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1860s fashion in European and European-influenced clothing is characterized by extremely full-skirted women's fashions relying on crinolines and hoops and the emergence of "alternative fashions" under the influence of the Artistic Dress movement.
In men's fashion, the three-piece ditto suit of sack coat, waistcoat, and trousers in the same fabric emerged as a novelty.
Mauveine Aniline dyes (1st chemical dyes) were discovered in 1856 and quickly became fashionable colors. The first ones were mauve and bright purple. In 1860, two fashionable brilliant pink aniline dyes were named after battles in Italy's fight for independence: magenta, named after the Italian town of Magenta, Lombardy, and the similar solferino, named after Solferino. Magenta was popularized in England by the Duchess of Sutherland after she was appealed to by the Spitalfields silk weavers.
By the early 1860s, skirts had reached their ultimate width. After about 1862 the silhouette of the crinoline changed and rather than being bell-shaped it was now flatter at the front and projected out more behind.
Evening gowns had low necklines and short sleeves, and were worn with short gloves or lace or crocheted fingerless mitts. Bouffant gowns with large crinolines were probably reserved for special occasions.
Skirts were now assembled of shaped panels, since gathering a straight length of fabric could not provide the width required at the hem without unwanted bulk at the waist; this spelled the end of the brief fashion for border-printed dress fabrics.
Heavy silks in solid colors became fashionable for both day and evening wear, and a skirt might be made with two bodices, one long-sleeved and high necked for afternoon wear and one short-sleeved and low-necked for evening.
As the decade progressed, sleeves narrowed, and the circular hoops of the 1850s decreased in size at the front and sides and increased at the back. Looped up overskirts revealed matching or contrasting underskirts, a look that would reach its ultimate expression the next two decades with the rise of the bustle. Waistlines rose briefly at the end of the decade.
Long coats were impractical with the very full skirts, and the common outer garments were square shawls folded on the diagonal to make a triangle and fitted or unfitted hip-length or knee-length jackets.
Three-quarter-length capes (with or without sleeves) were also worn.
For walking, jackets were accompanied by floor-length skirts that could be looped or drawn up by means of tapes over a shorter petticoat.
fitted jackets with long sleeves, worn over a collared
As skirts became narrower and flatter in front, more emphasis was placed on the waist and hips. A corset was therefore used to help mold the body to the desired shape. This was achieved by making the corsets longer than before, and by constructing them from separate shaped pieces of fabric. To increase rigidity, they were reinforced with many strips of whalebone, cording, or pieces of leather. As well as making corsets more constricting, this heavy structure helped prevent them from riding up, or from wrinkling at the waist. Steam-molding also helped create a curvaceous contour. Developed by Edwin Izod in the late 1860s, the procedure involved placing a corset, wet with starch, on a steam heated copper torso form until it dried into shape.
The crinoline or hooped petticoat had grown to its maximum dimensions by 1860. As huge skirts began to fall from favor, around 1864, the shape of the crinoline began to change. Rather than being dome-shaped, the front and sides began to contract, leaving volume only at the back. The "American" cage, a hooped petticoat partially covered in fabric, came in bright colors made possible by the new aniline dyes. This was followed by a hybrid of the bustle and crinoline sometimes called a "crinolette". The cage structure was still attached around the waist and extended down to the ground, but only extended down the back of the wearer’s legs. The crinolette itself was quickly superseded by the true bustle, which was sufficient for supporting the drapery and train at the back of the skirt.
The Garibaldi shirt or "Garibaldi jacket" was popularized by Empress Eugénie of France in 1860. These bright red woolen garments featured black embroidery or braid and military details. Following a visit by the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi to England in 1863, the shirt became all the rage there. In America, the early years of the Civil War also saw increased popularity of military-influenced styles such as Zouave jackets. These new styles were worn over a waist (blouse) or chemisette and a skirt with a belt at the natural waistline. Women's fashion overall was highly influenced by the reigning Queen Victoria of England.
The Englishman Charles Frederick Worth had established his first fashion house in Paris in 1858. He was the first couturier, a dressmaker considered an artist, and his ability to dictate design in the 1860s lead to the dominance of Parisian haute couture for the next hundred years.
