The 1820s were a transitional period away from the “Empire” silhouette and Neoclassical influences. Instead, Romanticism became the chief influence on fashion, as Gothic decoration lavished dresses and historicism inspired styles borrowed from past centuries. Layers of color and an increasingly exaggerated silhouette, for both men and women, created a style of dramatic display by the end of the decade.


The 1820s were a period of transition in women’s fashion that swept away the last remnants of the Empire style and ushered in a Romantic one, as Gothic influences interrupted the Neoclassical line (C.W. Cunnington 74; Bassett 21). The Romantic Movement, which impacted all aspects of culture and society, was a rejection of eighteenth-century Enlightenment ideals of logic and reason. By the 1820s, it was in full swing, emphasizing imagination, emotion, individualism, and a fascination with the past (Tortora 328; Laver 163). Romantic influence was seen in art, music, architecture, and design, but the average person discovered Romanticism chiefly through literature such as the poetry of Lord Byron and John Keats. In particular, the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott were wildly popular, and helped to spur a historicism that permeated every aspect of dress (Fukai 163; Bassett 16-17). Similar to architects looking to a mysterious medieval past for inspiration, fashionable women wore styles directly borrowed from the supposed costumes of Romantic heroines; it has been noted that “the popularity of Sir Walter Scott is not only to be measured by the number of translations of his works, but also by the amount of tartan worn” (Mackrell 71) (Fig. 1). The Romantic spirit also rejected the Neoclassical preference for clean geometric lines and a monochromatic palette, reflected in the white Empire-style gowns of the early nineteenth century. Instead, by the end of the 1820s, an exuberant fashion consisting of layers of colorful pattern and curvaceous shapes was established (Fig. 2) (Bassett 36-39).

The silhouette underwent important changes during the 1820s. In the first year of the decade, the style was similar to that of the previous few years: the waistline was still high at an inch or two below the bust, the skirt was slightly flared with gores at the sides and fullness gathered at the back, and the sleeves puffed at the shoulder (Fig. 3) (C.W. Cunnington 32, 34; Byrde 35-36). However, the waistline was on the descent, as the Empire silhouette disappeared. Over the next few years, it dropped inch by inch until it was at nearly the natural level by 1825 (Byrde 35). As the waistline dropped, the skirt and sleeves widened; by 1825, the early Romantic silhouette was established with a natural waistline, large puffed sleeves, and a wide skirt with an increasing number of gores (Fig. 4). Through the second half of the 1820s, this silhouette only became more exaggerated. The breadth of sleeves grew exponentially into true gigot or leg-o-mutton styles by 1827, and skirts became so wide that gores were no longer enough and the volume of material began to be pleated into the waistband in 1828. When the decade drew to a close, the waistline was tightly cinched, skirts had expanded into a wide bell, and the gigot sleeve had reached such epic proportions that “the upper arm appeared to be quite double the size of the waist” (C.W. Cunnington 74) (Fig. 5).

Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duchess of Berry

Fig. 1 - Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769-1830). Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duchess of Berry, 1825. Oil on canvas; 91 x 71 cm. Versailles: Chateau de Versailles, MV 8505. Source: Wikimedia


Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (English). Dress, ca. 1828. Printed cotton. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, T.151 to B-1968. Given by Mrs. H.K. Ludgate. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

Fashion Plate: Walking dress

Fig. 3 - Rudolph Ackermann (English, 1764-1834). Fashion Plate: Walking dress, November 1, 1820. Hand-colored engraving on paper; (8.75 x 4.75 in). Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.86.266.302. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Gerald Labiner. Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Costume Parisien Fashion Plate

Fig. 4 - Artist unknown (French). Costume Parisien Fashion Plate, 1825. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, b17509853. Gift of Woodman Thompson. Source: The Met Digital Collections

Costume Parisien Fashion Plate

Fig. 5 - Artist unknown (French). Costume Parisien Fashion Plate, 1829. Hand-colored engraving. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, E.22396:137-1957. Given by the House of Worth. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

Evening dress

Fig. 6 - Designer unknown (Canadian). Evening dress, 1823-25. Silk taffeta and satin, cotton lining. Montreal: McCord Museum, M20555.1-2. Source: McCord Museum


