Editorial Note: All of the gorgeous dresses you’ll see here are on display or are in the collections of some of the great museums in the United States and Europe. WordPress went nuts when I tried to include the URLs to their pages on the museum websites, so if you want to learn more about these beautiful garments, click the hyperlinks.
When I say “the 1980s”, what women’s fashions come to mind? How about the 90s? Or the 50s? I’d ask what your answer are, but for one, I can’t hear you through the computer and two, you’ve probably answered “shoulder pads” for the 80s and I think we can all agree we don’t need to talk about shoulder pads.
photo credit here
But I think I’ve achieved my point — mention a decade and people will readily answer with clothes that defined it. And, thanks to Hollywood’s love affair with the period drama, the average person can usually point out that Jane Austen’s time period involved empire-waist dresses, the Civil War had hoop skirts, and the late Victorian Era was the home of the bustle.
The truth of the matter is that fashion is so much more interesting and oh, so much more complex than that. Sleeve length. Neckline. Hemline. Silhouette. I could go on and on. The lingo may be only partly familiar, or not at all. I’m a historical reenactor; it’s my business to know these things. But I started out like any one of you reading this right now – with absolutely no clue. So I learned. And so can you.