VICTORIAN FASHION comprises the various fashions and trends in
British culture that emerged and developed in the United Kingdom and
* 1 Women\'s Fashions
* 2 1830s
* 12 Mourning black
* 12.1 Norms for mourning
* 13 Technological advancement * 14 Home décor
* 15 Contemporary stereotypes
* 15.1 Victorian prudishness
* 16 Gallery
* 17 See also
* 17.1 Time periods * 17.2 Women\'s clothing * 17.3 Contemporary interpretations
* 18 References * 19 Further reading * 20 External links
Clothes were seen as an expression of women’s place in society and
were hence, differentiated in terms of social class . Upper class
women , who did not need to work, often wore a tightly laced corset
over a bodice or chemisette , and paired them with a skirt adorned
with numerous embroideries and trims ; over layers of petticoats .
Middle class women exhibited similar dress styles; however, the
decorations were not as extravagant. The layering of these garments
make them very heavy.
NECK-LINE Bertha is the low shoulder neck-line worn by women during
SLEEVES Sleeves were tightly fit during the early
SILHOUETTE Silhouette changed over time supported by the evolution of the undergarment. In earlier days, wide skirts were supported by fabrics like linen which used horsehair in the weave. Crinolines were used to give skirts a beehive shape, with at least six layers petticoats worn under the skirt, which could weigh as much as fourteen pounds. Later, the cage crinoline was developed. Women were freed from the heavy petticoats, and were able to move their legs freely beneath the cage. Silhouette later began to emphasise a slope toward the back of the skirt. Polonaise style was introduced where fullness bunched up at the back of the skirt. Crinolines and cages also started to disappear with it being more dangerous to working class women. Tournures or bustles were developed.
1830S DRESS STYLE
During the start of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, the ideal shape of the Victorian woman was a long slim torso emphasised by wide hips. To achieve a low and slim waist, corsets were tightly laced and extended over the abdomen and down towards the hips. A chemise was commonly worn under the corset, and cut relatively low in order to prevent exposure. Over the corset, was the tight-fitting bodice featuring a low waistline. Along with the bodice was a long skirt, featuring layers of horsehair petticoats worn underneath to create fullness; while placing emphasis on the small waist. To contrast the narrow waist, low and straight necklines were thus used.
1840S DRESS STYLE
In the 1840s, collapsed sleeves, low necklines, elongated V-shaped bodices, and fuller skirts characterised the dress styles of women.
At the start of the decade, the sides of bodices stopped at the natural waistline, and met at a point in the front. In accordance with the heavily boned corset and seam lines on the bodice as well, the popular low and narrow waist was thus accentuated.
Sleeves of bodices were tight at the top, due the Mancheron, but expanded around the area between the elbow and before the wrist. It was also initially placed below the shoulder, however; this restricted the movements of the arm.
As a result, the middle of the decade saw sleeves flaring out from the elbow into a funnel shape; requiring undersleeves to be worn in order to cover the lower arms.
Skirts lengthened, while widths increased due to the introduction of the horsehair crinoline in 1847; becoming a status symbol of wealth.
Extra layers of flounces and petticoats, also further emphasised the fullness of these wide skirts. In compliance with the narrow waist though, skirts were therefore attached to bodice using very tight organ pleats secured at each fold. This served as a decorative element for a relatively plain skirt. The 1840s style was perceived as conservative and "Gothic" compared to the flamboyance of the 1830s.
1850S DRESS STYLE
1850s Dress. The Princesse de Broglie , 1851-53 1856 Cage Crinoline.
A similar silhouette remained in the 1850s, while certain elements of garments changed.
Necklines of day dresses dropped even lower into a V-shape, causing a need to cover the bust area with a chemisette. In contrast, evening dresses featured a Bertha , which completely exposed the shoulder area instead. Bodices began to extend over the hips, while the sleeves opened further and increased in fullness. The volume and width of the skirt continued to increase, especially during 1853, when rows of flounces were added.
Nevertheless, in 1856, skirts expanded even further; creating a dome shape, due to the invention of the first artificial cage crinoline . The purpose of the crinoline was to create an artificial hourglass silhouette by accentuating the hips, and fashioning an illusion of a small waist; along with the corset. The cage crinoline was constructed by joining thin metal strips together to form a circular structure that could solely support the large width of the skirt. This was made possible by technology which allowed iron to be turned into steel, which could then be drawn into fine wires. Although often ridiculed by journalists and cartoonists of the time as the crinoline swelled in size, this innovation freed women from the heavy weight of petticoats and was a much more hygienic option.
Meanwhile the invention of synthetic dyes added new colours to garments and women experimented with gaudy and bright colours. Technological innovation of 1860s provided women with freedom and choices.
1860S DRESS STYLE
1860s Cage Crinoline. 1860s
During the early and middle 1860s, crinolines began decreasing in
size at the top, while retaining their amplitude at the bottom.
Contrariwise, the shape of the crinoline became flatter in the front
and more voluminous behind, as it moved towards the back since skirts
consisted of trains now. Bodices on the other hand, ended at the
natural waistline, had wide pagoda sleeves, and included high
necklines and collars for day dresses; low necklines for evening
dresses. However, in 1868, the female silhouette had slimmed down as
the crinoline was replaced by the bustle, and the supporting flounce
overtook the role of determining the silhouette.
1870S DRESS STYLE
The trend for broad skirts slowly disappeared during the 1870s, as women started to prefer an even slimmer silhouette. Bodices remained at the natural waistline, necklines varied, while sleeves began under the shoulder line. An overskirt was commonly worn over the bodice, and secured into a large bow behind. Over time though, the overskirt shortened into a detached basque , resulting in an elongation of the bodice over the hips. As the bodices grew longer in 1873, the polonaise was thus introduced into the Victorian dress styles. A polonaise is a garment featuring both an overskirt and bodice together. The tournure was also introduced, and along with the polonaise, it created an illusion of an exaggerated rear end.
