Clothing in the Civil War
By Serena Saini

Lady's Clothing

There were two kinds of ladies that lived in the Civil War. There were the wealthy ladies, and there were the common ladies. The wealthier ladies often changed five or six times a day. They had a morning dress, which was plain, a midday dress, which was more elaborate but still plain, a walking dress, which was heavier for the cold weather and comfortable to walk in, and finally an evening dress which was low-cut and party suitable. Their outfits consisted of four or five layers. The first layer was a pair of light cotton pants and a chemise, which is a long shirt.
This is a portrait of a wealthy woman during the Civil War
They also wore stockings, which were held up by garters. The second layer was a corset on top and either a hoopskirt, a crinoline, or one or two dark petticoats. The third layer consisted of a petticoat bodice, a corset cover, or a camisole. The fourth layer was a bodice, and a skirt held up with suspenders. The ladies often had a fifth layer for when they were going out, for example they would wear either a shawl or a jacket, gloves or mittens, button up boots, a fan, a bonnet or hat and a bag or purse. They also sometimes carried pocket watch and a handkerchief in their purses. Common women only changed two or three times a day and reserved their nicest dresses for going out into town, visiting people and for Sundays at church.

Women believed that a well-respected woman never wore makeup, only tramps did. They did, at times, carry smelling salts in case they would ever faint. The women, wealthy or common, always wore some sort of hat or bonnet, not just for an accessory but also to keep their fair complexion from the sun. Wealthy women wore their hair up in a bun, little girls in curls and teenagers the front up and the back down in curls, because they were neither a woman nor a child.

 A group of Union soldiers
A group of Union soldiers
A Union soldier's uniform

Union Soldier's Clothing

Union soldiers’ uniforms were made out of wool. The uniform consisted of a dark blue shirt and dark blue pants, which changed to sky blue in 1862. The wool of the uniform was very high quality and kept the soldiers warm in the winter. Unfortunately, it also kept them warm and itchy in the summer, so they were forced to wear cotton shirts and underwear from home underneath their uniforms.They wore shoes called Brogans that laced up over the ankle, and often wore gaiters over to keep their legs dry from the mud, rain, and snow. The hats that they wore were very significant because they represented which regiment that a soldier was in. A soldier had to be quite strong, for they had to carry about thirty to forty pounds of gear everyday

Confederate Soldier's Clothing

A Confederate general's uniform
The Confederate soldier’s uniforms were not very official compared to the Union uniforms. They were all homemade and dyed differently. The officers and some soldiers wore grey uniforms. The majority of the uniforms were shades of brown and khaki. The soldiers typically wore short waist jackets and heavy denim pants. Shoes were made in the South and wore down very quickly because of all of the marching that the soldiers had to do from one battlefield to another.
Confederate soldier
Confederate soldier
The Confederates also carried less equipment than the Union did. They did, however, carry the same equipment as the Union did because they often stole shoes and other pieces of clothing from captured and killed Union soldiers. Taking uniforms from the Union soldiers proved to be dangerous because their fellow soldiers often mistook them for being the other side. It was good also, because they could sneak into the Union camps and spy. The way that the soldiers could distinguish the difference between a soldier and a general is the generals wore eagles on their buttons and the common soldiers didn't.

Nurse's Clothing
Dorothea Dix, who was in charge of the female nurses in the north made a strict rule stating that no woman could be nurse if she was under thirty years old. She also said that the nurses had to be plain looking and their dresses’ must be brown or black, nothing fancy. The nurses were not allowed to have curls on their dresses, wear jewelry and absolutely could not wear hoopskirts underneath their dresses.

A nurse in the Civil War
A nurse in the Civil War

Children's Clothing

New clothing for children was hard to find in the South and so most clothes had altered hems that had room for growth. If a child outgrew their clothing, they often got older sibling's older clothing and wore than instead of buying new because it was hard to find. Most parents that that it was fashionable for children to be dresses like little adults, or in the same fashion as their parents. Farm boys, wore heavy course and durable clothes and no shoes because they were hard to afford. They also wore pants and jackets that were made of either canvas or denim and cotton shirts, suspenders, woolen vests, and wide-brimmed straw hats to protect their faces from the sun. Wealthier boys, or city boys often would wear loose dark suits, a white dress shirt underneath and bowties. Their jackets were waist length and buttoned at the top. Their shoes were low cut and leather. In warmer weather, they were allowed to were short pants, or shorts. For their hair, it was a must that it was neatly cut, and they often wore silk tall hats or beaver fur hats.
Girls wore long cotton or linsey woolsey dresses that buttoned all the way up to the throat. They wore simple cotton bonnets to protect their faces from the sun and their had their hair cut until they were nine years old. When they were ten years old, they were allowed to wear their hair up. Wearing their hair up mean that the girl was older and more mature.

Two brothers and their sister
Two brothers and their sister

Names and Uses of Clothing

Lady's often wore many layers of different types of clothing to be more fashionable. (see Lady's Clothing)
Pantalets- made out of cotton, go under dress (bottom half of body)
Chemise-goes under dress (torso)
Stockings-go on feet (usually held up by garters)
Corset-like a chemise, but strapless
Crinolines-mixture of linen and horsehair, used for stiff petticoats, used tin inflate skirt
Hoop Skirt- metal shaped skirt under dress to make dress big and poofy
Jewlery- earings, necklaces, bracelets, rings
Hats and Bonnets-to cover head from sun, wind, rain and snow
Caps and Shawls-to keep warm, fashionable
Purses-to carry accessories


Digital image. Web. <>.

"Visit Gettysburg." Visit Gettysburg, Historical Battlefields and Small Town Charm. Site Build It! Web. 17 May 2011. <>.

