At the turn of the century womens' dress began to take on new styles, especially in the bodice of the dresses and the fabrics used. Up until the start of the 19th century dresses that were used as costumes in plays were simple, being made of white muslin or another basic color, and did not include corsetting. However, at the start of the 1800's a new particular style of the chemise dress became popular. The top part of this dress included a bodice that was separate from the bottom part of the dress, and the bodice also had a square neckline. As Napoleon took power in 1804, heavy materials (including silk and satin) became popular again. During Napoleon's rein tiny puffed sleeves and also heavy trains made of velvet that would be attached to the dress became common. These dark velvet trains were seen in courtwear, and therefore when actresses were playing a character involved with the royal court, it would be common for her dress to include this train attached to the waist. During the 19th century woman outerwear included: the Spencer jacket (below), the redingote (below), shawls, and the poke bonnet. By the end of the century heavy trim was common on the bottom of the dresses.
During this era, men's dress was mostly dominated by fashion from England. Some styles included the red Phrygian cap (below) worn by slaves, the carmagnole which was worn by peasants, and sans-culottes which were worn by sailors mostly. During the Directoire, long trousers became popluar, which are still today. Also, breeches made often made of fitted leather were common, and these particular breeches were worn with knee-high boots. Another popular fashion worn during this era was knee breeches and stockings, and this type of dress indicated courtwear. An important influence on menswear during this time was Beau Brummel-he was interested in the two-pointed collar, the decorated shirt and sleeves, double breasted waistcoats (below), and the clawhammer tails. During this time top hats were common, and hairstyles mostly included just the longer windblown look, that was seen in Romans.
Red Phrygian cap
During the Empire era dresses comonly had a closed neckline, however as the Romantic Period began to progress, the waistline moved to the slimmest part of the waist from where it had previously been right below the bust. As opposed to the style of the previous era some styles that came back were: corsetting, flaring skirts and petticoats, the use of elaborate trimming and ruffles, and large-brimmed poke bonnets that were ornately decorated with ribbons. A common hairstyle was the sausage curls (below), which were mainly worn with the large-brimmed bonnets (below), which framed the hairstyle well. These dresses also began to inlude large leg-of-mutton sleeves, which began to be covered by wide, and greatly decorated shoulders of the dress that exposed more chest and shoulders. As the era continued, these costume styles became more toned-down and styles began to include tighter fitting sleeves, smaller rightlets in the hair, and snug-fitted bonnets.
At this point in history, men's costume had adopted styles that remain until this day: long trousers, coat, waistcoat. However, during the Romantic period men's dress seemed to correlate with women's dress; for example, the tight fit at the waist, leg-of-mutton sleeves, and exaggeration in the sleeves and waist were common. Men's coats had either tails or frock coats would have flaring skirts. In order to create the tight fit of the waist men would also use a Basque belt. At this point, men's haristyle was dominated by the clustering curls which formed around the ears, full side whiskers, and also beards and mustaches began to appear as popular styles. Large ruffles at the chest were still popular shirt styles (below); however, a new style that emerged was pointed boots that were worn with trousers. Outerwear included the caped overcoat (below).
Ruffled shirt (cravat-a type of necktie-is being tied)
Burlesque is a parody or an exaggerated imitation of something that began in the 1840's and it involved actresses that were dressed in revealing clothing and tights and wore exaggerated makeup.
In The Black Crook (1866), which was performed in New York, about one-hundred ballerinas danced around singing in flesh colored tights. This scene was considered extremely provocative at this time in the history of theatre, and also for the public in general because the outfits were so form-fitting and revealing.
Lydia Thompson formed the British burlesque troupe, which became a hit in New York in the late 1860's. They performed Ixion (1868), in which women actresses performed as men in revealing tights
During this time when burlesque style first emerged, burlesque was considered to be controversial due to the young, shapely, under-dressed women who performed in tights, especially during an era in which women hid their body underneath different types of clothing (ex: bustles and hoops).
