Effects Of Commercialization

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The American pre-Civil War years were between 1820 and 1860 and is a pivotal time for the American economy. It was a shift from an agricultural economy to one based on wages and salaries in exchange for services and products. El Whitney invented and patented the cotton gin (a machine that removes seeds from the cotton fiber)- this created a boom in cotton production that impacted the way clothing was made.

America urbanized and people moved away from farms and to the cities. The Irish and Germans flooded to cities, creating a middle class that became the driving force behind new movements; to eliminate prostitution, reduce alcohol consumption, improve prisons, asylums and education and banning slavery.

The romantic period was at its peak
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Commercialization heightened and the speed at which clothing could be produced speeded up with the help of factories and machines. Rural wage earners enjoyed new tastes- clothing, books and toys as the first wave of consumerism hit.

Many business men set up factories and shops and wives were expected to pitch in, but it was no longer a family work unit as it used to be as jobs moved away from home and in shifts.

Fashion underwent a transition period between 1820-1825; from the former Empire or Regency style influenced by Napoleon Bonaparte to the new Romantic styles. Waistlines lowered and skirts became fuller. The skirt was cut in an A-shape and were fuller at the bottom than at the top. Dresses’ hemlines and sleeves were decorated with tucks, pleats, ruffles or ribbons.

Large circumference hats were now in style as well as large sloping shoulders. Vibrant colours became popular such as Turkey Red and Chrome Yellow. Ladies occasionally wore a bustle that supported the drapery at the back of the dress and belts complimented their well -defined waists. Women would curl the front section of their hair that was also parted in the centre, as time went on the curl spread to the rest of the head and were more elaborate. Buns were a popular choice high on top of the head. This look was complimented with wide brimmed hats and bonnets decorated with feathers on ribbon
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Workers in American coastal cities made garments for sailors in lofts where sails were produced, made from the same durable material.

Inventors started designing some of the first prototypes for sewing machines, but laborers feared for their jobs and destroyed it - these models didn’t work well anyway, new and improved models followed. This period birthed many fashion related inventions and discoveries; vulcanized rubber, shoemaking machinery, artificial cellulosic fibers and synthetic coal-tar dyes.

In America, slaves crafted their own clothing on cotton plantations, the construction of the clothing were broken down into smaller segments making it easier and quicker to learn. Across America and Europe canals and roads were built, making sure that new fashion trends all corners of the nation.

Men sported some similarities to the Regency period- coats with broad shoulders, puffy sleeves, slim waists, curvy hips trousers for smart day wear and breeches for the country and in court. Men wore corsets/ girdles to show a shapely physique. Illustrations and cartoons regularly mocked these corseted “dandies” (a middle class man striving to imitate an aristocratic

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