The period followed the French and American revolutions saw a drastic shift in dress for both men and women, though for women this change would be short lived. Classical Greek and Roman images were evoked to justify the democratic revolutions of this period. This resulted in the adoption of a classically inspired silhouette for women which was long, narrow, uncorsetted, and high-waisted. Initially the color of choice was white, and the fabrics soft cottons, often virtually transparent. Shawls and long gloves were introduced to cover bare shoulders and arms; shawls would remain in fashion until the advent of the bustle in the 1880's. Hair might be cut short, and turbans and caps were worn.
After 1805, as society began to return to a more sedate, conservative mode, and as the aristocracy returned to France, dress gradually became less semi-fitted and more tailored. Bodices became more fitted, more surface decoration was used, as well as heavier fabrics and more modest long sleeves. As it turned out, the revolutions had opened up new opportunities for men; but for women, life would continue much as it had before. Therefore the dress forms would also return to those that had been in use for centuries. For a selection of fashion drawings from this period, see this Regency fashion site.
hroughout the years, 1825 to 1840 the skirt continued to widen. The skirt hem did not touch the floor until 1835 and for the ten years preceding that there was great attention to the bottom edge of the skirt. Decorations and trims such as the padded rouleau were often stiffened to help hold out the ever widening skirt. Applied stuffed cords of decorative silks acted almost like hoops on the outsides of the skirts. Small bustle pads tied on with tapes were in use by the mid 1830s to help hold out the upper part of the skirt as well. When the hems sank to the floor in the mid 1830s and the decorations on the bottom edges were less popular, women wore numerous petticoats to hold out the skirts. Petticoats were stiffened and it was common to wear three. Six petticoats worn at a time were not unusual. Flannel was the favored fabric for the material closest to the skin with the layers of stiffened petticoats following. Stiff horse hair underskirts were first sold in 1840. Bone hoops were developed in 1856 and were hailed as a major improvement). Perhaps the most obvious features of the period were the sleeves. At various times, from 1825-1840 the sleeves were puffed at the top with a tapering lower sleeve, puffed in a huge billow from shoulder to elbow, puffed only at the elbow, puffed from shoulder to wrist in a tapering billow, and puffed in suspension from a dropped shoulder. This dropped shoulder turned into a full epaulette collar or jockeis around 1839. The sleeves which were very wide at the shoulder and tapered gradually to the wrist were called the gigot sleeves and required their own set of underpinnings. A strip of gathered glazed cotton with whalebone at the edge usually held out the sleeves although stuffed pads and even hoops on the arms were occasionally used. No matter where the puff was placed armholes were small and high, so despite the volumes of material used arm movement was restricted. As a balance to the large puffed sleeves, collars were also enormous. The pelerine en ailes d'oiseau collar covered the sleeves like a bird's outstretched wing. Sometimes the collars were split at the top of each sleeve and often there were two layers of a collar. The bertha became popular near the end of the period. Lace and embroidered collars were widely made and worn. Bonnets, gloves and parasols were the staples of a woman's accessory wardrobe in the period 1825-1840, but sashes, ribbons and bows were at the peak of their popularity. It was difficult to find a coat to go over the gigantic sleeves so shawls, mantles and stoles were popular wraps for day and evening wear. wiki/Costume_History/Romantic