1878 Victorian women's fashions
1878 ladies fashions presented in the fly leaf  Descriptions given in Godey’s Ladies’ Book for each of these five dresses are on the left and below.

Fashions changed considerably in the thirty years between 1858 and 1878


On the right is a picture from the front of Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s May 1878 edition. When one compares the clothing shown in Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s May 1858’s edition with these dresses, while it seems obvious that the sewing machine is making it easier to produce far more complex designs, in truth, most of the sewing is still being done by hand.

The magazine was published in Philadelphia, which has some of the oldest wealth in the country. Although sold all over the world, the magazine apparently targeted Philadelphia society. Knowing what to wear when must have been very  important to the readers of the magazine. Here is information about that…

Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s description of the first dress:

Walking dress of two shades of purple silk and wool. The polonaise is made of the striped wool goods, with trimming of the silk and buttons. The underskirt is of silk, with flounces as trimming of silk and wool. White chip bonnet, trimmed with ribbon and feathers. 

Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s description of the second dress:

Evening dress of white silk, with brocaded flowers in gay colors over it in bunches; it is made in a court train, curt square in the neck. The front of the dress is of plain white silk, trimmed with plaitings of white and blue silk and lace; the train is edges with narrow band of silkl and blue plaiting. White lace mitts.

Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s description of the third dress:

House dress of elephant-colored silk of two shades; it is made in the princess form, of the lightest shade, with bands of the darker up the front; buttons, sleeves, and scarf drapery of the same. Deep linen collar, with Duchess lace around the neck and edge.

Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s description of the fourth dress:

Dinner dress of two shades of moss-green silk and “damasse” The front breadth is of the lightest shade in lengthwise puffs, with ruffles of the two shades at the sides. The polonaise of the “damasse” with revers at side, cuffs upon sleeves, and collar of the lighter silk.

Godey’s Ladies’ Book’s description of the fifth dress:

Evening dress of striped silk grenadine. The underskirt is of white silk with a plaited flounce of pink silk on the edge, and an embroidered band above it. The polonaise is of the striped grenadine, the lower edge trimmed with two rows of Duchess lace, the upper drapery trimmed with pink silk fringe, a band of embroidery, and a spray of pink flowers. Low corsage of silk with grenadine over it, trimmed with narrow silk hands. 

Hair styles changed as well

Fashion is becoming more sophisticated. As the garment’s fabric is swept back, so is the hair.

Evening coiffure – The hair arranged in puffs and curls, with long catagon braid in back.
1878 evening hair style
The hair cut to fall short over the forehead, and arranged in puffs and curls in the back.


Gray chip bonnet, trimmed with cardinal silk, old gold ornament, and gray feathers.


White chip bonnet, trimmed with moss-green satin, flowers, feathers, and ribbon.







More clothing
Walking dress of gray bourette


Walking dress of black silk









On the left is pictured a Walking dress of gray bouretta. The underskirt is made of silk, trimmed with plaited ruffles; the polonaise is trimmed with fringe, with silk cut in points going down the back, with a loop falling at the end. Chip hat, trimmed with gray feather and gay flowers.

On the right is a Walking dress of black silk. The coat bodice and back of skirt are cut in one, fastened by bows; the front of bodice is a basque. The front breaths of overskirt are shirred, as are also the sides, into the back. The front of underskirt is plain; the back trimmed with box plaitings. The apron overskirt is trimmed with fringe. Black ship bonnet, trimmed with black and old-gold-colored ribbon and feather.


Corset ad
Corsets are under the clothing, of course.

The ad states that their nursing corset is the delight of every mother.



215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2019.


1 Comment. Leave new

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed