The Vintage Fashion Guild states:

“In the 1830s, the first cross cut Gigot or leg o’mutton sleeves appeared. The previous shoulder fullness dropped toward the elbow and sleeves became enormous. The waist resumed its natural position while necklines became very wide and bodice lines took on a highly distinctive V-shape. Ankle length skirts became quite full and needed several petticoats beneath for support. This produced the 19th century’s first version of an hourglass silhouette.

As so often happens, when one fashion change occurs, the rationale for another is created. The very full sleeves that were the rage created the need for alternative outerwear. It was difficult to force these large sleeves into coats and so cloaks were worn. Short capes with longer front ends called pelerines become quite popular as did chemisettes (under-bodices of net or lace) for low-necked gowns. The focus was clearly on femininity. Aprons were popular accessories.”

Wikipedia summarizes women’s fashion of the 1830s, writing:

“In the 1830s, fashionable women’s clothing styles had distinctive large “leg of mutton” or “gigot” sleeves, above large full conical skirts, ideally with a narrow, low waist between (achieved through corseting).The bulkiness of women’s garments both above and below the waist was intended to make the waist look smaller than it was — this was the final repudiation of any last lingering aesthetic influences of the Empire silhouette of c. 1795–1825. Heavy stiff fabrics such as brocades came back into style, and many 18th-century gowns were brought down from attics and cut up into new garments. The combination of sloping shoulders and sleeves which were very large over most of the arm (but narrowing to a small cuff at the wrist) is quite distinctive to the day dresses of the 1830s. Pelerines, tippets, or lace coverings draped over the shoulders, were popular (one of several devices, along with full upper-arm sleeves and wide necklines, to emphasize the shoulders and their width).”

Théodore Joseph Jonet and his two daughters

Fig. 1 - François-Joseph Navez (Belgian, 1787-1869). Théodore Joseph Jonet and his two daughters, 1832. Oil on canvas; 145 × 120 cm (57.1 × 47.2 in). Source: Wikimedia Commons

La Belle Assemblee

Fig. 2 - Artist unknown. La Belle Assemblee, 1831. Ink on paper; 24 x 15 cm (9.4 x 5.9 in). Source: Pinterest

Woman's Day dress

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown (American). Woman's Day dress, ca. 1838. Warp-printed silk taffeta. Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1936-23-2. Gift of Mrs. Howard E. Seaver, 1936. Source: Pinterest

Portrait d’Isaure Chassériau

Fig. 4 - Amaury Duval (French, 1808-1885). Portrait d’Isaure Chassériau, 1838. Oil on canvas. Source: Pinterest

Velvet bonnet

Fig. 5 - Designer unknown. Velvet bonnet, ca. 1830. Source: Pinterest


Wikipedia summarizes men’s fashion of the 1830s, writing:

“In this time, men’s fashion plates continue to show an ideal silhouette with bread shoulders, and a narrow, tightly cinched waist. Frock coats (in French redingotes) increasingly replaced tail coats for informal day wear. They were calf length, and might be double-breasted. Shoulder emphasis fell lower on the arm; shoulders were sloped and puffed sleeve heads gradually shrank and then disappeared. Waistcoats or vests were single- or double-breasted, with rolled shawl or (later) notched collars, and extremely tight through the waist. Waistcoats were sometimes worn two at time, in contrasting colors. Corsets or corset-like garments were worn by many men to draw in the waistline. The most fashionable coats had padded shoulders and chests, a feature that disappeared after about 1837.”


Fig. 1 - Designer unknown. Cloak, 1829–33. Wool, silk. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.149.3. Purchase, Irene Lewisohn and Alice L. Crowley Bequests, 1976. Source: Pinterest



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1830-1839

Map of Europe, 1837. Source: Omniatlas

  • 1831 – Pope Gregory XVI succeeds Pope Pius VIII as the 254th pope.
  • 1836 – The Battle of the Alamo ends the 13-day siege; approximately 200 defenders (Anglo settlers and Tejano townsfolk) die in a fierce struggle with approximately 5,000 Mexican soldiers.
  • 1839 – First photo of the Moon taken by photographer Louis Daguerre.
  • 1830s – Innovations in roller printing on textiles introduced new dress fabrics. Broad, exaggerated sleeves for women and padded shoulders for men contrasted a narrow, idealized waist. Brocades come back into style. Low boots with elastic insets appear. Greatcoats, overcoats with wide sleeves, become fashionable for men to wear with day wear.
  • Primary/Period Sources

    Resources for Fashion History Research

    To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
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    NYC-Area Special Collections of Fashion Periodicals/Plates
    Fashion Periodicals (Digitized)
    Etiquette Books (Digitized)

    Secondary Sources

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