History Quest: Fashion Edition

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History Quest Fashion Edition

Welcome to History Quest at Blog, She Wrote! History Quests are written by my 9th grader, Rebecca, & I. She chooses the topic based on her studies in history and she does the research. I take care of the photos and finishing touches and publish. Today is History Quest Fashion Edition and it’s all about ladies’ gowns from the Civil War Era.

Ladies Fashion- Designs, Decorations, & Color

No matter the time period it seems, women like to dress well and to have fun with fashion. During the time of the Civil War (~1859-1865), ladies still liked to be fashionable. My mind goes directly to the story of Little Women, when Meg desperately wants to look appropriate at her friend’s party. What can you find out about the following:

  • How many layers did a fashionable lady’s ensemble call for?
  • Gowns of this era were decorated profusely. What kinds of decorations did they use?
  • According to fashion magazines of the time, what should influence color choice?

The Hoop Skirt

Hoop skirts were still going strong during this time. Do you know your hoop trivia? How about these?

  • Hoops were at their largest at this time. How much fabric did it take to make a hoop skirt?
  • Civil War nurses did not wear hoops. Do you know why?
  • Women sometimes carried things they wanted to hide under their hoops. What kinds of things would they  hide?
  • Hoop skirts were also called crinolines. Find the words to a popular song of the time which made fun of crinolines.

History Quest Fashion Edition

Dresses for the Occasion

Different occasions called for different styles and materials for a dress. In fact, another scene from Little Women comes to mind. When Meg is preparing for the party at her friend Sally Moffet’s house and the girls tell her she is wearing an afternoon dress. Then they proceed to dress her up for the evening including a corset! Research to see what was worn for the following events:

  • A picnic– which would be an afternoon event
  • An evening dance– held at night and would be more formal
  • Church– many families attended church regularly
  • A period of mourning– such as the death of a loved one. What color?

Fashion & History

Rebecca is an aspiring costume designer. She loves to design and draft historical and fantastical costumes for people and dolls. Studying the fashion of a time in history is part of her project based learning. With each unit in history, she studies the fashion of the day with a couple of sources. Then sets out to create.

Visit Rebecca’s Sewing & Design Projects page to see a list of her fashion projects with posts. You’ll also see the projects still waiting on a post!


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  1. I’d guess at least 10 yards. The skirt for my hoop skirt took about 5 yards and our yardage tends to be wider looms (45 inches as compared to 20 something then).

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