There were many styles of the late nineteenth century that were restrictive. Because of the styles and construction of the garments the woman wearing them did not have full range of movement and, due to of this she could not and was in fact encouraged not to participate in many social activities. 
This restrictive nature demonstrated her social status to society. The clothing that she wore controlled how she interacted physically with the world, as the more restrictive her clothing were the less activities she could participate in. Because of the control her clothing had, the more confining her clothing was the higher up in society she stood.
The Sleeves
The sleeves of the dress were one of the major parts of a woman's bodice that restricted her. The sleeves were constructed using multiple pieces; these different parts of the sleeve contributed to the style of her dress, but also restricted her in a variety of ways. Although there were a variety of different sleeve styles that moved in and out of style, a tight, close fitting sleeve was popular for many years.
The sleeves were often so tight that there had to be a built in curve for room for the elbow, like in the blue summer dress from 1880-1885 [Figure 1]. There curve present gave the woman's elbow space to move, but she could not move her elbow more than the curve allowed, since the fabric did not have stretch to it. 

Sleeves would also vary in length; ranging from a quarter-length sleeve to a full-length sleeve through the 1860’s to 1900’s. Both of these lengths would terminate with a cuff that would be buttoned close to the wrist or arm. These two lengths are demonstrated with the 1898-1899 purple formal dress [Figure 2] and the black formal dress from 1875-1879 [Figure 3] . Although the purple dress has a more complicated sleeve, it is still tightly fitted and terminates at the wrist.
The other sleeve style was one that was looser but ended in an open bell shape at the wrist, which can be seen in the sheer white Dolly Varden dress from 1875 [Figure 4]. Although the bell sleeve style was less restrictive, it would get in her way while she works.
It would be obvious for anyone who saw her that a woman wearing dresses with such structured sleeves, did not have to do intense work nor use her arms for much more than knitting or writing letters.

Figure 4

The Armscye
Another part of the sleeve that restrained the wearer was the armscye and the shoulder section. The armscye refers to the hole that the arm goes into.The position of the armscye varied throughout the years but it was usually set high to help give the bodice the tight-fitting appearance that was stylish and proper. This meant that the sleeve was set high into the armpit and thus restricted a woman’s shoulder movements, making it difficult to raise her arms above her head. 
In addition to the armscye, the shoulder section of the sleeve that was above the area of the armscye was restrictive. The dropped shoulder is one example of this: it allowed little room for movement in the shoulder, since it sloped down. This little room forced her to keep her back straight and her shoulders back. This too restricted her arms and limited her motions in her shoulder area. It would not be easy to roll her shoulders nor raise her arm past a ninety-degree angle. 
The Neckline
Figure 6
Figure 6
High Necked Collar
High Necked Collar
The necklines of these bodices and dresses were not loose nor forgiving whether for the public or private sphere. They were often very high up at the neck or terminated at the base of the neck. The necklines were typically adorned with a collar of some sort. Low-cut bodices were not appropriate for daytime wear and a dress that did have a lower cut would often be accompanied by an additional piece of fabric that covered her chest and created a high neckline called a dickey.
It was common for dresses to button all the way up to a woman’s chin, making her movements in her neck limited. This can be seen in many dresses since they all either have stiff, highly placed collars or a very high neckline that buttons in the back of the neck to have a close fit. 
These high necklines can be seen in both home and public dresses, although it is common to see a more relaxed fit in the house dresses, since the woman had to have mobility in order to do her work. There are standing band collars and dresses like the Dolly Varden, that would be worn in public, that have a high neck line but lack a collar. In another case, the star work dress from 1880-1885 [Figure 6], which would not be appropriate for public wear, still had a large flat collar. Although the necklines varied, both dresses for the public and private were high-necked and conservative.

Dolly Varden

The Bodice
Figure 7
Figure 7
Bodices were another major piece of the outfit that were restrictive, although in comparison the other aspects of the outfit, like the sleeves, this is more obvious in clothing worn in public than private. 
The overall silhouette of the bodice was constructed by the undergarments, but the bodice itself was still closely fitted, which caused it to be restrictive. Especially dresses and bodices meant to be worn in public had boning both in the front and in the back, which made them tight-fitting throughout. However, it was not uncommon to see boning in house dresses as seen in the floral house dress from 1878-1880 [Figure 7]. 

