Dress and Dance in the 1860*s

Dress and
Dance in the
• The gowns in this time period included a crinoline (the metal frame
inside a dress to make it bell out). The crinolines were flatter in the
front and projected out in the back.
• Corsets became popular in the 1860’s to help form the preferred body
• Evening dresses had lower
necklines and short sleeves worn
with short gloves or fingerless
• Daytime gowns included pagoda
sleeves that were thinner near the
shoulder and widened toward the
wrist. These sleeves went over
undersleeves or engageantes (lace
that goes around the arm).
Proper Dancing Etiquette
• It was impolite to dance with the same
person all night, everyone was supposed
to mingle and make sure that everyone
else was happy.
• Ladies are required to be the most
important people at the ball. They should
be the first cared for, and given the best
• No young lady should go to a ball without
a married woman or an elderly man.
• At the beginning and ending of each dance, the woman should courtesy and the
man should bow.
• If a husband goes to a ball with his wife, he should only dance with her the first
• A gentleman shouldn’t talk to a woman before they are properly introduced.
• Never stay in the ballroom until everyone has left, or until the last set. This is
because it may look like you don’t get to dance often, so you should leave when
there are still a couple sets to go.
Different Kinds of Balls
• Public Balls: In this type of ball, you must buy a ticket to attend.
These balls were often used to raise money, in this time period
to support the Civil War. A man could not ask a lady to dance if
they weren’t properly introduced. He would have to find
someone who knows the man and woman to introduce them, or
he could ask the Floor Manager to apply to a dance. The Floor
Managers assist the Dance Masters in setting up the dance sets
and conducting the ball.
• Master-Servant Balls: This is where the lord of the manor holds
a ball for his servants and tenants, and sometimes local
townspeople. Many different social classes were brought
together in these balls, but the different classes rarely mingled.
If someone of a higher class wants to dance with someone of a
lower class, they may ask. But someone of a lower class may not
request to dance with someone of a superior class.
• Private Balls: You may only attend this type of ball if you have an invitation. Private
Balls are often family and close friends or members of a specific group, such as a
political organization group or trade members. At this type of dance, a man may ask a
woman to dance even before they are introduced. If the woman rejects, the host is then
insulted for inviting a improper gentleman to the party (the man would have to be
improper to be rejected).
• Closed position dances or “round dances” such as polka and waltz
were considered scandalous in many places, so it was mainly done by
young people or upper classes.
• Since there are no films of the dancing during the Civil War, people
have to guess what the dancing looked like from dance master notes,
diaries, dance manuals, letters, and sometimes drawings of dances.
• Most dancing in this era was
done in the “open position”
with couples standing side by
side, forming a line or a circle.
Ballroom Dress
• All dancers should wear white or light brown wrist-length gloves.
• Men should wear anything that draws attention to themselves. In formal
balls, the common men’s attire was a black wool cutaway tailcoat or frock
coat, black pants, white low-cut vest, white shirt and white cravat which is
something like a tie.
• Hats are never worn in the ballroom, instead many women wore flowers,
ribbons, or decorative combs in their hair.
• The most common Civil War ball
gown was modest, normally with
short sleeves. The waist could be
rounded or pointed in front, which
was considered more formal.
• Younger ladies often wore pastel
Men’s Dress
• Men mainly wore shirts made of linen or
cotton, with collars standing up.
• Neckties were wider and were normally either
tied into a bow or tied into a loose knot and
fastened with a stickpin.
• Frock coats were worn for business occasions
over waistcoats or vests.
• For less formal business occasions, a midthigh length sack coat was worn loosely fitted.
• A morning coat was worn for formal during-the-day occasions.
• A tall dark coat with trousers and a white cravat was worn in the
• A coat, waistcoat, and trousers all of the same fabric was called a
ditto suit, and was considered in style.
They are all wearing
crinolines (the metal
frames in their skirts)!
The fluffy, white lace in her
sleeves are engageantes!
Most of these men are
wearing frock coats!

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