Tag Archives: garibaldi shirt

Fashion Moments – Garibaldi Shirt

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the Garibaldi Shirt.

Garibaldi Shirt

I have previously written about the shirtwaist. The ancestor of the versatile shirtwaist was the Garibaldi shirt which first appeared in women’s fashion around 1860 and was popular during the Civil War. The shirt takes it name from the Italian folk hero Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882). He fought for Italian independence from the Austrian Empire. His followers were known as “Redshirts” for the colorful red shirts which they wore as their uniform.

The Garibaldi shirt was often worn with the Zouave jacket but there are many examples of the shirt being worn alone. While the original Garibaldi shirts were red, they eventually were made in other colors, from light white and beige to solid blue and patterned calicoes. One of the advantages of the shirt was its simplicity and the ease of movement that it afforded. The shirts were made from a variety of fabrics from cotton muslin to merino wool. They could be very plain or decorated with pin tucks, ruffles and lace collars.

Godey’s Lady’s Magazine offered a selection of variations of the Garibaldi shirt, including one with a Zouave jacket for a young girl, in 1864.

While the Garibaldi shirt was fashionable, it was also practical. Sleeves could easily be rolled up when work needed to be done. When the work was done, the shirts were easier to launder and clean. The two girls in the photograph below (sisters Lucretia and Louisa Crossett) were texile workers. While their shirts are very plain, if you click to enlarge the photograph, you can see their delicate lace collars at their necklines.

Garibaldi Shirt #1

Further Reading

Basic history of Giuseppe Girabaldi and his Redshirts on wikipedia.

Julia Ditto Young, “The Rise of the Shirt Waist,” Good Housekeeping 34 (May 1902) : 354-357; Cornell University online library here

Article on the Garibaldi shirt from the Victoriana Magazine online.

The Barrington House has a wonderful collection of Civil War photographs on their website. There are several great examples of women wearing Garibaldi shirts. A good indication of whether a woman was wearing a shirt/skirt combination vs. a dress is the color. If the top is light, but the skirt is dark, it is likely a shirt. If both the top and skirt are the same color or patterned fabric, it’s a dress.


I strive to use only photographs and images on my website that are copyright free (public domain), and to provide the proper attrition to the original source. I often find great examples of fashion items but can not post them here. The most common reason (I don’t post a picture) is that I can not find the original source of an item that has already been posted on the web to sites like Pinterest.

Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute Fashion Plates, Women 1862, Plate 117.

Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute Fashion Plates, Women 1863, Plate 48.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Collection. Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett in identical skirts… Call no.: AMB/TIN no. 2112


Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine 68 (January 1864) : 81; and, Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine 68 (June 1864) : 565; Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org).

© 2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/09/13/fashion-moments-garibaldi-shirt/