The War of 1812 was all but forgotten and a youthful America was
still in the process of collecting excuses for its own great Civil
War. Only the Crimean War between Russia and the UK from
1854-1856 kept a few sabres rattling. There was wealth in and from
the colonies, especially within the youthful USA. The well-to-do
woman had time on her hands and the servants or slaves to express
her status. In clothing, the key word was excess. Skirts were
so wide and heavy that women required wire frames for support of the
ribbons and flounces. These frames could be a hazard on public
transportation or near open flames, reaffirming woman as a dangerous
sex. At least it gave the impression that a woman had a small
waist which saved her from an overly-tightightened corset. These
walking wedding cake styles carried over to the children, including
long ringlets for young boys, but only for the financially
comfortable lady of fashion. Dresses had attached v-fronted bodices
that could be fastened at the back or a front-fastened jacket
bodice. Photography was still a new technology, the expensive
Daguerreotypes having been introduced in 1839, and the less
expensive ambrotype becoming the dominant form of portraiture in the
1850s. There was a need for those of means and style to create
memorable images of themselves, when more expensive portrait
paintings were neither comfortable nor convenient. What could be
captured in chemicals was true-to-life, and no woman wanted to look
dowdy, as she sported her latest fashion from the streets of Paris.
Hair was relatively plain, parted in front with a bun (chignon) set half way up the back. The sides were smoothly waved and gently puffed over the ears. For evening dress, the hair over the ears became more puffed and one or two skinny ringlets might appear at the back from beneath the chignon. Caps were modest in size at the start of the 1850s, and were restricted to a small cascade of ribbon and flowers from the bun. There were caps that were no more than a flat piece of lace tapered at the ends that extended into long tails (lappets) at the sides, and were seated far back on the head. These were worn into the next decade, more than one royal monarch adopting this style. Bonnets were small, and protected the face from the wind.
Starting in the 1850s, a custom developed to make a small decorative wreath from the hair of a friend or relative. It was considered a keepsake of love and friendship and was similar in nature to the much older custom of putting a piece of hair into a locket. A long sample of hair was taken, and used as the yarn in the broach-shaped woven formation. 15hqql.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
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