The 1850s

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The 1850s

This decade is distinguished by wider skirts and extra decoration, reflecting ebullience due to prosperity. Dresses were made with striped, checked, and plaid fabrics, with ruffles, flounces, lace, and fringe. Waistlines were mostly round, without points, and close to the natural waist. The basque is a common waist at this time. Shorter corsets freed the bosom. Early in the decade a full and soft fan front is seen, and chemisettes allowed for lower cut bodice fronts such as the habit-front bodice. Sleeves were open at the wrists, belled to mid forearm, and at their widest in 1857. Later they became more elaborate with upper arm caps or pleats, lower arm slashings, puffs, or ruffles, and fancier undersleeves. Undersleeves are associated more with this decade than any other. They were worn open, large, full, embroidered, edged in frilled whitework or lace, or gathered in puffs on the lower arm. The bishop sleeve came into fashion in 1858.