Despite my absolute fashion stupidity, I'll try to point out a few main trends in adult fashions here. 1840's Women's fashions consisted of floor length dresses with bell-shaped skirts over many layers of thick petticoats, and very constrictive corset, giving a flattened and upward spreading bustline.
Sleeves tended to be narrow, the bodice long and tight, and almost always closing in the back.
Perhaps this section should be called "personal adornment" since it includes hair styles and jewelery in addition to clothing.
Anne Foster of the Sharlot Hall Museum suggested the book "Dressed for the Photographer" by Joan Severa as a good reference for this type of information.
With almost 600 pages in large 8.5 x 11 format, this tome is not light reading in any sense.
The material Severa presents is far too complex and detailed for me to include it all here, but I'll try to point out some of the more obvious stylistic changes through the years.
An elbow-length cape called a pelerine was often worn.
Ribbons around the neckline, and sometimes also the waistline, were 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide.
A gold watch and pencil was worn on a gold chain or black cord, though only the chain or cord is visible in most photographs.
For more detailed info, see the book -- if you can understand the fashion jargon! the long point and tapered scalloped bretelles of her bodice ..." or " ...
white undersleeves with frilled manchettes, ..." and "...
silk lace flounces under bands of ruching" I tend to get lost in it.
With the help of the glossary each word makes sense, but they are so unfamiliar that together they rush together into a jumble.