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Civil War Blues

Fashion held an uneasy place in the war years of the North-South conflict in America. The Union and Confederate armies, uninterested in flashy uniforms, chose practical wear, while women remained ensconced in thick petticoats and triangular-shaped gowns. Some fashion textbooks call this the “crinoline period”. Hoops, or the cage crinoline, made women’s dresses billow as they did, and also made mobility more problematic.

 831529. New York Public Library

Since the North controlled ports and shipping, and therefore received whatever fashion plate publishing there was, women in the South had a harder time keeping up with the modes. Southern ingenuity in refurbishing clothes made skirts and blouses more popular, and reintroduced tight sleeves that had been cut down from the wide sleeves of an earlier fashion cycle.

 485638. New York Public Library

The beneficial effects of the sewing machine were apparent by the early 1860s. In fact, the number of sewing machines available doubled between 1860 and 1865. Almost all dresses were partly machine-sewn, although they continued to be finished by hand right up to the end of the century. Ready-to-wear developed at a slow pace for women, largely because the fashionable styles that originated after 1860 made achieving a correct fit difficult.

 803083. New York Public Library

Men were luckier, and a ready-to-wear trade for their garments gained ground after the 1840s.


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There were Southern

There were Southern Confederate versions of the "war austerity" clothes that would make their appearance in World war II England and America. One of the verses of a song called "The Southern Girl" (sung to the tune of "The Bonny Blue Flag") pokes gentle fun at the shortages endured by stylish belles because of the Union blockade. "Oh, yes, my dress is homespun-made, My hat's palmetto*, too! But that just shows what Southern girls For Southern rights will do." *A spiky coastal palm tree that's the symbol of South Carolina. The fronds could be woven together to make tropical-looking sun hats.

i absolutly love fashion,

i absolutly love fashion, and I'm doing a project on civil war uniforms, and found this article very interesting.

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