The Crimean War and fashion

7th Earl of Cardigan

7th Earl of Cardigan

Waist length Eisenhower jackets and pull-on Wellington boots are probably the two best known war-related fashions from history, but one of the most influential wars upon fashion was the Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) Fought mostly on the Black Sea’s Crimean Peninsula, giving the war its name, the conflict was fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, with an alliance of Britain, France, and Sardinia helping the Ottomans. The war is most often remembered as the origin of modern nursing, because of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole’s pioneering care for wounded British soldiers. The reason why nurse’s caps first obtained a black ribbon band was to mourn Nightingale’s death in 1910.

Balaclava aka Templar's Cap

Balaclava aka Templar’s Cap

From a fashion perspective, the Crimean war gave us the words Cardigan, named after the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell (1797 – 1868) who distinguished himself while wearing a cardigan style (front button, waist length) wool jacket when he lead the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava 1854. Which brings us the Balaclava – a knitted hood worn in cold weather, originally called a Templar cap during the Crimean War, the style was renamed Balaclava in 1861 to honour the October 1854 battle.

Raglan sleeve sweatshirt

Raglan sleeve sweatshirt

Like the Earl of Cardigan, Fitzroy James Henry Somerset (1788-1855), aka Lord Raglan, gave his name to an overcoat with sleeves extending to the collar. Lord Raglan had lost his right arm during the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and his tailor invented this cut for comfort and ease of dressing. It was only after Lord Raglans death in the Crimea in 1855 that the Raglan sleeve gained popularity for country and sports-wear. The first use of the word ‘Raglan sleeve’ in the English language dates to 1864. The style is most commonly found today in sweatshirts.

2 thoughts on “The Crimean War and fashion

  1. Hello Jonathan,
    I’m an assistant professor of material culture/history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and author of From Goodwill to Grunge: a History of Secondhand Styles and Alternative Economies. I’m writing a piece for on the history of the cardigan, and wanted to quote some of your material from this blog entry, The Crimean War and fashion. Would you be willing and able to chat with me sometime about it?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.