So…uh…What happened to 1865?

Godey's magazine, October 1865

Fashions in Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1865

I’ve spent a fair amount of time today looking for all the things I’ll need for my first upcoming period-dress event. It will be held in June and will be outdoors. June weather is pretty fickle around here, so it’s anyone’s guess whether we all will be in rain, wind, cold, or very warm. Keeps you on your toes.

I’ll be making an 1865 day dress and I’m trying to get everything right, head to toe – or as close as I can get for a first outing. So far, I have the pantalettes, chemise, corset, and hoop crinoline. I’ve discovered that I’ll also need a petticoat to go under the hoops and one to go over the hoops. That makes sense; no sweat. And I have a parasol. So far, so good.

Since a day dress from 1865 is not horribly fussy or involved (I hope), with any luck the fitting and sewing will be straightforward. Full disclaimer: I said that about the corset. And was wrong. Really wrong.

1865 day dress fabric

1865 day dress fabric, by Reproduction Fabrics

This is the dress fabric. I like the colors and it looks “happy” to me. At least it will look “summer-y” even if it’s 53 degrees with a 20 miles-per-hour wind. I confirmed the colors were correct for my woman-of-a-certain-ageness (yay – no madder and brown!!).

So, the pattern, the fabric and everything in the “unders” and “over-unders” categories are fine. I even managed to locate a reasonably authentic-looking pair of shoes, square toes and all, that will suffice until I can afford a good pair of reproduction shoes. If I keep my hemline low to the ground and shuffle a lot, no one will notice. I hope.

Today I went looking for an 1865 hat/bonnet and hair style. Either everyone was so glad the Civil War was over that the survivors spent 1865 in a dazed state of recovery (who could blame them?) or 1865 was the year ether was discovered and no one remembers it. There are loads of info for reenactors from the Bronze Age to 1864. Then there’s a blank space. And we pick back up in 1867. 1865, and its next door neighbor 1866, have mostly vanished from the fashion records.

Take Godey’s Lady’s Book, the be all and end all of women’s fashion until 1877. I’ve poured through a few hundred pages and found a total of 6 that pertain to 1865. The online articles I’ve read about the bonnets of the period are contradictory. Spoon bonnet: yes and no. Snood on hair with hat: yes and no. Stockings – don’t get me started.

I know that I will eventually figure out the hair and whatever will go on top of it. It’s just that it’s kinda weird that it’s so hard to get firm information. Two hundred years from now, people will probably be saying the same thing about the 1960’s. But that will be easier to explain.

And I anyone out there knows of a dead-on source for accurate 1865 hair and what one can plop on top of it, please do let me know. I need all the help I can get for this mystery year.

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