The first decade of the 19th century was one of exploration. It was a time when we explored the world, thought, art, and personal freedoms in ways we hadn't before. Women's attire reflected that change, though to our eyes today it wouldn't seem so. Women's clothing had an unprecedented level of physical ease. The multiple layers of encumbrances that had hindered a woman's ability to move about in the world were mostly gone. The corset, though still in existence, was not an onerous device, only gently shaping where it had crushed before. Petticoats were light and simple; and the dresses themselves were made of lightweight fabrics that moved and flowed with the body, rather than hampering every step.
For the first time, the world of commerce was beginning to make its strength felt in all levels of society. Prior to this time men of business were always going to be looked down upon, but with the increasing international trade, and the always growing industrial revolution, which was changing everything about how we produced the goods we traded with, these men were becoming major figures, taken seriously at the highest levels of governance. As a consequent, their apparel reflected that seriousness, and their direction to duty and accomplishment.
Part of what is intriguing about the 19th century is that, as we move along the track, the disparity between how women and men express themselves through Attire becomes greater and greater. At the beginning of the century men and women seem to be of a common purpose and goal; their clothing reflecting an innate sense of responsibility to the world about them. As we progress through the century, and the Industrial Revolution combines with both English Imperialism, and American Entrepreneurship, men's clothing becomes ever more sedate and conservative, while women's clothing expresses ever higher levels of frivolity and silliness. Surely, you could say that women's clothing was confining, conservative and hidebound by conventions. All that is unavoidably true. What is also true is that women became living, walking repositories of physical wealth and sway. The clothing they wore was a strong, loud signal to the importance and social status of the men they were married to; and as such, it was incumbent upon them to express that as adroitly, and loudly as they could.