Fig. 7 - Designer unknown (American). Pelisse-robe, ca. 1820. Silk. Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2012.24.1. Purchased through a gift from Gloria Gworek. Source: Wadsworth Atheneum

Three-dimensional trim and decoration lavished dresses in the 1820s (Ashelford 184). Skirts in particular were festooned with layers of decoration on the hem (Fig. 6); a trend of frills and tucks began in the previous decade, but in the early 1820s this blossomed into elaborate trims of lace and flounces, puffs, and rouleaux which were tubes of bias-cut fabric filled with wadding to create a firm roll. This weighty decoration caused hemlines to shorten above the floor, and hemlines were padded with cotton or wool (Byrde 36; C.W. Cunnington 34; Johnston 223). In the last years of the decade, this type of decoration began to subside. Instead, deep hems and simpler bands of embroidery or appliqué as high as knee-level were seen. Bodices also featured decoration, especially as the waistline lowered. Trim on the bodice tended to point downwards to converge at the waist (Byrde 40-41).

Sleeves became elaborately decorated as well, and could feature imitations of slashing, puffs, and sleeve caps, or mancherons. These design elements reflected a Romantic historicism that pervaded the decade as they were directly inspired by the dress of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Johnston 46). Edges finished with deep points were called “vandyck points,” a reference to seventeenth-century artist Anthony van Dyck whose portraits served as inspiration (Fig. 7) (Bassett 20). Indeed, 1820s fashion borrowed elements from several hundred years of past dress, ranging from the Medieval period through the eighteenth century, but the Renaissance era was particularly favored (Fukai 125). Early 1820s day dresses were often completed with a ruff at the neck (Figs. 3, 7, 8). Later in the decade, wide, white pelerines were worn which echoed the “falling band” of the seventeenth century (Bassett 28-29; Foster 46).

During the day, necklines were varied, and there were a great many bodice types including versions of plain darted styles, and draped styles with pleats and folds (C.W. Cunnington 76-78; Tortora 332). More open necklines could be filled in with a chemisette, or increasingly through the decade, the wide pelerines previously mentioned (Fig. 5). Sleeves were long during the day. By the late 1820s, there were many types of the gigot sleeve from the very fashionable “Marie” sleeve which was tied into puffed sections (Fig. 9), to the “imbecile” sleeve which was enormous to the wrist (Fig. 10) (C.W. Cunnington 79). There was a particular style of day dress that should also be noted: the pelisse-robe (Fig. 7). Derived from the pelisse, a type of long coat, the pelisse-robe was a coat-dress worn especially in the morning for walking (Tarrant 13; C.W. Cunnington 75). In the evening, necklines lowered, and sleeves generally shortened, although in the early 1820s, long sleeves were sometimes seen. It was especially stylish to wear a short sleeve covered with or attaching to a long, transparent sleeve of gauze or net (Figs. 4, 11) (Byrde 35-36).

Portret van Alida Gerbade

Fig. 8 - Charles Howard Hodges (British, 1764-1831). Portret van Alida Gerbade, 1821. Oil on canvas; 72.5 x 59.5 cm. Leiden, Netherlands: Museum de Lakenhal, S 601. Bequest, 1938. Source: Museum de Lakenhal

Dress and spencer jacket

Fig. 9 - Designer unknown (English). Dress and spencer jacket, ca. 1823. Silk. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, T.28&A-1983. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum


Fig. 10 - Designer unknown (British). Dress, 1829. Cotton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985.138.2a, b. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn and Alice L. Crowley Bequests, 1985. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress

Fig. 11 - Designer unknown (European). Evening dress, ca. 1825. Silk net, silk embroidery, silk satin trim. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2007.211.935. Purchased with funds provided by Suzanne A. Saperstein and Michael and Ellen Michelson. Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fashions of the 1820s favored lightweight silks and cottons in increasingly bright patterns and colors as the decade continued (Byrde 38). Saturated hues such as “Turkey red” and richly printed calicoes were in vogue (Bassett 38-39). In particular, there was a lavish use of laces, net, and gauze. Machine-made net had been patented in 1808, and this novelty fabric saw an explosion in its use (Rose 57). Blonde lace, a bobbin lace woven from silk instead of linen, was also extremely fashionable (Byrde 36). Evening dresses, especially during the early 1820s, were often of a nearly transparent gauze or net worn over a colored satin slip, giving them a shimmering effect (Fig. 11) (C.W. Cunnington 34).

