This morning’s post is part speculation, part history lesson and part printable fun! With the upcoming release of a new historical character from American Girl named Caroline Abbott, everyone is playing the guessing game – what era will our new character be from? Some have guessed the 1950s, some think the early 1900s, and then there are a lot of us who are GUESSING (we DO NOT know) that she will be from the early 1800s – maybe around the time of the War of 1812. Since we are guessing, I thought it would be fun to look at some fashions from the early 1800s and even found some you can print out and color, too.

madame alexander louise

This is Madame Alexander’s tribute to famous French painter Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – she lived from 1755 until 1842. She was considered the most recognizable female painter of the 1800’s. The high-waisted, also known as empire waist dress that she is wearing in the photo above was very characteristic of the fashions in the early 1800s.

Also it was advised that young ladies to wear softer shades of color, such as pinks, periwinkle blue, or lilacs and thin fabrics such as muslin were often used for day dresses. Necklines began to be more square and everyday dresses were not as full. For evening the gowns were much more extravagant being trimmed with lace, ribbons and netting. Sleeves were often short with long gloves and shawls over top.

The image below shows how fashion evolved pretty quickly in the late 1700s to early 1800s – notice where the waistline is (and how quickly it goes right back down):

1800s fashion

This image is only part of a larger graphic on Victorian fashion – click here to see more dresses and read more about the whole Victorian age. You can always save the image off your computer and print it out to color.

regency dresses to color

The Graphics Fairy has a really neat coloring page of Regency Fashions (which is what the period form 1795-1820 is often referred to as).

early 1800s daily fashion

Jane Austen was an English writer who lived from 1775 until 1817. Practical Pages has paper dolls from a variety of eras, and I thought this Jane Austen set fit right in with our speculation on Caroline Abbott and what she “might” wear. Click on the image above to get to the full size version to print and color.

print and color regency style gown

I can get completely lost in Liana’s Paper Doll blog! She has got some of the most captivating designs for every era in history. Take a look at her 1800s paper doll dresses. She has some that are black and white and suitable for printing that you can then color on your own.

Caroline Color and Craft book American Girl

So, based on the silhouette of Caroline in the book cover above plus the fashion history lesson you just got, what do you think? Do you think Caroline will be from the early 1800’s?

Either way, whether Caroline is from the early 1800’s or not, it really is a lot of fun to learn about history through fashion!