This CDV from Leicester shows us a round faced young woman in her Sunday best dress. The bodice is called a fan front as it has a darted inner lining that fits close to the body, and the outside fashion fabric is gathered at the waist, creating a loose fan shape from her waist to shoulders. Hidden inside the folds are the fasteners, but you can just see her waistband as well and it appears to have buckled a bit during her sitting. Her sleeves are called double pagoda sleeves. The shape of the sleeve was narrow at the top and wide open at the hem. These are doubled as they have an upper sleeve ending around her elbow with a lower sleeve that reaches her wrist. Underneath that, she would have worn undersleeves of lightweight cotton that tied onto the arm above the elbow and had a small cuff at the wrist. The bodice then has a wide lace collar that is held together in front by a large oval brooch. These styles combined tell us the fashions are from the late 1850s. The style of the fan fronted bodice lingered into the 1860s but the collar styles changed to small peter pan style collars made of white cotton. It is possible this is a reprint of an earlier image.
These descriptions of course are all generalizations because there is always one exception to every rule, but for the most part they hold true. The hairstyle also suggests the 1850s. Although a center part and oiled hair was popular through the end of the ’60s, rolling it over rats at the chinline to create a wide face was introduced in the ’50s and was the dominant style. In 1860s images I often see women with their hair parted and oiled but without the rats to add volume.
A hair rat, by the way, is a small pad of hair used to provide volume. As women brushed their hair every day, hair naturally came out, and it was collected in a hair receiver (small covered porcelain dish) on her vanity. Once the receiver was full, the hair was collected and sewn into a hair net. It was far more economical than purchasing a rat and of course was a guaranteed color match as it was the woman’s own hair. Hair nets were fine spun cotton or silk and matched the woman’s hair color as well. Think more of the “lunch lady” hair net than the bright colored “snood” of the 1930s.