As the fashionable silhouette evolved, so did the corresponding underwear. When the waistline returned to its natural level, corsetry took on new importance, as the smallest possible waist was now desired (Ashelford 184). Indeed, wide waistbands and decorative belts highlighted the fashionable nipped waist (Byrde 35, 41). Tightly-laced corsets were long and featured gussets over the hips and breasts, emphasizing those natural curves (Fig. 12) (Lynn 84; Bruna 160-161). The skirt also required supportive underpinnings. In addition to the requisite petticoats, a small bustle, which was a simple down-filled pad during these years, was worn (Byrde 36). In the late 1820s, as the sleeve became enormous, sleeve supporters also became required; these were usually down-filled pads tied around the arm and attached to the corset straps (Lynn 168; Bruna 161).

Hair and headwear also changed through the decade, becoming more elaborate and extravagant. By the mid-1820s, hairstyles were tall and exaggerated, especially in the evening. The Apollo knot was very fashionable for formal occasions and consisted of tall loops of hair rising straight up from the crown, while sausage curls were arranged at the temples. Similarly, the style à la Chinoise, which appeared at the end of the decade, consisted of tightly arranged plaits and knots with curls at the temple, all skewered with long, decorative pins (Fig. 13) (C.W. Cunnington 95; Tortora 334). Day caps, worn by married or older women at home, grew in breadth and elaboration (Fig. 14) (Ginsburg 75). Most importantly, hats and bonnets of the 1820s expanded into breath-taking size by 1829. Brims widened into large halos around the face, crowns grew ever taller, and trims were loaded onto the enormous structures (Figs. 5, 13). Wide ribbons fluttered, flowers and greenery were used above and under the brim, and feathers bobbed from the crown (C.W. Cunnington 95-96). These overwhelming hats combined with the other elements of fashion to create an effect by 1830 that was summarized well by fashion historian Penelope Byrde:

“Long, fluttering ends of ribbon from the hat or bonnet and waistband of the dress were particularly fashionable, and combined with the shimmering gauzes and blonde lace, there was a feeling of constant movement, buoyancy, and exuberance in women’s clothes when at their best. At their worst, however, these styles could appear wild, fussy, and nonsensical, and the balance was not always easy to maintain.” (38)


Fig. 12 - Designer unknown (English). Corset, ca. 1825-1835. Cotton, silk thread, trapunto work. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, T.57-1948. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

World of Fashion

Fig. 13 - Artist unknown. World of Fashion, January 1828. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Public Library, rbc1076. Source: Los Angeles Public Library

Baroness Alexandrina Simplicia Nicolai

Fig. 14 - Christian Albrecht Jensen (Danish, 1792-1870). Baroness Alexandrina Simplicia Nicolai, 1824. Oil on canvas; 64 x 52 cm. Saint Petersburg: The State Hermitage Museum, ГЭ-8338. Source: The State Hermitage Museum


Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry and her children

Fig. 1 - François Gérard (French, 1770-1837). Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry and her children, 1822. Oil on canvas; 256.5 x 181 cm. Versailles: Chateau de Versailles, MV 4799. Source: Wikimedia

Throughout the nineteenth century, Paris reigned supreme as the fashion capital of the world, and in the 1820s, Marie-Caroline, the duchesse de Berry, was its undisputed leader (Sotheby’s). The widow of the duc de Berry, the duchesse was the mother of the heir to the Bourbon monarchy, and she was the center of court life during the Restoration reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. An Italian by birth, she was born the Princess of Naples and Sicily, and after she married the duc de Berry, she arrived in France in 1818 determined to be a leader in all things, from art to literature and music, to fashion (Baillio 233). She also recognized the importance of royal patronage and endeared herself to all of Paris by frequenting tradesmen’s shops (Williams 200). Marie-Caroline was the successor to Empress Josephine as chief tastemaker in Paris, and seemed to recall the luxury of the ancien régime, especially as the mother of the “miracle child” of the Bourbon monarchy. As one biographer wrote:

“Marie-Caroline, the Duchesse de Berry was one of the most remarkable, unconventional and iconic women of the 19th century…the undisputed social center of the royal court, the most fashionable and most portrayed princess of her time. Her influence on the fashion of Romanticism was paramount in every sphere…” (Sotheby’s).

