Fashion trends were changing in Victorian America, de-emphasizing the ruffles popular earlier in the 19th Century. But wearing layers of clothing was still in style. Men wore jackets and vests over their shirts and women still donned coats over their voluminous dresses while wearing corsets underneath.
Men wore plain shirts with heavily starched collars and cuffs that extended about an inch beyond jacket sleeves. Upper-class men found checkered trousers and vests fashionable during the 1850s, but working-class men typically wore plain smocks and trousers.
Women’s dresses laced in the back and sported large, dome-shaped skirts held in place with steel cages. The women completed the ensemble with a shawl or jacket. Women wore bonnets that partially covered their faces at the decade’s beginning, but by 1860 bonnets rested farther back on women’s heads, revealing their hair and face.
By the 1850s, men only wore knee-high boots when riding. Short ankle boots had become popular as everyday attire, with men considering pointed toes particularly stylish. Women wore flat-soled slippers and shoes at home and donned soft ankle boots that laced along the sides when out and about.
References and ResourcesThe Ladies Treasury of Costume and Fashion: Fashion in the 1850s and '60s
The Victorian Web: Victorian Men's Fashions, 1850-1900: Shirts and Neckties
University of Vermont: Landscape Change Program: Men's Clothing
The Victorian Web: Victorian Men's Fashions, 1850-1900: Footwear
"Victoriana Magazine": Fashion 1800: Victorian Clothing: 1855-1860