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1840s Collection

Immigration to America grew rapidly during this decade as Europeans were motivated by the prospect of acquiring cheap and free land, freedom, and economic opportunity. Immigrants traveling the Oregon Trail brought their cultural heritage West. Daily life required durable and functional clothing.

After 1841, a new way of connecting the skirt to the bodice, called gauging gained popularity. Gauging was a technique that was used to increase skirt fullness without adding bulk. Bodices ended at the natural waist with a low v-shaped front. This highlighted the corseted waist. Sleeves became more fitted, and skirts were full and bell-shaped.

Day dresses were typically one piece, made of a combination of wool and cotton or wool and silk. Some gowns had three pieces; a skirt and two bodices, one for day and one for evening. The most popular silk was shot or changeable silk, that has an iridescent appearance.

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