Marie-Caroline’s fashion choices reflected the Romanticism of the era, particularly the fascination with the past. Both her clothing and her ever-expanding collection of art were often in the French style troubadour, an offshoot of Romanticism, defined by idealized depictions of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Mackrell 45, 72). Her dress in figure 1 recalls historic dress with the square neckline, Renaissance-style pearls, and silk puffs in the sleeves imitating slashing. Note the similarities in her portrait in figure 1 in the Womenswear section above; additionally, her tartan hat conjures the novels of Sir Walter Scott, with whose heroines Marie-Caroline identified (Bassett 20; Mackrell 73; Baillio 233). The duchesse also revived the court practice of fancy dress balls, events in which attendees arrived dressed in historic costume. Her most famous took place in 1829; the duchesse organized a fête depicting a scene from the life of Mary Stuart (also known as Mary, Queen of Scots), for which all the court dressed in the fashion of the sixteenth century (Williams 245-247). The costumes from La Quadrille de Marie Stuart, as it came to be known, were reported in the fashion press and undoubtedly reinforced the 1820s obsession with the past (Mackrell 73).

The year following the legendary Stuart ball, the duchesse was forced to flee Paris due to the Revolution of 1830 which ousted the Bourbon dynasty. The next few years of her life were ones of intrigue and adventure as she tried unsuccessfully to restore her son to the throne. The remainder of her life was lived in exile from the city over which she had once reigned. While Marie-Caroline’s power as Paris’ chief tastemaker and fashion leader was short-lived, few women can claim such sartorial influence (Sotheby’s).


Like womenswear, men’s clothing was transitional, as it became ever more influenced by the Romantic spirit (Fig. 1). Fashion historian Jane Ashelford noted:

“The Romantic movement stressed the creative power of the ‘shaping spirit of Imagination’ and was motivated by a desire to escape from the chilly neo-classicalism of the turn of the century and the harsh realities of the Industrial Revolution. It manifested itself in dress by an enthusiasm for extrovert personal display and theatrical fashions which, in the 1820s and early 1830s, led to men wearing their clothes with a swaggering bravado and panache.” (189)

The fashionable male silhouette developed along similar lines at the female one; the waistline was nipped and the sleeves began to puff at the shoulder after 1825 (Foster 16; Laver 162). Some ultra-fashionable men even wore corsets to achieve the desired waistline (Bruna 199-204; Tortora 340). Additionally, for men, an expansive chest and shapely legs were fashionable, thus most coats were padded and even padded stockings could be found to create pronounced calves (Byrde 96; Bruna 202-203). This new mode, alongside the changes occurring in womenswear, were often mercilessly mocked by caricaturists (Fig. 2). While clearly exaggerated, these cartoons present a fascinating reflection of the trends in fashion (Laver 162; Ashelford 191).
Costume Parisien Fashion Plate

Fig. 1 - Artist unknown (French). Costume Parisien Fashion Plate, 1826. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, b17509853. Gift of Woodman Thompson. Source: The Met Digital Collections

Monstrosities of 1822

Fig. 2 - George Cruikshank (British, 1792-1878). Monstrosities of 1822, October 19, 1822. Hand-colored etching. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, PC 1 - 14438. Source: Wikimedia

Dress coat and slip waistcoat

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (British). Dress coat and slip waistcoat, 1820-30. Cotton. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, T.153-1931. Given by Miss E. M. Coulson. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

Costume Parisien

Fig. 4 - Artisti unknown (French). Costume Parisien, 1829. Hand-colored engraving. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, E.22396:124-1957. Given by the House of Worth. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

Cossack trousers

Fig. 5 - Designer unknown (British). Cossack trousers, 1820-30. Silk, cotton lining. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, T.197-1914. Given by Mr Frederick Gill. Source: The Victoria & Albert Museum

