As any lady of the 1860s knew, accessories were highly important in completing her outfit. The effect of a lovely dress could be ruined by soiled gloves or an untidy collar and cuffs. But a simple dress could become a lovely ensemble with the addition of clean, tidy and perfectly chosen accessories.

Godey's in 1860 warned women that, "In our days, dress as well as cookery, has become a science, as much as an art; even the minutiae of a lady’s dress, such as the purse, pocket-handkerchief, etc., are now objects of care and labor."

Consider this description in Godey's 1864 of a lady dressed for a ball. The dress is merely mentioned while the emphasis is on her beautiful accessories. "The rich dark hair was braided low on the neck, and touched her cheek as it swept back, and she had twisted in two pearl sprays which broke the glossy outline. Her dress, cut to show the round white arms and shoulders, was yet modestly high, and fitted her to perfection. It was of delicate blue silk, trimmed with soft white lace, and ornamented with the set of pearls which matched the sprays. From the delicate feather fan to the tiny satin slipper, every detail was finished and perfect, and her uncle smiled as he noted the pure gloves, soft handkerchief, and thought of his daisy and her boast of attention at rehearsals."

Accessories can be a great conversation-starter for a reenactress. Some accessories of the 1860s were similar to things we have today (hankies or aprons) but other accessories are unusual in today's society and bring up interesting discussions with the public (parasols and gloves). 

A reenactress who wishes to accurately portray the 1860s would do well to choose her accessories wisely. One or two perfect accessories will go far toward making a good impression a stunning impression!