We can look at fashionable 19th-century dresses and other elements of women's apparel from the point of view of the women who ordered, purchased, and wore them. Fashionable dress was necessary costume for women whose social class dictated that they live and appear as stylish "ladies." Magazines such as Godey's Lady's Book showed readers the latest fashions of the season.
Godey's Lady's Book, October 1859. University of Vermont. [http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/]