Louis-Auguste Schwiter

Fig. 6 - Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863). Louis-Auguste Schwiter, 1826-30. Oil on canvas; 217.8 x 143.5 cm. London: The National Gallery, NG3286. Purchase, 1918. Source: The National Gallery

Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming

Fig. 7 - Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769-1830). Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming, ca. 1824-25. Oil on canvas; (30 x 25 3/8 in). Fort Worth, TX: Kimbell Art Museum, ACF 1963.01. Bequeathed from Mr. and Mrs. Kay Kimbell, 1964. Source: Wikimedia

A man’s wardrobe consisted of many pieces that were chosen based on the time of day and occasion. For formal daywear, a dress coat was worn; this was a tailcoat with the fronts cut straight across the waist and hanging tails in the back (Fig. 3). The morning coat was a variation on the dress tailcoat, featuring instead sloped fronts that curved gently toward the back. For informal daytime occasions, the new frock coat was more and more fashionable. Introduced in mid-1810s, the frock coat featured a waistline seam, tightly-fitted, and full skirts hanging straight to the knee (Fig. 4) (Byrde 91, 95-96; Waugh 112-114).

With both the dress or frock coat, trousers were increasingly worn. Trousers were narrowly fitted and reached the top of the shoe (Laver 162). The wide-cut “cossacks,” inspired by the Russian Czar’s visit to London in 1814, were a notable departure from standard narrow trousers; 1820s cossacks were pleated into a waistband and tapered to a fitted ankle (Fig. 5). By 1825, trousers had replaced their predecessor, pantaloons, as general day wear. Pantaloons were distinguished from trousers by their fit; pantaloons were ankle-length in the 1820s with a buttoned side slit, and very closely fitted, similar to tights (Fig. 1) (Waugh 116). Both trousers and pantaloons featured fall-front openings; while the fly-front fastening first appeared in the early 1820s, it would not come into widespread use until the 1840s. Both were often secured with instep straps around the foot. While pantaloons were seen less and less in the daytime through the decade, they remained the standard choice for evening wear in black or cream, alongside a black dress coat (Fig. 6) (Byrde 91-97). It should be noted that knee breeches could still be occasionally seen in the evening, or paired with boots and a morning coat for riding and sporting (Waugh 116; Tortora 341-342).

Both dress and frock coats were made in darker colors such as blue, black, brown, and green (Waugh 117). Trousers and pantaloons were usually in a lighter color than the coats. Waistcoats, worn at all times, were usually of some solid color; black or white for evening. They were predominantly single-breasted and featured either a short stand collar or a rolled shawl collar (Tortora 342). It was common to wear more than one waistcoat at a time, increasing the attention on the fashionable large chest (Waugh 115). Shirts were white, with exceedingly tall collars rising above the chin, echoing the high collars featured on coats (Figs. 6-7). During the day, shirt fronts featured pleated or tucked panels, but in the evening they were frilled (Byrde 94).

The final elements of men’s dress were especially important during this era. Neckwear, the chief vanity for dandies, fell into one of two categories: the cravat or the stock. The cravat, a large square of muslin or silk, was folded cornerwise and carefully tied around the neck in a variety of arrangements (Waugh 119; Tortora 341). The stock was a stiffened band, that fastened at the back, covered with velvet or satin. Originating in military dress, the stock became fashionable in 1822, popularized by George IV. The most common colors for neckwear were white or black, but patterned versions could be worn for informal occasions (Byrde 94). At the waist, dangling seals and fobs, which were attached to the watch tucked into a pocket in the waistband, continued to be seen (Ashelford 186; Cumming 83). The top hat was the standard choice for headgear, and its shape and color varied during this period (Ginsburg 76, 85).


