The Clothing Styles During the Civil War & Antebellum South
The clothing and styles worn during the Civil War have become popular for Halloween costumes as well as for those who participate in Civil War reenactments. In the spirit of one of our most popular group travel tours, we thought it might be fun to take a look at what fashion looked like back in the Civil War years and Antebellum South.
Generally speaking, the styles that were popular before and during the Civil War dates were basically Victorian styles, although the clothing worn by women in the Confederate States took on a slightly different look. Then there was, of course, the uniforms worn by the soldiers that designated which side of the battle field they stood on.
Union uniforms were often navy blue in color, but many people are surprised to learn that that wasn’t always the case. In fact, some regiments wore outfits that were actually quite colorful and pretty stylish as far as uniforms go. Men who fought for the Confederate army typically stuck with shades of grey, but also incorporated varying shades of brown as well.
Ladies fashion during the Civil War years and Antebellum South featured much more detail, with a lot of emphasis on layers. This time frame is often referred to as the â€śhoop skirt era,â€ť in which women wore elaborate dresses over several layers of undergarments (including tight corsets to accentuate the â€śhourglassâ€ť figure). Most, though not all skirts were completed with a hoop around the bottom to help create a fuller, more flared out appearance. The dresses themselves were frequently adorned with things like ribbon, lace, fringe, braids and flounces.
Men who werenâ€™t on the battlefield often donned suspenders to help hold their pants up, although some preferred wide leather belts. Many wore loose-fitting wool vests, whether for a fancy occasion or simple, every day wear. Professional men wore loose-fitting suits, typically made of wool. Shirts usually featured starched collars to give them a stiff, rigid appearance. In terms of Civil War clothing, white shirts were considered a sign of prosperity, demonstrating that the wearer was not a “laborer.” (Hence the popular term â€śwhite collar workerâ€ť.)
For shoes, both men and women alike traditionally stuck with leather shoes that featured high, fabric tops. Footwear was either laced up in front or buttoned on the side. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that shoe makers during the Civil War years did not distinguish between left and right shoes. There were also no half-size options. Socks and stockings were crafted of wool or cotton. Wealthy women could also access silk stockings.
Those who were children during the Civil War dates tended to wear clothing that was made from more durable fabrics, like denim or canvas. Cotton shirts, woolen vests, suspenders and wide-brimmed straw hats were the norm for boys while girls donned long dresses made from either cotton or a wool blend. Dresses typically buttoned up the throat. Cotton bonnets that tied beneath the chin helped protect young women from the sun.
Hats and bonnets â€“ particularly in Antebellum South â€“ werenâ€™t just for kids and they were more than just fashion statements and accessories. In fact, they were actually used for the more practical purpose of helping Victorian ladies maintain a fair complexion. Additionally, hats were typically required of women who attended church service.
Ready to put all this new-found knowledge to the test? Why not sign up for one of our upcoming Civil War and Antebellum South tours? Check out our group travel tours Â to reserve your spot today.
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