Home Magazines Editors-in-Chief FAQs Contact Us

Loom widths and fabric consumption: Exploring hem circumference in nineteenth century women’s dress through a period cutting guide and extant garments


This paper presents a case study comparing a handful of extant early nineteenth-century American dresses to advice from periodicals and dressmaking manuals in order to understand whether similar advice might have been taken in service of making these pieces of clothing. While many historians logically assume that wealthier women would have worn dresses that demonstrated conspicuous consumption via sheer yardage and that simpler work clothing would be narrower and less concerned with fashionable excess, the dresses in this survey prove otherwise, demonstrating that women and their dressmakers were designing clothing in response to multiple factors rather than wealth or poverty alone.


nineteenth-century dress, fashion, dressmaking, fashion technology