Leafing through a 19th century ladies’ magazine, you will find an abundance of black and white engravings depicting period fashions; this is how a Victorian lady was kept up to date on current styles and accessories. Conversely, today’s digital marketing has dramatically redesigned how we visualize the latest fashions through glossy magazines, lively video presentations, and interactive online catalogs, making these quaint sketches appear as primitive as caveman drawings. In order to truly envision the modes of the past, we need to study antique garments from museums or private collections. Another way is to examine period photographs.
For example, presented above is a “Muslin Body with Puffed Yoke” originally published in an 1862 issue of Peterson’s Magazine. This Civil War era blouse has a drop shoulder, fine pintucks, and bands of puffs.
This 1860s sheer white cotton blouse features similar gathers, puffs and trimmings of the Peterson’s design.
Nevertheless, the Peterson’s Magazine illustration pales in comparison with this period photograph featuring a young woman sitting pretty for the photographer in a similar garment. Her blouse or bodice is of pure white muslin with puffs divided by bands of embroidered insertion and a narrow frill at the neckline. By putting both period magazines and photographs side by side we can truly envision the fashions of the Victorian era.