Both Charlotte and her lovely doll are dressed in the fashion of the day, including off-the-shoulder necklines, detailed bodice trim and puffy sleeves. Children were treated as “little people” and were elaborately dressed, especially when posing for the camera. Fashion trends around the world were set by the French and publications like Godey’s Lady’s Book, Peterson’s Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar made sure American women were up on the latest developments from Paris.
The following editorial from Peterson’s Magazine, 1861, in the “Editorial Chit-Chat” column provides some idea of the attitude of the day regarding fashion:
“What is, and what is not lady-like in dress. Fashion is seldom seen to exceed the bounds of nature and of grace; at least among those who possess a good taste, and are, therefore, the truest standards of style and elegance. It is an excessive ambition for novelty, and a too great eagerness for display, among the affluent, that leads to eccentricity and produces extremes. A lady is always distinguished by the unaffected simplicity of her dress, the chasteness of her ornaments, and the grace and ease of all her movements; and an elegant simplicity is an equal proof of taste and delicacy; and the most perfect elegance of dress appears always the most easy and the least studied.
Although Paris is the soil in which every fashion takes its rise, its influence is not so general there as with us. They study there the happy method of uniting grace with fashion, and never excuse a woman for being awkwardly dressed by saying her clothes are made in the mode. They conform to general fashion only when it happens not to be repugnant to private beauty. Our ladies, on the contrary, seem to have no other standard for grace but the run of the town. If fashion gives the word, every distinction of beauty, complexion, and station ceases.
The most admirable costume is not that which is most expensive, nor in the extreme of the fashion; but it is that style which is best adapted to the wearer, conveying to the mind of the observer the combined ideas of grace and comfort.”
A woman of this period on leaving the house might typically wear:
• Drawers or underpants
• Boned corset or stays
• Petticoat bodice, corset cover or camisole
• Crinoline or hoop skirt
• Stockings held up with garters
• Petticoats (one or two)
• Skirt (full with definite hem)
• Bodice (boned and fastened in front)
• Outer-garment (jacket, mantle or shawl)
• Gloves or mitts
• Boots (buttoned)
• Bag or purse
The first full size dress pattern was said to have been published by Butterick in 1860, although there are some claims to the contrary, but they cannot be substantiated. The following pattern for a low-necked under waist is from the January 25, 1868 edition of Harper’s Bazaar.