The Evolution of the 19th Century Gown: A Visual Guide

Mimi Matthews

Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum Individual Images of Gowns via Met Museum

The silhouette of women’s gowns changed a great deal over the course of the 19th century.  From the onset of the Regency to the end of the Victorian era, fashionable ladies saw Empire waistlines drop and classical simplicity give way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings.  Sleeves ballooned up and skirts ballooned out.  The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-molded corsets cinched the waist ever tighter.  Most of us can easily identify the lines of an early Regency gown or the shape of a late-Victorian dress with a bustle.  But what about those transitional years?  The 1820s, 1830s, and 1870s, for example.  Sometimes styles of these decades are harder to pinpoint.  With that in mind, I present you with a decade-by-decade visual guide to silk gowns of the 19th century.

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