The Mainspring of Fashion

Text by Brick Store Museum

Images from Brick Store Museum

Early nineteenth-century America developed a new and powerful middle class.

With spendable income derived from manufacturing and trades, hard-working American husbands sought gentility by furnishing their homes and clothing their wives and daughters in the latest fashions.

By 1830, the nation was strong, confident, and eagerly assuming its own identity by demonstrating democratic principles, sophistication in commerce, and a developing consumerism.

Not wishing to be considered provincial, America continued to look to Europe, especially France and England, for models of cultural refinement.

Imported engravings of the latest styles in architecture, decorative arts, and fashion were quickly adapted by American publishers and issued in periodicals directed at a domestic market.

The latest fashions from the continent were thus distributed to rural and urban Americans and imitated by dressmakers and home seamstresses.

High-fashioned styles became the passion of American women.

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