Back in February Tricia and I did a five post series on clothing from 1800 to 1899. Find it HERE! We will conclude it this week with Hats, Shoes and Undergarments. Enjoy.
From Head to Toe: Hats and Shoes
Hats! I assume most of you, like me, own at least one hat; mine being a winter hat that only makes it out of the closet on the coldest of winter days. Also like me, you might remember your grandmother wearing a fancy hat with her Sunday best, or your dad donning a baseball cap when he brought you to a game, but imagine a world where women didn’t leave the house without a bonnet or men without their straw or top hat. That world was the 19th century.
In the 1800s, neither women nor men went outdoors without some form of head covering. In fact most women wore caps indoors as well. Caps were typically soft linen bonnet-like head coverings. Women generally wore them in the morning, while they did their housework. In the afternoon, when calls might be made, they would change into more elaborate “dress caps” or bonnets. The bonnet was a brimmed cap that was tied beneath the chin and could be made of fur, velvet, satin, wool, straw, gauze or cotton. Women wore bonnets that ranged from elaborately trimmed to simple quilted hoods use in the winter to provide warmth. Often women would add veils to their head attire when traveling. This protected them from dust and excessive exposure to the sun.
In the 1800s, fashionable millinery was very important to the well dressed woman. Milliners provided elaborate bonnets embellished with a wide variety of trimmings such as ribbons, flowers, bows and feathers. Many of the basic bonnet shapes remained in fashion throughout the entire decade, which allowed women to keep their old bonnet frames and each season add new linings, trimmings, ribbons and flowers. While the bonnet was the most popular hat of the century, many women wore straw hats which were also decorated with ribbons.
For men, the most popular hat of the 19th century was the top hat. Top hats, with their tall crown and narrow brim, were typically made of silk or beaver felt and came in gray, tan, white or black. At times the hat was decorated with a wide ribbon which circled the base of the crown. Straw hats were more common among the rural farmers, and typically had larger brims and shorter crowns to help protect men from the summer heat.
In the mid-1800s head ware underwent a big change. Women, by the 1860s, were wearing smaller hats. Considered more fashionable for women, the elaborately decorated hats were secured to the head with a hatpin. And while fashionable, they weren’t very practical since these hats, unlike bonnets, lacked brims that provided protection against the sun. By the 1850s, men started sporting the derby hat, also known as a bowler hat. This hat was made of felt and had a rounded low crown with a narrow brim. It remained popular until the end of the century when the homburg came into style. The homburg also sported a narrow brim, but unlike the derby hat, it had a dented crown.
Footwear between the countryside and city differed only slightly. In the cities women wore “high shoes” outdoors. These boot-like shoes fastened at the side, with buttons, or across the top, with laces, and were made of soft black leather—typically kid leather from the hides of a young goats. At home or for formal occasions, delicate slippers, known as pumps, were worn. They had flat heels and were normally made of silk. Men wore boots in the winter and shoes in the summer. Their footwear was almost always made of soft black leather, and their shoes typically had low heels. Buckles, which had been popular in the 18th century, were replaced by laces. In the cities, both men and women wore gaiters, which protected stockings or pants from mud. Gaiters were canvas leggings that were strapped over the top of the shoe and then buttoned up the side of the leg.
The fancy shoes worn by the city upper class weren’t practical for rural living, though that didn’t mean rural men and women didn’t own a fancy pair of shoes for special occasions. Typically, men and women who lived in small villages or worked on farms wore simple leather footwear. Both men’s and women’s shoes were purchased at local country stores. In the 1830s Massachusetts was one of the largest manufacturers of shoes, producing over fifteen million pairs of shoes and boots each year. Men worked in shoe shops spread throughout the New England country side mass producing (by hand) shoes for manufacturers who then shipped the shoes to be sold in southern and western states.
In the early 1800s, shoes weren’t fitted for right and left feet. It wasn’t until the latter half of the century that fitted shoes began to make a reappearance. Children more often than not wore shoes several sizes too large—stuffed with paper or cloth—to allow them to grow into them.
Stay tuned tomorrow for an extra post of pictures!