The woman’s long hair is parted in the middle which was the fashion from the 1830s through the 1860s. A “bun” is not seen on the top of the head, but at the back of the neck. From the 1850s through the 70s, nets or “snoods” were used to hold and shape the hair. In the period 1855 to 1865, some women pulled their hair away from their ears.
The dress she is wearing is quite evidently from the late Civil War era. Dropped shoulders (top of the sleeves) were characteristic of the 1850s through to the end of the Civil War.
Fashionable in the 1860s and 70s, pagoda sleeves were narrow at the shoulder and widening at the elbow. The end of the pagoda sleeve is noticeably shorter in the front than in the back. Pagoda sleeves were worn with white undersleeves, made of lace muslin and sometimes embroidered. These undersleeves (French “engageantes”) would also be worn with a matching, separate collar held in place with a broach. These elements are all visible in the photograph.
1860s skirts were dome shaped, becoming more funnel-shaped toward the end of the Civil War. The skirt in the photograph is funnel-shaped. After the war skirts began to be more elliptical in shape. In the late 60s skirts began to have a train. Pleating was used to take up fullness at the waist-band. Box pleats were popular during the Civil War and were sometimes stacked. The pleated skirt worn in the photo hangs to the ground reflecting a style beginning to be popular toward the end of the Civil War.
Also typical of the mid 1860s and evident in the photograph is the bodice – close fitting with front opening held closed with hooks & eyes. Dresses were often belted, but the “dress” was really 2 pieces, with a belt helping to camouflage the attachment.
Day dresses often were made of cotton satin, taffeta, moiré, or cashmere. The fabric of the dress in the photograph appears to have a bit of a sheen and stiffness which is probably taffeta.
The woman is not dressed for an average work day. The skirt is too long to easily move around. Undersleeves could be very expensive and would not be worn except for on a special occasion.
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