Digital image. Web. <>.

"CONFEDERATE GENERALS' UNIFORMS." The WTV Zone - A WebTV Friendly Homepage and Website Provider Where Webtv Users Can Build Websites and Homepages with Little Restriction - Web Tv Users Welcome! Web. 17 May 2011. <>.

Digital image. Web. <>.

Digital image. Web. <>.

Digital image. Web. <>.


Ladys Clothing:
  • · Wore lots of pieces of clothing:
  • · Pantalets-made out cotton, go under dress(bottom half of body)
  • · Chemise-goes under dress (torso)
  • · Stockings-go on feet
  • · Corsets-like a chemise, but strapless
  • · Crinolines-mixture of linen and horsehair, used for stiff petticoats, used to inflate skirt,
  • · Hoop slips-another skirt under the petticoat
  • · Over slips
  • · Jewelry-earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings
  • · Hats and bonnets- to cover head from wind, rain, sun etc.
  • · Hairpieces-for accessorizing, fashionable
  • · Capes and shawls-to keep warm, more fashionable than a jacket
  • · Purses-to carry accessories
  • · Petticoat- the over dress, the dress seen by all
  • Wealthy women changed for morning, evening, midday, walks etc.
  • Morning dresses were plain
  • Evening dressers were low cut and party suitable
  • Walking dresses more comfortable to walk in
  • Working women more to three everyday dresses
  • One Sunday dress (very nice, best outfit)
  • Had certain dresses just for going out or visiting people
  • Lady’s also wore ball gowns and day dresses during this time.
  • Layer ONE:
  • Drawers(pantalets) –linen and trimmed with lace (cotton)
  • Chemise: long undershirt usually made out of linen
  • Stockings help up with garters
  • Layer TWO:
  • Corset
  • Crinoline, hoopskirt, or one or two petticoats (dark)
  • Layer THREE:
  • Petticoat bodice, corset cover, or camisole
  • Layer FOUR:
  • Bodice,
  • Skirt(held up with suspenders)
  • Belt
  • Slippers
  • Layer FIVE:
  • Shawl, jacket
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Button up boots
  • Parasol
  • Bonnet or hat
  • Bag or purse
  • Handkerchief
  • Fan
  • Watch pocket
  • Well respected ladys never used makeup
  • Did carry smelling salts sometimes (for perfume)
  • Hair and Hats:
  • Wore hats to keep complection- did not want to get tan or burned at all
  • Women (victorian..well off)wore their hair up
  • Little girls wore it down in curls
  • Teenagers wore the front half up and curls in the back
  • Standard civil war hair for grown women were straight middle part combed over ears secured in a bun or chignon in back
  • Sometimes put lace net in hair called snood
Mens clothing:

  • Made up wool
  • Dark blue shirt
  • Four brass buttons
  • Wool was high-quality
  • Warm in winter itchy and hot in the summer
  • Many men wore cotton shirts and underwear from home under
  • Cotton was southern product and more scarce during the war but the north still manged to get some
  • The pants were also dark blue until 1862 when they were sky blue
  • Held up with suspenders
  • Shoes called brogans laced up over the ankle
  • Often wore gaiters to keep legs dry
  • The hat was stiff wool had the symbol of the regiment that the man belonged to
  • Cavalry men wore high boots for riding and a wider hat
  • Infanrtry men carried muzzle loader guns
  • Over left shoulder soldier carried box of amo
  • Carried pouch of food and water
  • Extra clothing
  • Usually carried thirty to forty pounds of gear

Confederate Uniforms:
  • Not very official
  • Homemade and dyed differently
  • Officers and some soldiers wore grey
  • Majority wore shades of brown and khaki
  • Typically wore short waisted jackets
  • Heavy cotton denim pants
  • Cotton shirts and undergarments were sent from family members at home
  • Cotton was a southern product but the factories that produced things like cloth and shoes were located in the south
  • Shoes made in the south wore down quickly because of all the marching
  • Carried less equipment than the union
  • Carried equipment that they stole from captured union soldiers such as: shoes and other clothing
  • The Union uniforms influenced uniforms
  • Taking uniforms from the Union was proven to be dangerous because their fellow soldiers mistook them for being
  • But Falso good because can spy on enemy
  • Generals had eagles on their buttons
  • Lots of downtown buildings were used as Civil War Hospitals
  • Dorothea Dix was in Charge of female nurses in the North and said: “ NO woman under thirty years need apply to serve in the government hospitals. All nurses are required to be very plain-looking women. Their dresses must be brown or black with no curls, no jewelry, and no hoop skirts.”
  • New clothing for kids was hard to find in the south
  • most clothes had hems that allowed room for the kids to grow
  • Older children gave the younger children their old clothes
  • Most parents thought that the children should be dressed like little adults
  • Farm boys wore heavy course and durable clothes
  • Pants and jackets were made of canvas or denim fabrics
  • Also wore cotton shirts, suspenders, woolen vests, wide-brimmed straw hats
  • Country boys basically wore no shoes in the summer and lowcut leather boots in the city
  • Wealthy boys would wear dark suits(loose) a white dress shirt underneath and bow ties
  • Jackets were waist length and buttoned at the top
  • In warm weather boys often wore short pants (shorts)
  • Neatly cut hair=MUST
  • Wore silk tall hats OR fur hats (beaver)
  • Young men wore short visors
  • GIRLS:
  • Long dresses made of cotton or linsey Woolsey
  • Dresses buttoned all the way up to the throat
  • Simple cotton bonnets to protect from sun
  • Hair cut until nine ten years old
  • Wearing hair up meant girl was older and mature
  • Dresses were mid calf
  • Full grown women wore lace corsets but girls used girdle or belt in stead