1830s in fashion

1830s fashion in European and European-influenced clothing is characterized by an emphasis on breadth, initially at the shoulder and later in the hips, in contrast to the narrower silhouettes that had predominated between 1800 and the 1820s.

Women's costume featured larger sleeves than were worn in any period before or since, which were accompanied by elaborate hairstyles and large hats.

Women's fashions


In the 1830s, fashionable women's clothing styles had distinctive large "leg of mutton" or "gigot" sleeves, above large full conical skirts, ideally with a narrow, low waist between (achieved through corseting). The bulkiness of women's garments both above and below the waist was intended to make the waist look smaller than it was — this was the final repudiation of any last lingering aesthetic influences of the Empire silhouette of ca. 1795-1825. Heavy stiff fabrics such as brocades came back into style, and many 18th-century gowns were brought down from attics and cut up into new garments. The combination of sloping shoulders and sleeves which were very large over most of the arm (but narrowing to a small cuff at the wrist) is quite distinctive to the day dresses of the 1830s.

Pelerines, or lace coverings draped over the shoulders, were popular (one of several devices, along with full upper-arm sleeves and wide necklines, to emphasize the shoulders and their width).

The ca. 1835 fashion plate (right) shows both male and female styles (note that it may not be obvious on first glance that the woman has a small waist, because of her large sleeves).


The fashionable feminine figure, with its sloping shoulders, rounded bust, narrow waist and full hips, was emphasized in various ways with the cut and trim of gowns. To about 1835, the small waist was accentuated with a wide belt (a fashion continuing from the 1820s). Later the waist and midriff were unbelted but cut close to the body, and the bodice began to taper to a small point at the front waist. The fashionable corset now had gores to individually cup the breasts, and the bodice was styled to emphasize this shape.

Evening dresses had very wide necklines and short, puffed sleeves reaching to the elbow from a dropped shoulder, and were worn with mid-length gloves. The width at the shoulder was often emphasized by gathered or pleated panels of fabric arranged horizontally over the bust and around the shoulders.

Day dresses generally had high necklines, and shoulder width was emphasized with pelerines or wide collars that rested on the gigot sleeves. Summer afternoon dresses might have wide, low necklines similar to evening dresses, but with long sleeves. Skirts were pleated into the waistband of the bodice, and held out with starched petticoats of linen or cotton.

Around 1835, the fashionable skirt-length for middle- and upper-class women's clothes dropped from ankle-length to floor-length.

Hairstyles and Headgear

Early 1830s hair was parted in the center and dressed in elaborate curls, loops and knots extending out to both sides and up from the crown of the head. Braids were fashionable, and were likewise looped over either ear and gathered into a topknot.

Bonnets with wide semicircular brims framed the face for street wear, and were heavily decorated with trim, ribbons, and feathers.

Married women wore a linen or cotton cap for daywear, trimmed with lace, ribbon, and frills, and tied under the chin. The cap was worn alone indoors and under the bonnet for street wear.


Women's undergarments consisted of a knee-length linen chemise with straight, elbow length sleeves. Corsets compressed the waist and skirts were held in shape by layers of starched petticoats.


Riding habits consisted of a high-necked, tight-waisted jacket with the fashionable dropped shoulder and huge gigot sleeves, worn over a tall-collared shirt or chemisette, with a long matching petticoat or skirt. Tall top hats with veils were worn.

Shawls were worn with short-sleeved evening gowns early in the decade, but they were not suited to the wide gigot sleeves of the mid 1830s.

For evening, especially in very cold climates, voluminous coats like opera coats with fur trim or fur linings were worn with the evening gown.

Style gallery 1830-1835

  1. Mercure des salons 1830-enh.jpg from Mercure des Salons
  2. Winterhalter Markgraefin Sophie.jpg wears a white gown that just skims her ankles and a tawny-colored shawl. Her flat shoes have ribbon laces and square toes. 1831.
  3. August Riedel Portrait Therese von Schenk.jpg wears long sheer oversleeves over short puffed sleeves and an elaborate fabric-covered hat with plumes, 1831.
  4. Waldo Samuel Lovett Mrs Edward Kellogg.jpg wears the frilled indoor day cap of a married woman with a wide ribbon bow tied under her chin. Her simple dark gown has gigot sleeves and a modestly broad neckline, filled in with a ruffed chemisette.
  5. 1832-Wiener-Moden-fashion-plate.png from Wiener Moden, in which anatomical accuracy gives way to the desire to present a trendy fashion silhouette. The afternoon dress has a wide, low neckline and long sleeves.
  6. Stieler Arco-Steppberg.jpg of 1834 with echoes of the Renaissance: a wide-necked black gown features a tight belt at the raised waistline. Hair is worn in elaborate curls and knots.
  7. Stieler holnstein.jpg wears her hair severely parted in the center front and across the top of her head. Her long hair is braided, and the braids are looped over either ear and wound into a knot at the crown of her head. She wears a white gown with a wide belt and gathers at the front to emphasise the bust under a pink satin coat with a fur collar and fur trim. German, 1834.
  8. 1835-Wiener-Zeitschrift-fashion-plate.png from Wiener Zeitschrift

