Clothing during the Gilded Age, at least that which we refer back to most often, was representative of the wealth of the era. Specifically, women that would have been guests in the Hotel Ponce de Leon showed off all of their assets and accessorized their gowns in everything imaginable, from beads to tassels, from lace to feathers. Everything was built to show off the women’s bodies. Bustles were used to accentuate the butts and to fill out the skirts, corsets tied down the waists and pushed up the breasts, and big extravagant hats and accessories were used to draw the eye. Every detail was used to paint a picture of the woman who wore the clothes.
The form of clothing differed greatly from the slim, petite styles of today. For example, after pushing up the breasts using a corset, the bust was then covered and adorned so it would puff out even more. The shoulders of the gowns would slope which reflected the angled lines in the back of the gown and jackets which were used to help make the waist appear smaller and to bring the fabric in nicely around the corset. The fabric used did not stretch like the knits more commonly used in our own era, so the sleeves were in two parts with the seam alone the back, allowing space for the elbows (think similar to a man’s suit). The petticoats and skirts were then built with more fabric in the back to allow space for the bustle. Full skirts with hems touching the floor were considered most appropriate, especially in the higher classes. Middle-class women were still seen in corsets and petticoats, but due to money and practicality their skirts were usually less full and lacked bustles.
Seen in the collage above are some pattern books and a pattern drafting system by Madame Kellogg (yes, like the cereal) which are currently owned by Dan’l Pugh who was talked about in the previous post. During the Gilded Age, women could mail order this tool to make their own patterns and clothing. Wealthier families would hire women to learn the drafting system and make the clothes for their family.