Sunday, July 20, 2008

Civil War Fashion - Right or Left?

The Civil War was a time of turmoil and distress in our nation, but it was also a time of beauty and elegance in women's clothing. While studying original garments, pictures, and fashion magazines of the era, I have come to find out some very interesting information on the construction of these beautiful dresses.
In our day and time women shirt's are buttoned right over left and men's left over right. Did you ever wonder how that got started? One day while finishing up a custom order dress I noticed that I had sewn the dress to button left over right. At first I was greatly troubled and thought I would have to start all over on the order. Then I decided to do a some research on the issue. I pulled out my CdV's (civil war photos), and my Godey's Lady Book to see if there was a right way to close the front of the dress during the civil war. Half of the CdV's in my collection were buttoned right over left, while the other was buttoned left over right.
I posted my discovery on on one of the civil war message boards, and asked if anyone knew any information on button preference. One person said that it depends on whether the lady was right handed or left handed and which way would be easier for her to button and unbutton. Another person said that it depended on whether the lady had a maid servant, who dressed her. My favorite answer was the following. Though out history men and women had a distinction in their clothing. There is a verse in the Bible that states a woman is not to dress like a man. During the civil war and after women's shirts started to become popular. To make a difference between men's shirts and women's the right over left and the left over right started to become the norm. So no in our time men wear their shirts left over right and women wear their shirts right over left.
I still don't know which answer is correct, but I do know there was not a preference during the civil war era. So if you want to add a little to you civil war impression think about having your next dress made to button left over right. And when someone tells you that your dress is buttoned wrong, you have a little piece of history to impart to them.
The dress pictured is one of my creations! You can see more of my dresses on Etsy


Anonymous said...

Wow, that was really an interesting bit of history to learn about. your dresses are magnificent. it must take a lot of work to create them, do you actually make them by hand like they did back then or do you use a sewing machine? I would love to add your blog onto my blogroll for history blogs, if you don't mind.

sarahanne said...

Thanks historylover! I'd love to be added to your blogroll. They did have sewing machine during the civil war,only they were mainly used to for making the uniforms for the war!

I have different degrees of authenticity on my dresses. Depending on what people are wanting to pay. Most of my dresses are sewn with the machine but the bodice which is completely finished is hand based to the skirt.

So people who order from me like their dresses completely hand stitched on the outside but don't mind the inside seems stitched by machine.