Henri-Charles-Ferdinand d'Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and his sister Louise-Marie-Thérèse d'Artois, at the Tuileries

Fig. 1 - Louis Hersent (French, 1777-1860). Henri-Charles-Ferdinand d'Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and his sister Louise-Marie-Thérèse d'Artois, at the Tuileries, 1821. Oil on canvas; 146.5 x 113.5 cm. Versailles: Chateau de Versailles, MV 4800. Source: Chateau de Versailles

Newborn infants of the 1820s were dressed in white gowns with a low, square neckline, very short bodice, and a skirt as long as 40 inches (Rose 55). These gowns ranged from finely embroidered to rather plain cotton examples. At four to eight months of age, babies transitioned into “short clothes,” dresses that were shortened to calf-length, to allow them freedom of movement as they became more active. White cotton was by far the most common material for baby clothes, as it was easily bleached and laundered (Callahan). Babies also wore caps, most of which were constructed rather simply and shaped with drawstrings (Fig. 1) (Buck 50). Until about three years old, little boys and girls were dressed much the same in short dresses worn over long, narrow drawers or trousers (Fig. 2). During this period, both terms were used for these visible garments worn by toddlers. These dresses were usually low-cut and featured short sleeves (Buck 66).
Child's dress and Pantalettes

Fig. 2 - Designer unknown (American). Child's dress and Pantalettes, 1820-29. Cotton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.2324a, b. Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Boy’s dress can be divided into three phases: infancy and toddlerhood (birth to 3 years old, described above), boyhood (3-7 years old), and youth (7 or 8-13 or 14 years old). The age of boyhood was a transitional phase, in which a boy was considered too old for dresses, but not yet old enough for adult-like trousers and coats, thus compromise garments were devised for this period. During the 1820s, these boyhood garments were changing from the skeleton suit to tunic-dresses (Callahan). The skeleton suit, which traced its origins to the 1780s, was a pair of very high-waisted trousers buttoned onto the jacket, usually worn with an open, frilled white collar (Fig. 3) (Rose 91). When breeches and pantaloons were the dominant style worn by adult men, trousers were a boyish garment; however, by the 1820s, men were increasingly wearing trousers and these were no longer distinguishing to young boys. Thus, skeleton suits were seen into the late 1820s, but disappeared by 1830. Instead, boys at this transitional age began wearing tunics over trousers, a style that would persist to the 1860s (Fig. 4) (Buck 118; Tortora 345). These tunics ranged greatly in design from loose styles worn belted to those with a fitted waistband; in general, though, these tunics were much closer to womenswear than menswear. By eight years old, a boy moved into the next phase and began to wear trousers and short, round jackets, still completed with an open, frilled collar (Fig. 5) (Rose 91). It should be noted that it was at this stage that a boy was considered fully breeched, the nineteenth-century rite of passage in which a boy donned his first trousers (Callahan). By their early teens, young boys switched their round jackets and caps for tailcoats and top hats, becoming young men.
Basket of Cherries

Fig. 3 - E. W. Gill (British). Basket of Cherries, 1828. Oil on canvas; 117 x 91 cm. London: Bonhams Auctions. Source: Wikimedia

Walter Ross "The Yellow Boy"

Fig. 4 - Henry Raeburn (Scottish, 1756-1823). Walter Ross "The Yellow Boy", ca. 1822. Oil on canvas; 127 x 100.33 cm. Edinburgh: National Galleries Scotland, PG 3312. Bequeathed by John Cook, 2002. Source: Art UK

Two Children in an Empire Interior

Fig. 5 - Merry-Joseph Blondel (French, 1781-1853). Two Children in an Empire Interior, 1826. Oil on canvas; 61 x 50.5 cm. Paris: Sotheby's. Source: Sotheby's Pinterest

Young Woman's dress

Fig. 6 - Designer unknown (French). Young Woman's dress, ca. 1822. Silk. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, AC1999.46.1. Gift of Helen Larson. Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Young girls’ clothing was based on adult fashions; the chief distinguishing feature was the hemline. During the previous decade, dresses for little girls had begun to shorten to ankle-length. By the late 1820s, these hemlines shortened even more, to calf-length. As a girl aged, the hemline dropped until it was an inch or two above the floor in her early teen years (Fig. 6). A girl’s dress reflected the fashionable silhouette and trims of an adult dress, and as the Empire style disappeared in the 1820s, girls’ dress became more cumbersome, similar to women’s dress. The waistline dropped, sleeves grew, and skirts, now with multiple flounces at the hem, widened. Observe the small girl in figure 5 featured in the Womenswear section above. The widening skirt brought the return of multiple petticoats for young girls by the end of the decade (Buck 118, 137, 227). Additionally, as the hemline was shortened, the frilled or tucked pantalettes or drawers young girls’ wore to cover their legs became easily visible (Fig. 5). Drawers had been gaining in popularity for the last two decades, but only in the late 1810s and 1820s did the hem shorten enough for them to be plainly visible. These bifurcated garments for females caused some controversy but were eventually accepted as not only undergarments for girls, but for women as well (Callahan; Buck 135; P. Cunnington 197). Outdoors, spencers and pelisses were worn (Rose 76). Young girls also wore bonnets and hats similar to adult styles with high crowns, wide brims, and trailing ribbons (Buck 139, 242).


