This post is for the benefit of some ladies from the Sewing Academy, as a short answer to how common Scandinavian women dressed in the mid 19th century. This is not all the information there is – I myself have a lot of unanswered questions, but still: here are the pictures I promised. I won’t include pictures of upper and middle class women, as they dressed pretty much the way women of the same social standing in the United States of that time (I did however notice a slightly higher level of women, even young ones, wearing caps in their portraits, than in the States). I only found Swedish and Danish pictures, and they where hard to come by… First the ones with a really local character.
A Danish painting from 1856, by Christen Dalsgaard, called “Mormoner på besøg hos en tømrer på landet”, meaning ”Mormons visiting a carpenter in the country”. As a mormon myself, I think this is an interesting one 🙂
Another of Christen Dalsgaard’s paintings, from 1852, called “Ung Jysk bondepiga skriver vennens navn på den duggede rude” – “A young farmgirl from Jylland writing her friend’s name on the dewy window”.
The red sleeves are most likely what is seen of a knitted sweater – similar ones where worn by women in the very south of Sweden, like this, from Torna in the county Skåne (Scania) by J. Kulle, mid 19th century. The painting is called “Söndagsmorgon” – “Sunday morning”.
Or this, by Kilian Zoll, 1840’s: “Majsångare I Skåne” – “Maysingers in Scania”.
Then we have the ones which are more fashionable:
Christen Dalsgaard, Danish, 1858: “Ung pige beder landsbyens gamle postbud besørge et brev” – ”Young girl asking the villages old postman to attend to a letter”.
A Swedish servant, 1860’s. She seems to have a checked dress, with a kerchief round her neck as well as on her head – the one on the head would be the norm for most Swedish women. She also wears an apron.
Danish couple, 1860’s – she’s wearing a cap and apron.
Now, this Swedish countrywoman is thought to have had her picture taken in the 1870’s, but as you can see, her dress have some elements that was in fashion some 20-25 years before. It’s also shorter than what is fashionable, to enable her to work.
Most women (at the very least the married ones) from the country would have had something on their heads when going out, but not all of them wear them in their portraits. In many areas, hats and bonnets were not for the women of the farming community . Corsets would not have been worn by them either – it would have been considered very vain, and maybe even immoral. Some dresses had boning of cane, to give some support. Multiple petticoats, and maybe quilted petticoats would have supported the skirts. Aprons seams to have been extremely important to these people – you see them in almost all photographs. I’m not sure all of these women are wearing dresses – I think some of them are wearing waist lenght jackets, as an indoor garment.