Form and Fashion

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The silhouette of women's dress evolved very quickly during the 19th century, and the period is notable for a wide range of different lines and shapes. It is usually possible to date a 19th-century garment or portrait to within five years, or even to a particular year, based solely on the style of the skirt, the sleeves or the bodice.

At the time - and this is true still today - residents of large cities like Montreal were highly fashion conscious, taking their cues from the latest international trends. The clothes they wore illustrate the most striking changes to mark the 19th-century silhouette and provide eloquent examples of the prevailing styles of the day.