© Roxydynamite, flickr.com
The crinoline was a frame that was created to hold out skirts and it was typically made out of bamboo, whalebones, or metal hoops that increased in circumference as they were closer to the bottom of the dress. In this era there were a couple of common hairstyles that women took advantage of which included: hair parted in the middle of the crown and waved over the forehead and ending in a bun, or the wave may have ended in curls around the ears, or some women created soft waves of hair from the center part and took them to the back of the head where they ended in a chignon (soft coil of hair). Important influences on fashion during this time were Empress Eugénie and Queen Victoria. Empress Eugénie altered the style of the poke bonnet and instead introduced the small straw hat with a ribbon at the back of the hat. A new style of the skirts formed during this time in which there were different lengths of the skirts that were cut in order to create obvious layers of the skirts. Dresses worn in the evenings included short cap sleeves while daytime dresses had long sleeves and a high neckline. There were all different types of fabrics being used to create these elaborate dresses, which included light materials such as muslins and gauze all the way to damasks and velvets.
Beginning in this period there was not as much exaggeration in the shoulder and hips as there had been during the Romantic Period, however the men's costume was still had the tight waist. Mustaches were becoming even more popular and it was still common for men to have the full hair, yet during this time the hair was not usually tightly curled around the ears. The top hat was still used for mostly formal afternoon wear. The phrase "a suit of clothes" is used to describe the matching colors of a man's clothing in his daily outfit. Men's coats were not tight fitted around the waist; however, one major change during this period in time was that there were certain suits of clothes that correlated to particular events or occasions. For example, formal evening wear included: a white vest and a full black outfit of tails. The most common outerwear at this time were overcoats.
Loose fitted overcoat
Bustle is mainly fullness around the waist of a dress and a pad or framework can be used in order to exaggerate the cut of a dress. During the Bustle period the focus moved from the front of the dress to the back, in which the back of the dress was exaggerated. Corsets were used to push up the womens' bust and abdomens while a pad of horsehair or a tiny metal cage was used to exaggerate the waist and also the back of the dress. Also, light colored gloves were worn by women with their evening wear. By 1880 the fish-tailed style was at its pinnacle, and this style used much exaggeration in the waist, hips, and bust, and also included a row of buttons down the front of the dress. Coats that women wore, such as tailored jackets and topcaots were cut to show off the exaggerated back of the dress. Shoes worn during this time were ankle high button affairs, and in the evening women wore heeled slippers.
Small decorated hats
As it was in the Crinoline era, the importance of wearing certain styles during certain occasions carried into the late nineteenth century.
Formal morning dress: stiff-bosomed shirt, wing collar, bow tie, light gray vest, cutaway morning coat, gray striped trousers, pearl gray gloves, top hat
Formal afternoon dress: starched shirt, standing collar, ascot tie, waistcoat, dark double-breasted frock coat, light trousers
Informal evening wear: black tuxedo
Formal evening wear: white tie, waistcoat with black tails, trousers
Shoes during this period were buttoned to the ankle and often men wore spats with them. Hairstyles during this time continued to be full, many men had beads, side whiskers, and/or full mustaches.
Spats (worn with shoes and went up the ankle)
In the 19th Century the limelight, gas lighting, and arc lightings that were introduced to theatre affected the type of makeup and how much makeup the actors would apply for their performances. Makeup was not only used in order to make characters distinguishable, but also so the audience could see and recognize the actors.
According to "Arts and Entertainment: Stagecraft", during the 19th Century actors would use white chalk, carpenters' blue chalk, papers impregnated with red colouring, and India ink as stage makeup. Actors would use ash or even the red dust from bricks in order the create their stage makeup.
Carl Baudin of the Leipziger Stadt Theatre came up with the invention of greasepaint. In 1860 in Germany opera actor, Ludwig Leichner, created stick greasepaint which is still an extremely important part of stage makeup today. By 1890, greasepaints for theatre could be found in many colors commercially, and this was the beginning of the creation of other theatre makeups that are used today.
Greasepaints used today
Theatrical greasepaints from the 1800's
White actors used stage makeup to make themselves look African American
Find out more about 19th century theatre fashion:
Play a dress up game! A girl from the 19th century needs help getting ready for a big party. Choose from a variety of dresses, shoes, hair, and accessories to make the perfect outfit:
See how well you know 19th century theatre fashion: