Accessories of the 19th Century

A few weeks ago, a subscriber asked for some ideas on what to include in her 1860’s ensemble as the “finishing touches.”  I shared some accessories examples and realized that this would be a fabulous topic for a post highlighting the whole century!

Much like today, accessories are both useful and fashionable.  And they also differ for each individual.  So unless you are portraying a specific individual or social class, feel free to let you current view of accessories guide you in your journey for historical ones.  For example, I am a very minimalist person.  I have a few outfits, wear my hair in a few simple ways, and prefer simple studs or hoops for the extent of my jewelry.  I find that I continue this same viewpoint in my living history wardrobe as well.  One pair of earrings, one pair of shoes, and three dresses I alternate based on weather and event.  However, I have a friend who believes options are the only way to live and has secured quite the historical accessory inventory.  Whatever your style and tastes, there is a look and piece for you!

I have divided the century up into the following categories: Regency (1800-1820), Victorian Goth and Romanticism (1840-1856), Age of the Hoop (1856-1866), Age of the Bustle (1870-1890).  I included a brief overview of the fashion seen during each time period to help “set the scene” so to speak.  I also believe the best way to find out what was worn is by looking at original photographs, paintings, and fashion plates.  Therefore I have included a lot of images!  Click on any image to expand.  Enjoy! 🙂

Regency Era

Light, airy, and often figure forming styles are complimented with equally dainty chemisettes, caps, and shawls.  Jewelry ranged from pearls, fine jewels, and pendants.

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Primary Source: Excerpts from “The Work Woman’s Guide” 1840

I love reading sewing and dressmaking sources from the 19th century.  Well, any century for that matter, but especially those decades and time periods which I love to recreate.  Pre 1850, they are few and far between.   Not until Godey’s Lady book and eventually Harper’s Bazaar did ladies have plenty of options to learn about newest styles for the family and their home.   That’s what makes this primary source so interesting.  The Work Woman’s Guide (see citation below for the official name) is a wonderful, albeit dense, source.  With details on how to create all types of garments, it really does give a glimpse at how items were made…all by hand.  This whole book is online through google reads (link below) and while it lacks in visual aids, it does give steps, instruction, and advice.  

I selected a few pages from the book that give further insight on basic sewing, unique hand stitches, and items to have in your sewing box.  These are great for those looking to create and stock an historical sewing basket as well as some techniques to work on.  I myself will be revamping my sewing basket after reading that section!


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