The followers of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and other artistic reformers objected to the elaborately trimmed confections of high fashion with their emphasis on rigid corsets and hoops as both ugly and dishonest. An "anti-fashion" for Artistic dress spread in the 1860s in literary and artistic circles, and remained an undercurrent for the rest of the century. The style was characterised by "medieval" influences such as juliette sleeves, the soft colors of vegetable dyes, narrow skirts, and simple ornamentation with hand embroidery.
Hair was worn parted in the middle and smoothed, waved, or poofed over the ears, then braided or "turned up" and pinned into a roll or low bun at the back of the neck. Such styling was usually maintained by the use of hair oils and pomades.
Styled hair was often further confined in decorative hairnets, especially by younger women. (NOTE: Though many modern reenactors refer to this garment as a "snood", it is not a period term for this article of clothing; snoods were something else entirely.) These hairnets were frequently made of very fine material to match the wearer's natural hair color, but occasionally more elaborate versions were made of thin strips of velvet or chenille (sometimes decorated with beads). Whether plain or resplendent, many hairnets were edged with ruchings of ribbon that would serve to adorn the crown of the wearer's head.
Fashion Bonnets for outdoor wear had small brims that revealed the face. Earlier bonnets of the decade had lower brims. However, by mid-century Spoon Bonnets, which featured increasingly high brims and more elaborate trimmings, became the vogue. Other less common variants, such as the Marie Stuart Bonnet, with its heart-shaped brim, and the fanchon bonnet, with its very short brim and back curtain, made appearances in the realm of fashionable headwear.
Bonnets could be made of a variety of materials. Bonnets formed from buckram and wire and covered with fashion fabric were very popular. During the warmer seasons, bonnets made of straw, woven horsehair, or gathered net were also seen. Heavier materials like velvet were favored for winter bonnets, though quilted winter hoods were much more practical and warm.
Trimmings varied according to the changing styles and whims of the individual wearer, but most bonnets of the period followed some general rules with regards to form. Rows of gathered net lining the brim was a fashion carry-over from the decade before, and a decorative curtain (also referred to as a "bavolet") appeared on most bonnets in order to shade the wearer's neck and accommodate for the low hairstyles. Another standard of 1860s bonnets is bonnet ties. There were often two sets, a thin pair of "utility ties" to take the strain of tying the bonnet, and another set of wide ties of silk or another fancy material. These rich ties were tied below the chin in a bow or left untied to show off the beautiful print or material.
Bonnets fell out of fashion over the decade in favor of small hats.
Men's fashion of the 1860s remained much the same as in the previous decade.
Shirts of linen or cotton featured high upstanding or turnover collars, and neckties grew wider and were tied in a bow or looped into a loose knot and fastened with a stickpin. Heavy padded and fitted frock coats (in French redingotes), now usually single-breasted and knee length, were worn for business occasions, over waistcoats or vests with lapels and notched collars. Waistcoats were generally cut straight across the front and had lapels.
The loosely fitted, mid-thigh length sack coat continued to slowly displace the frock coat for less-formal business occasions.
The slightly cutaway morning coat was worn for formal day occasions. The most formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers, with a white cravat; this costume was well on its way to crystallizing into the modern "white tie and tails".
Overcoats had wide lapels and deep cuffs, and often featured contrasting velvet collars.
Top hats briefly became the very tall "stovepipe" shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular.
In 1865 hatmaker John B. Stetson invented the Boss of the Plains hat. It gained immediate success in the Old West among cowboys and settlers, due to its practicality. It had a vaguely round ribbon-lined crown and a wide brim, originally straight but soon becoming stylized into the iconic rim of the typical cowboy hat. Its dense felt could be rugged enough to carry water.
Both boys and girls wore skirts from the time they could walk until they reached age 5 or 6. Very small girls wore their skirts just below knee-length over pantalettes. Skirts were longer as girls grew up until they reached floor length at coming-out (in their later teens). Older girls wore hoops to hold out their skirts. Young girls wore washable pinafores over their dresses for work and play to keep them clean, as typified by the eponymous heroine of Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel, and her Alice in Wonderland dress .
Boys wore simple jackets and trousers.
Alice Liddell, 1860