Civil War Era Chit Chat - May 1862 Peterson's Magazine
Most of the silks are in very small plaids or checks; though some of the more expensive ones are of a solid ground, with leaves, small sprigs, etc., of the same color as the ground, but of a darker shade. But few India silks have been brought to the market for some years past; but these, when they can be obtained, make the cheapest and most serviceable silk dress which can be worn. These silks wash like a good chintz, and always look well.
Foulard is a material now employed for dresses at all seasons, and of late has been made in new and beautiful patterns. Many foulards have a brown, black, or violet ground, figured with patterns like those on other kinds of silk. For instance, some are sprigged with flowers on a white ground, or they are figured with a lozenge pattern in green. We have seen one figured with black stripes on brown, and another with Pompadour bouquets. These foulards, we may also mention, are of a firm texture. For young ladies' demi-toilet nothing can be more suitable than a dress of foulard with a white ground; the corsage low, with a fichu and a ceinture of the same silk as the dress, fastened either in front or behind; or the corsage may have a berthe crossed in front, and trimmed with bows of ribbon on the shoulders.
Alpacas of various colors are very much worn abroad; but few have been introduced here, except those in black, which are always so much worn for mourning. But there are various articles which have taken the place of alpacas, some heavy, some light, composed of silk and wool, or of all wool. The names and styles of these articles are legion, but any of them will make most serviceable dresses for the country, for traveling, for walking, etc,; in fact, no lady's wardrobe should be without one, particularly as they can be had very cheap, though some of the styles range as high as one dollar and thirty-seven cents a yard; but of double width. These goods can be obtained in either checks, stripes (like that of our third figure), or plain.
Chintzes rival the silks this season in beauty of design.
Piques, or Marseilles, are, as usual, of a light ground, with small figures. These, as we have before informed our readers, are a much heavier material than chintz, very much like the old-fashioned vesting Marseilles, and require no lining in the bodies. They are particularly suitable for children. Some of the plain buff ones, braided with black, make the most stylish dress a small boy or girl can wear.
Next month we will speak of bareges, tissues, lawns, etc., suitable for warm weather.
There is but little that is new as yet in the make of dresses. Many bodies, particularly those in silk and more expensive materials, are made with a point, both at the back and in front. For quite young ladies, the round waist is much worn, with either a belt, sash, or one of those pointed ceintures known as the Medici ceinture. One of the most beautiful of these latter is made of black velvet, having a point both at the back and in front, and with two long black velvet tabs, about a quarter of a yard in width, depending down each side, widening toward the ends, which are rounded. The waistband, as well as the tabs, are braided with very narrow white silk braid.
The skirts of dresses are still gored so as to be quite wide at the bottom, but narrow at the waist.
For walking dresses the skirts are made quite plain, or with only a little trimming up the sides or front; but silks are usually ruffled, except they be of very good quality, when they are made plain.
Bodies of dresses are usually made high, buttoning down the front; but, as the season advances, low bodies and capes, or Raphael bodies (that is, bodies cut square in the neck), will be worn.
Many of the newest walking dresses have sleeves shaped to the elbow; they are slit up to a short distance at the lower part, and the ends are rounded. But sleeves are made in all styles, according to the fancy of the wearer.
Among the new capes, etc., the French fichu is a pretty variety of those useful articles which have lately been so prevalent. It is made of clear muslin laid in box plaits, joined up over the shoulders, and coming down to a point both before and behind. It is finished at the enck with two rows of narrow lace, having a narrow black velvet in between: and braces of black velvet, wide at the shoulders, but narrowing toward the waist, are laid on its outer edge. At the back there is a bow of black velvet without ends, and in the front one with ends. In making this fichu care must be taken that it shall fit the person for whom it is intended, and it is especially necessary that the velvet braces should fit the figure.
The most favorite cap of the season is formed of a round crown, set into a narrow band, which just encircles the head. This band is trimmed in various ways, sometimes with quillings of blonde, sometimes with bows of ribbon, and sometimes with the two intermingled. One of the prettiest that we have seen in this style has its crown of white tulle, a full double quilling of the same set on all round, the band being pointed over the front, just in the middle of the forehead; two long lappets of the same, edged with a quilling of narrow tulle set on the front of the cap, and thrown back over the crown to hang down over the shoulders; and on the point in front a large rose, with a number of little sprays turned toward the back, the rose resting on the forehead, and the sprays turning backward over the lappets. Another extremely pretty and simple head-dress is made by covering a band with clusters of bows, not too regular, but rather varied in form, and fastening it behind with a lace or tulle lappet.
The short sacque, as we stated in our last number, will be the greatest novelty of the season; but this needs no description, as there was a design in the April number of the article. Scarf mantillas, trimmed with narrow ruffles, will be worn also this spring.
Bonnets are very much of the shape which have been worn during the past season, but some of them have the fronts very much exaggerated in size, and filled with trimming. A lady of good taste always adapts her bonnet to her style of face; and the very large bonnets are not worn by the best dressed people. The flowers are not worn as much in the middle of the bonnet as heretofore, but a little on one side.
One of the most striking novelties of the season is the cloak of scarlet cloth, or flannel, now best known as the Gipsy Cloak. This is, in fact, the circular shape, not now cut either on the cross or in the width of the cloth, but with a join down the back, and the simple hood drawn up all round. The other cloak of the season, sometimes called the Galway, and sometimes the Colleen Bawn, is also now fashionable, made in scarlet cloth, or flannel. This cloak has its large cape drawn up behind with two rosettes, a shape which will be fashionable in the summer as a seaside wrap, or for the cool evenings in the country.