The end of the Federal or Empire period marked the end of the columnar, Grecian influenced style in women’s dress. Skirts expanded to a full bell shape and waistlines narrowed. One of the distinctive features of this period is the wide sloping shoulder silhouette. The pelerine (a small cape worn over the shoulders) accented this feature of the style. Sleeves were very wide – this style is called the gigot sleeve. By 1836 the sleeves were banded down at the top, producing a puff from just above the elbow to the wrist. By 1840, the full sleeve had gone out of fashion and the tight sleeve reigned once again. This is also the period of the wide brimmed poke bonnet – please see the links to bonnets that were designed to go with these gowns on the Millinery page.
Fashionable men’s wear during this time consisted of a frock coat, a waistcoat, pants, and shirt. Cravats were worn around the neck. A distinctive feature of the frock coat during this period is the addition of a waist seam, and with this innovation came a much greater ability to get good fit. The waistlines of these coats were nipped in and the chests often padded out. Waistcoats were shorter than the 18th century variety and were often in bright contrasting colors. Pants were narrow and tight, often having a stirrup going under the shoe. The most common type of front was the fall front.