Romantic Period


The Romantic Period (1820-1850) derives its name from the Romantic Arts movement, in which art, literature and music focused on the emotions and feelings rather than the rationality of Neoclassicism. Artists exemplifying Romanticism were William Blake, J.W.M. Turner, and Caspar David Friedrich and writers such as Lord Byron, John Keats and Sir Walter Scott.

The silhouette for women during this time is characterized by a waistline moving down from under the bust to several inches above the natural waist, fuller skirts with increased decoration at the bottom, and a wide variety of sleeve types. Hair was worn parted in the middle, with the back arranged in a knot, and side curls beside the face. Bonnets were popular headgear during the day. Men wore tight fitting trousers or pantaloons, coats nipped at the waist, and top hats. It was customary for the trousers, waistcoat, and coat to be different colors.

A notable feature in women’s costume of this period is the variety of sleeve styles that were popular. The types seen in this collection are the marie-sleeve (full sleeve tied at intervals with ribbon); the imbecile or idiot sleeve which is extremely full from the shoulder to wrist, and the demi-gigot (full from shoulder to elbow, then fitted to the wrist).

The three plates that feature men reveal the typical fashion during this period. Some of the fashion innovations for men are seen in the Les Modes Parisiennes plate is which the man is wearing a cravat, a neckpiece tied around the neck and finished in a bow with a greatcoat, which is the forerunner of today’s overcoat.

Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblee, no. 187, June 1, 1824

Man in Redingcote, Les Modes Parisiennes, 1928

Evening Dresses, La Belle Assemblee, New Series, no. 54, June 1, 1829

Bride and Woman, Les Modes Parisiennes, no. 294, 1847?



Fashion plates often identified attire according to the time of day or activity for which an outfit is worn. A carriage dress is similar to a day dress, promenade dress or walking dress. This woman is wearing a purple dress with the waistline beginning to move toward the natural waist, a high neckline finished with a collar, and a fuller skirt with decoration at the hem. In addition, the sleeves on the dress were known as the marie-sleeve, full to the wrist but tied at intervals. A bonnet trimmed with flowers completes the outfit and she is carrying a parasol with a collapsing handle.


This is one of the few fashion plates in the Little Bower Collection highlighting men’s clothing. During this period, men typically wore high collars, coats fitted around the waist, and close fitting pants. Top hats were worn both during the day and in the evening. Both boots and square toed shoes are seen during this time. The man is wearing a redingcote or greatcoat with wide collar and lapels over a shirt, waistcoat, and trousers or pantaloons tucked into boots. A cravat is inserted into his shirt and a top hat completes the ensemble.


These two women are dressed for the evening in low cut gowns with puffed short sleeves, and fuller skirts. The skirts receive their dimensions from the many layers of petticoats worn underneath. The woman in yellow is wearing her hair in the style known as “a la chinoise” which was created by gathering the hair into a topknot with curls at the sides. The woman in pink has her hair tucked into an elaborate hat trimmed with ostrich feathers. Both women are wearing long evening gloves and jeweled necklaces. Typical fabrics for evening included silks, gauzes, and organdy.



This plate was created by Francois-Claudins Compte-Calix (1813-1880) who in addition to his work with fashion plates, was also a watercolorist who exhibited at the Paris Salon and an illustrator of books on historical costume.


These two dresses are indicative of the later Romantic style as shown by the wider skirts and less full sleeves. The bride is dressed in a delicately patterned gown trimmed in ruffles and lace. The sleeves end below the elbow and are completed with lace undersleeves that could be removed for washing. The woman in green appears to be wearing a paletot, which is a three quarters length mantle and worn in the day and evening. She also wears a bonnet, the popular headgear of the day.


Back to Exhibit