening gowns

Fashion continues to evolve, offering a wide variety of styles and options for both men and women. From sneakers and sports bras to athleisure wear, the choices are endless. However, it is fascinating to explore the fashion trends and styles that laid the foundation for the industry we see today.

In conclusion, the 1800s witnessed a remarkable progression in fashion, with each decade introducing new trends and styles. From the ornate and structured Victorian designs to the more relaxed and comfortable Aesthetic Dress Movement, the fashion of the 19th century reflected societal changes and paved the way for the transformative fashion industry of the 20th century.