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1820-1829

Map of Europe, 1820. Source: David Rumsey

Map of the United States, 1820-21. Source: Wikimedia

  • 1820 – The Missouri Compromise, regulating slavery in the former Louisiana Territory and the proposed state of Missouri, becomes law.
  • 1820 – Mount Rainier erupts over what is now Seattle.
  • 1821 – The Greek War of Independence begins against the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1821 – Napoleon Bonaparte dies on Saint Helena.
  • 1822 – Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion publish their translations of the Rosetta Stone.
  • 1824 – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 premieres in Vienna.
  • 1825 – The world’s first modern railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, opens in England.
  • 1827 – Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper in the United States, publishes its first issue.
  • 1827 – The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is incorporated, becoming the first railroad in the the United States to offer commercial transportation of both people and freight.
  • 1828 – The Democratic Party is established in the United States.
  • 1829 – The Metropolitan Police Service, the first modern police force, is established in London.
  • 1829 – First Braille book is published.

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
Have a primary source to suggest?  Or a newly digitized periodical/book to announce?  Contact us!

Fashion Plate Collections (Digitized)
NYC-Area Special Collections of Fashion Periodicals/Plates
Fashion Periodicals (Digitized)
Journal des dames et des modes. Paris, 1820. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1993380.
La Mode. Paris: Aubert, 1829. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32817434b/date.
Petit courrier des dames : modes de Paris ; littérature, beaux-arts, théatres. Vol. 8. Paris, 1828. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1908614.
Petit courrier des dames : modes de Paris ; littérature, beaux-arts, théatres. Vol. 9. Paris, 1829. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1908614.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1821. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1823. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1820. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1822. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1824. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode. Vienna: Gerold, 1828. http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/periodical/titleinfo/1904025.
Etiquette Books (Digitized)
Fénelon, François de Salignac de La Mothe-, and Thomas Frognall Dibdin. A Treatise on the Education of Daughters. De l’éducation Des Filles.English. Boston: C. Ewer, 1821. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009706080.
Goujon, Abel. Manuel de l’homme de Bon Ton, Ou Cérémonial de La Bonne Société. Paris: Aug. Udron, 1825. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007958482.
Palin, Ralph. Observations on the Influence of Habits and Manners, National and Domestic, upon the Health and Organization of the Human Race, and Particularly on the Effect of That Influence as It Relates to the Present State of English Females, in the Higher and Middle Classes of Life. London: Printed for T. Hookham, Jun. and Co., 1822. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100583553.
Raisson, Horace. Code Civil: Manuel Complet de La Politesse: Du Ton, Des Manières de La Bonne Compagnie: Contenant Les Lois, Régles, Applications et Exemples de l’art de Se Présenter et de Se Conduire Dans Le Monde. Paris: J.-P. Roret, 1828. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100907340.
Saunders, Mary Ann., Alfred and Elizabeth Brand Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts., and Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. Maria Bartlett, or, The Advantages of Application: Embracing Remarks on the Education and Manners of Females. Advantages of Application. Stroudwater, England: Printed and sold by J. P. Brisley, at the Stroudwater Printing-Office, 1824. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010945342.

Secondary Sources

Also see the 19th-century overview page for more research sources... or browse our Zotero library.

