What trendy New York girls wore in summer 1872

LadyssummerballdressHave you noticed the hot fashion trends this summer? High-waisted denim short shorts, crop tops, and striped dresses are all over the place.

During the summer of 1872, however, things were a lot more, well, buttoned-up.

Chic young women decked themselves out in beautifully embroidered dresses with big bustles and full skirts (no underbutt here!), as well as elaborate hats decorated with ribbons and bows.

They must have looked quite fetching at picnics and parties. But how did they keep from sweating?


These illustrations originally ran in the August 1872 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine that 141 years later is still dictating fashion trends.

At least the woman in the ball dress is holding a fan!

[Illustrations from the NYPL Digital Gallery]

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11 Responses to “What trendy New York girls wore in summer 1872”

  1. jveazue Says:

    Reblogged this on JANINEVEAZUE.

  2. carolegill Says:

    Imagine wearing all that! oh boy!

  3. Robert S Johnson Says:

    Reblogged this on The Quotidian Hudson and commented:
    Since I just heard that the heat index (is that the wind chill standing on its head?) is going to hit 110 today, I had to reblog this from Ephemeral New York.

  4. vastlycurious.com Says:

    Can you imagine wearing that beautiful ensemble when it’s 100 degrees? I wonder how they kept cool even putting on that cloak of clothing?

  5. Trail Todd Says:

    Who says they kept from sweating?? I’m sure they were very uncomfortable, and made many trips to the powder room! 😉

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  7. ATH Says:

    They took naps.
    They had maids to do all the fetch and carry.
    Gentlemen were required to help them across the street, or to bring their lemonade to them in social situations.
    They carried little glass ornaments in the shape of a cat or swan to cool their hands.
    They had fans.
    All the fibers were natural fibers. The hoops were made of baskets, or metal, or tapes, whalebone, stiff horsehair and linen called crinoline fabric. So there’s air under there.
    They fainted, had palpitations, ennui, and other enervating symptoms.
    Those ladylike appetites were based on a desire to avoid heat stroke. (in a corset, no less).

    Small wonder!
    I really enjoyed this. I am a little tired of too-tight stretchy tops and cargo shorts everywhere, but excess is no answer!

    I wish those poor ladies a pair of two-dollar flip-flops and a cool delightful pond where nobody is watching.

    I read and enjoy all your posts,
    Ann T.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks for the kind words and for all of this info, it’s fascinating. I wonder what these 1850 girls would make of today’s stretchy-skimpy tank tops and underbutt visible beneath short shorts….

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