This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Victorian Gowns Worn in NC

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Women in America were often unable to obtain certain materials and fabrics from Europe (especially during the Civil War) and had to either sew their clothing by hand or make do with a local seamstress in a nearby town. Even if they could afford it, gowns made of silk, satin, and velvet were not practical for Southern women as daily wear on rural farming plantations. These fine fabrics were reserved for receiving special visitors, church on Sundays, social gatherings, and balls when they visited nearby towns or the larger cities of Charleston, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Day gowns were often made of sturdy fabrics that could endure several washings such as wool, calico, and cotton.

The photos and descriptions in this blog are from the North Carolina Historical Museum in an attempt to give historical writers an accurate visual impression of some of the better gowns worn by the elite here in North Carolina during the late 1800's (Victorian Period).

1886 - The green gown to the left actually belonged to a lady in Duplin County, NC. The bodice and bustle skirt was worn as part of her trousseau. It is made of velvet and silk, cut in a feather design with a skirt elaborately decorated with ruching and pleats.

1880 - The brown dress to the left has a cuirass bodice and bustle skirt made from brown and black fabrics that were popular for clothing, quilts, drapery, and upholstery during the late 1800's. The low bustle skirt has an asymmetrical drape trimmed with fringe and alternating bands of velvet and taffeta.

The other photos below do not have descriptions, but will give writers a good idea of other colors and styles available to women in North Carolina during this time period.

While the royal blue dress is more elaborate, the plaid colored dress is more simple in style and material. Please enjoy!