But compared to the boning in the black dress from 1875-1879 [Figure 8], it is significantly less. The backs were often narrow, constructed with multiple strips of fabric to make the garment close fitting in the back This method of constructing the back of a garment was common for both house and public dresses. However, the major difference was that the dresses for the public were also fitted in the front with a waist band or darts and fitted to the curve of the back, while the house and work dresses were constructed to be looser in the front. This can be seen in the floral house dress with the help of a seaming technique called princess seams. The back of the dress is snug while the front is a little looser and more forgiving for the woman’s movements.
Figure 8
Figure 8
Generally, though most bodices were snug and were designed to be close to the body, to show off the shape that the undergarments created. Due to the tight fitting of the bodice and tight sleeves, a woman’s top was not very forgiving and although the true culprit of the restriction was the undergarments, the bodices were still not comfortable.​​​​​​​
The Skirt
The bodices were not the only part of the dress that was restrictive; the skirts also contributed to this confinement. Unlike the bodice, the skirts typically were not closely fitted to the body. Most of the restrictions created by skirts were at the fault of the underskirts, since they were what gave the skirt its dramatic shape. 
The skirt’s shape was also changing and with the advancement of technology, and the sewing machine in particular, the skirts were able to be more fitted around the hips with fewer pleats and less fabric. Some of the most restrictive parts of the skirt came in and out of style periodically between 1860 and 1900. 

1870 fashion plate

The train was one of these trends. Trains made traveling and navigating the world difficult, as the woman always had to know where her train was. Walking with a train was not an easy task; the woman had to make sure she was walking in a way that her train did not get in her way and stayed in the position that she wanted. Trains were a long burden that would often get dirty since they were constantly dragged on the ground. One writer said that “women should be paid by New York City for sweeping its streets every time they took a walk.”1 The trains were known to track dirt around and made walking difficult. However, the train was not the only type of skirt that caused problems.

The Hobble Skirt

The hobble skirt is another outer dress popular in the early 1880’s and moved in and out of style until about 1915. This style of skirt made navigating the world difficult for a woman. While these dresses did not have trains, they were tight all the way down the leg and prevented the woman from taking long strides. Although they were considered to be elegant, they were in no way practical.
The Corset
Corsets were the undergarment that most affected a woman’s movements. Corsets were first adopted by upper-class women as a means of displaying their ability to afford to avoid manual labor, but they were eventually adopted by all classes who wished to mimic the fashions of the upper class. Many women were afraid to go without corsets because it would make the appearance of the outer dress sloppy, but in the effort of trying to get the dress to be smooth and flat, they restrained their bodies from moving naturally.
A properly fitting corset was very important for the appearance of the outfit, as an ill-fitting corset will make the dress sit improperly. If a woman chose not to wear a corset, the dress would not fit perfectly since the bodices were made to fit a corseted body.
The tightness that a woman made her corset varied with the different style of dresses that came in and out of fashion. When the bustle went out of fashion, women no longer had the fullness make their waist look smaller in comparison to her backside, so instead women tightened the corset more severely. Tightly lacing a corset was a practice that limited a woman’s movements, since it made breathing and bending over difficult
The Petticoat
Although petticoats were not tightly fitted, they still caused women immobility. Women were expected to wear a massive amount of clothing. In fact every petticoat she wore  could contain approximately five to seven yards of fabric. These petticoats had multiple functions. They were used to add volume to a woman’s skirt and make it flare out in the desired shape. 

They were also used to hide the wire or cane that was used in the bustle or hoop skirt from making an impression on the outer layer. These many layers were additionally used to hide the woman’s body and make it appear that she was gliding rather than walking. Wearing so many layers made moving difficult and taxing.
The Bustle 
The bustle was another article of clothing that was not always in style, but while it was it made navigating the public sphere difficult. The bustle was created to emphasis the derrière and make the waist look smaller in comparison. However, this meant that the bustle were heavy and awkward to balance and keep in the correct position. The bustle was not easy to carry around and look elegant and graceful at the same time but women tried anyway.
These garments were important for a woman’s appearance since society during the nineteenth century valued display and wealth the most. The restriction that corsets and other garments accomplished showed society her status as her husband was rich enough the hire domestic help and she could afford to be idle. For maximum status gain a woman had to be of no practical use. These restrictive clothes made the woman into a luxury item, but all at a cost.
1 United States. National Park Service. Vicksburg National Military Park. Fashion Sense – Or 41 Sensible Fashion? Clothing in the 19th Century.
2 Johnson, Lacey. “The Evolution of Fashion: Clothing of Upper Class American Women from 42 1865 to 1920.” Master's thesis, Ouachita Baptist University, 2014. 6
3. United States. National Park Service. Vicksburg National Military Park. Fashion Sense – Or  Sensible Fashion? Clothing in the 19th Century. 
4. Schoeny, Marlise. "Reforming Fashion, 1850-1914: Politics, Health, and Art." Historic Costume & Textiles Collection. April 02, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019. 2000/04/14/reforming-fashion-1850-1914-politics-health-and-art/.
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