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Civil War Era Ladies' Clothing

Pictures of Extant period wrappers or Maternity dresses

 

Examples of ladies' clothing made by us

Civil War Era Ladies’ Wrapper

or Morning Dress

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, Fashion and Manual of Politeness, by Florence Hartley, first published 1860, outlines when certain types of dress is suitable to be worn.  It says about wrappers (excerpts):
    Morning Dress- The most suitable dress for breakfast, is a wrapper made to fit the figure loosely, and the material, excepting when winter weather requires woolen goods, should be of chintz, gingham, brilliante, or muslin.  A lady who has children, or one accustomed to perform for herself light household duties, will soon find the advantage of wearing materials that will wash.  A large apron of domestic gingham, which can be taken off, if the wearer is called to see unexpected visiters, will protect the front of the dress, and save washing the wrapper too frequently. ……..

Dress for Morning Visits- A lady should never receive her morning callers in a wrapper, unless they call at an unusually early hour, or some unexpected demand upon her time makes it impossible to change her dress after breakfast………….A wrapper made with a handsome trimming, open over a pretty white skirt, may be worn with propriety; but the simple dress worn for breakfast, or in the exercise of domestic duties, is not suitable for the parlor when receiving visits of ceremony in the morning.

Evening Dress- The home evening dress should be varied according to circumstances.  If no visitor is expected, the dress worn in the morning is suitable for the evening; …………..

 

These excerpts do not mention maternity wear, but then maternity clothing is hardly ever mentioned in any fashion magazine or similar publication of the time.  By its design the wrapper makes the ideal maternity dress: loose in the front, with a belt to make it adjustable.  They were also ideal for invalids.  By their nature, wrappers will not appear often in period photographs, but occasionally an elderly or invalid lady or even an expectant mother would have her picture taken.  There are also period genre paintings that show wrappers being worn, often in intimate settings featuring children with their mothers.


“The Mother’s Watch”

Woburn, Mass

Jersey, GB

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