Style gallery 1835-1839

  1. Riding habit 1830s.jpg Riding habits have fashionable full sleeves.
  2. Lafont-Porcher.jpg's hair is styled in a high knot with wide side-curls; her gauzy gown has a neck ruff and a wide collar, and she wears a fur piece similar to that in the Gazette des Salons fashion plate above, 1835.
  3. Kane Mrs Clench.jpg: Eliza Clarke Cory Clench wears a white cap with a large striped ribbon bow that contrasts with her bright green dress. Canada, 1834-36.
  4. 1837FebruarLaMode.jpg shows front and back views of the newly fashionable dangling clusters of curls on the sides worn with an ornate knot of hair at the crown. A headband is worn for evening. The waist is still defined by a wide belt, but it sits lower on the body.
  5. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot 038.jpg, fullness was dropping from just off the shoulder to the middle of the arm. The bonnet is smaller than those worn earlier in the decade, and black lace mitts (fingerless gloves) are worn with the white day dress. Hair is worn in wide clusters of short sausage curls. French.
  6. Eduard Magnus Portrait Mathilde Gräfin Lynar.jpg wears a brown velvet gown with snug shoulders and lower sleeves, and fullness at the middle of the arm. The waist is darted to fit and comes to a small point in front. Hair is smoothed above the ears and wound into a braided crown. German, 1837.
  7. Adélaide d'Orléans.jpg wears a heavily decorated straw bonnet over a frilled cap, 1838.
  8. DRESSS FOR THE THEATRE.jpg features a pelisse with chenille fringe skirt and sleeves, and is worn over a ruffled underskirt.

Caricature gallery

  1. Waist-and-Extravagance-ca-1830-fashion-satire-Heath.jpg, ca. 1830 fashion satire

Men's fashion


In this period, men's fashion plates continue to show an ideal silhouette with broad shoulders, and a narrow, tightly cinched waist.

Shirts and cravats

Shirts of linen or cotton featured tall standing collars, increasing worn "spread" and later turned down rather than turned up over the chin, and were worn with wide cravats tied in a soft bow; dark cravats were popular for day wear.

Coats and waistcoats

Frock coats (in French redingotes) increasingly replaced tail coats for informal day wear, and might be double-breasted. Shoulder emphasis fell lower on the arm; shoulders were sloped and puffed sleeve heads gradually shrank and then disappeared. Waistcoats or vests were single- or double-breasted, with shawl or notched collars, and extremely tight through the waist. Corsets or corset-like garments were worn by many men to draw in the waistline.


Full-length trousers began to have the modern fly-front closure, replacing the earlier fall-front. Breeches remained a requirement for formal functions at the British court (as they would be throughout the century). Breeches continued to be worn for horseback riding and other country pursuits, especially in Britain, with tall fitted boots.


Cloaks were worn with evening wear. Overcoats with wide sleeves were worn with day wear.

Hats and hairstyles

The crowns of tall hats were less curvy than in the previous period. Hair was generally parted to one side. Curled hair and sideburns remained fashionable, along with moustaches.

Style gallery

  1. Dandys.jpg shows the small, high waist that was the ideal of French fashion in the 1830s. Frock coat (left) and morning coat (right).
  2. Sødring.jpg wears a brocade waistcoat with a high black velvet shawl collar. The front flap of his fall-front trousers can be seen clearly in this 1832 portrait.
  3. Eugene deveria Meffre-Rouzan.jpg of New Orleans painted in Paris, 1833, in evening wear. The puffs at the shoulder of his coat are smaller than those worn in the 1820s, and his waistcoat has a slight point at the front waist.
  4. Crockett1834.jpg of Davy Crockett shows the fashionable dark cravat worn with a wide turn-over collar.
  5. John C. Calhoun.jpeg of John C. Calhoun in a sheer white formal cravat, dark coat, and fur-collared or lined overcoat, 1834.
  6. Inman Henry A Gentleman Of The Wilkes Family.jpg, 1838-40, wears a dark cravat. His tall coat collar is notched and spreads onto his shoulders. The sleeve has just a hint of fullness at the sleeve head.
  7. Edward Cross by Agasse.jpg wears a red and black patterned waistcoat with brown trousers and a black tailcoat, cravat, and top hat, 1838.

Children's fashion

In this period, small boys wore sashed tunics over trousers, sometimes with a round-collared shirt underneath. (In Sketches by Boz, 1836, Charles Dickens described the earlier skeleton suit as " of those straight blue cloth cases in which small boys used to be confined, before belts and tunics had come in...." [emphasis added]). Older boys wore short jackets and trousers with round-collared shirts.

Girls wore simplified versions of women's fashion.

See also


Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500-1914, Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-8109-6317-5

Goldthorpe, Caroline: From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-87099-535-9

Tozer, Jane and Sarah Levitt, ''Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870, Laura Ashley Press, ISBN 0-9508913-0-4

External links

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