North American Clothing for kids - 1800s
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Kidipede is a history and science encyclopedia for kids, with more than 2000 pages of expert answers to your questions.


American Clothing- 1800s

By the 1800s, most of the people living in North America were of European or African origin. Kids still often wore clothes that had been cut down for them from worn-out grown-up clothing. Most kids, and many grown people, went barefoot whenever it was warm enough, even to school. Women usually wore shirts and long skirts down to their ankles, or even brushing the ground.

Schoolboys 1872

Sometimes women wore steel hoops under their skirts to make them rounder. Under their dresses, they wore petticoats, and shifts, and corsets to support their breasts. They could afford to use more cloth because people were making clothes of cotton, which was cheaper. Many people now had both an everyday dress and a special dress for holidays or to wear to church.

Slave woman
An enslaved woman and her owner, 1804.
Both are black.

African women who had been enslaved tried to keep dressing the way they had at home - wrapping their heads with cloth, for instance. Some African styles, like the kerchief, became popular with North American women, white and black and Native American. But enslaved women usually only had one dress, and even that was usually an old dress that a free woman didn't want anymore. Sometimes these women had to sew their dresses out of old flour sacks. Farming women who had to work hard on their farms, or women who were hunters or gold miners, sometimes wore pants (especially if nobody would see them).

Boys on Oregon Trail
Boys in overalls doing chores
on the Oregon Trail

In the 1850s, men began to wear jeans, made first from hemp cloth by a Jewish man named Jacob Davis, and then out of cotton with his partner Levi Strauss (now we call them Levi's). They also wore denim or cotton corduroy overalls. Men started to wear their pants down to their ankles instead of their knees.


Click here to go on to the 1900s

Click here to find out more about fabrics and weaving and spinning clothes

Check out these books to find out more:

North American clothing before 1500 AD
North American Economy
Main clothing page
Main North America page (after 1500)
Kidipede - History for Kids home page



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