The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. “Chronology,” n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/chronology/#?time=10.
Vintage Fashion Guild. “Fashion Timeline: 1820 To 1830,” n.d. https://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-timeline/1820-to-1830/.
Victoria and Albert Museum. “Introduction to 19th-Century Fashion,” January 25, 2011. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/introduction-to-19th-century-fashion/.
Glasscock, Jessica. “Nineteenth-Century Silhouette and Support.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/19sil/hd_19sil.htm.
Adburgham, Alison. Silver Fork Society: Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814-1840. London: Constable, 1983. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/11397775.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction, 1660-1860. New ed. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1977. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/50099006.
Ashelford, Jane, and Andreas Einsiedel. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. London: National Trust, 1996. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/759883168.
Bassett, Lynne Z., ed. Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion & Its Legacy. Hartford: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2016. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/965783261.
Bissonnette, Anne. Fashion on the Ohio Frontier, 1790-1840. Kent: Kent State University Museum, 2003. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/54531345.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/979316852.
Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840417029.
Brunereau, Jeanne. Presse Féminine et Critique Littéraire de 1800 à 1830 : Leurs Rapports Avec l’histoire de Femmes. France: EVE et son espace créatif, 2000. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/421260582.
De Young, Justine. “Not Just a Pretty Picture: Fashion as News.” In Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News, edited by Jason E. Hill and Vanessa R. Schwartz, 109–15. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/987101210.
Edwards, Lydia. How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/988370049.
Fukai, Akiko, ed. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. Köln: Taschen, 2006. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/857267477.
Hill, Daniel Delis. History of World Costume and Fashion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768100950.
Jones, Amanda. Rules and Directions for Cutting Men’s Clothes, by the Square Rule : By Which, in a Few Hours, a Person May Acquire Such a Knowledge of the Art, as Will Enable Him to Cut All Sizes and Fashions, with the Greatest Accuracy. Middlebury [Vt.] : published by Amanda Jones, 1822. http://archive.org/details/rulesdirectionsf00jone.
Kleinert, Annemarie. Le “Journal Des Dames et Des Modes” : Ou La Conquête de l’Europe Féminin (1797-1839). Beihefte Zu Francia, Bd. 46. Stuttgart: J. Thorbecke, 2001. http://users.physik.fu-berlin.de/~kleinert/kleinerta/kleinertab5/.
Ribeiro, Aileen. Ingres in Fashion: Representations of Dress and Appearance in Ingres’s Images of Women. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/469680932.
Takeda, Sharon Sadako, Kaye Durland Spilker, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Clarissa Esguerra, and Nicole LaBouff. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915. New York: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2010. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/971876353.
Tarrant, Naomi E. A., ed. The Rise and Fall of the Sleeve, 1825-1840: A Catalogue of the Costume and Accessories in the Charles Stewart and Royal Scottish Museum Collections. Edinburgh: The Museum, 1983. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1008078015.
Tétart-Vittu, Françoise. “La Couture Avant La Haute Couture.” In Au Paradis Des Dames : Nouveautés, Modes et Confections, 1810-1870, 40–45. Paris: Éditions Paris-Musées, 1992.
Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. Sixth edition. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/972500782.
Vincent, Susan J., and Denise Amy Baxter, eds. A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion: The Age of Empire (1800-1920). London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/967107605.
Wilson, James G. Report of the Present Fashions, with the Square Rules and Variations to Fit the Human Shape. New-York, 1827. http://archive.org/details/reportofpresentf00wils.
Pinterest. “1800-1839 Underwear,” 1800s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1800-1809-underwear/.
Pinterest. “1800-1899 Fabrics & Textiles,” 1800s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1800-1899-fabrics-textiles/.
Pinterest. “1800-1899 Jewelry,” 1800s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1800-1899-jewelry/.
“1800-1900 Patterns & Tutorials,” 1800s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/patterns-tutorials-1800-1900/.
Pinterest. “1820-1829 Fashion Plates for Women,” 1820s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1820-1829-fashion-plates-for-women/.
Pinterest. “1820-1829 Womens Fashion,” 1820s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1820-1829-womens-fashion/.
Pinterest. “1820s Mens Fashion,” 1820s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1820s-mens-fashion/.
Pinterest. “1820s Portraits of Women,” 1820s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1820s-portraits-of-women/.
“Historic Costume - 19th Century,” 1800s. https://www.pinterest.com/maellen/historic-costume-19th-century/.