By 1874, skirts began to taper in the front and were adorned with trimmings, while sleeves tightened around the wrist area. Towards 1875 to 1876, bodices featured long but even tighter laced waists, and converged at a sharp point in front. Bustles lengthened and slipped even lower, causing the fullness of the skirt to further diminish. Extra fabric was gathered together behind in pleats, thus creating a narrower but longer tiered, draped train too. Due to the longer trains, petticoats had to be worn underneath in order to keep the dress clean.
However, when 1877 approached, dresses moulded to fit the figure, as increasing slimmer silhouettes were favoured. This was allowed by the invention of the cuirass bodice which functions like a corset, but extends downwards to the hips and upper thighs. Although dress styles took on a more natural form, the narrowness of the skirt limited the wearer in regards to walking.
1880S DRESS STYLE
The early 1880s was a period of stylistic confusion. On one hand,
there is the over-ornamented silhouette with contrasting texture and
frivolous accessories. On the other hand, the growing popularity of
tailoring gave rise to an alternative, severe style. Some credited
the change in silhouette to the
Victorian dress reform , which
consisted of a few movements including the Aesthetic
The bustle made a re-appearance in 1883, and it featured a further exaggerated horizontal protrusion at the back. Due to the additional fullness, drapery moved towards the sides or front panel of the skirt instead. Any drapery at the back was lifted up into poufs. Bodices on the other hand, shortened and ended above the hips. Yet the style remained tailored, but was more structured.
However, by 1886, the silhouette transformed back to a slimmer figure again. Sleeves of bodices were thinner and tighter, while necklines became higher again. Furthermore, an even further tailored-look began to develop until it improved in the 1890s.
1890S DRESS STYLE
By 1890, the crinoline and bustle was fully abandoned, and skirts flared away naturally from the wearer’s tiny waist. It evolved into a bell shape, and were made to fit tighter around the hip area. Necklines were high, while sleeves of bodices initially peaked at the shoulders, but increased in size during 1894. Although the large sleeves required cushions to secure them in place, it narrowed down towards the end of the decade. Women thus adopted the style of the tailored jacket, which improved their posture and confidence, while reflecting the standards of early female liberation.
Hats (and gloves) were crucial to a respectable appearance for both men and women. To go bareheaded was simply not proper. The top hat, for example, was standard formal wear for upper- and middle-class men. For women, the styles of hats changed over time and were designed to match their outfits.
During the early Victorian decades, voluminous skirts held up with
crinolines , and then hoop skirts , were the focal point of the
silhouette. To enhance the style without distracting from it, hats
were modest in size and design, straw and fabric bonnets being the
popular choice. Poke bonnets , which had been worn during the late
The silhouette changed once again as the
The women's shoes of the early Victorian period were narrow and heelless, in black or white satin. By 1850s and 1860s, they were slightly broader with a low heel and made of leather or cloth. Ankle-length laced or buttoned boots were also popular. From the 1870s to the twentieth century, heels grew higher and toes more pointed. Low-cut pumps were worn for the evening.
Main article: Menswear Drawing of Victorian men 1870s
During the 1840s , men wore tight-fitting, calf length frock coats
and a waistcoat or vest. The vests were single- or double-breasted,
with shawl or notched collars, and might be finished in double points
at the lowered waist. For more formal occasions, a cutaway morning
coat was worn with light trousers during the daytime, and a dark tail
coat and trousers was worn in the evening. The shirts were made of
linen or cotton with low collars, occasionally turned down, and were
worn with wide cravats or neck ties.
During the 1850s , men started wearing shirts with high upstanding or turnover collars and four-in-hand neckties tied in a bow, or tied in a knot with the pointed ends sticking out like "wings". The upper-class continued to wear top hats, and bowler hats were worn by the working class.
In the 1860s , men started wearing wider neckties that were tied in a bow or looped into a loose knot and fastened with a stickpin. Frock coats were shortened to knee-length and were worn for business, while the mid-thigh length sack coat slowly displaced the frock coat for less-formal occasions. Top hats briefly became the very tall "stovepipe" shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular.
During the 1870s , three-piece suits grew in popularity along with patterned fabrics for shirts. Neckties were the four-in-hand and, later, the Ascot ties . A narrow ribbon tie was an alternative for tropical climates, especially in the Americas. Both frock coats and sack coats became shorter. Flat straw boaters were worn when boating.
During the 1880s , formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers with a dark waistcoat, a white bow tie, and a shirt with a winged collar. In mid-decade, the dinner jacket or tuxedo , was used in more relaxed formal occasions. The Norfolk jacket and tweed or woolen breeches were used for rugged outdoor pursuits such as shooting. Knee-length topcoats, often with contrasting velvet or fur collars, and calf-length overcoats were worn in winter. Men's shoes had higher heels and a narrow toe.
Starting from the 1890s , the blazer was introduced, and was worn for sports, sailing, and other casual activities.
Throughout much of the
Distinguishing what men really wore from what was marketed to them in periodicals and advertisements is problematic, as reliable records do not exist.
Victoria's five daughters (Alice, Helena, Beatrice, Victoria and Louise), photographed wearing mourning black beneath a bust of their late father, Prince Albert (1862).
In Britain, black is the colour traditionally associated with
mourning for the dead. The customs and etiquette expected of men, and
especially women, were rigid during much of the Victorian era. The
expectations depended on a complex hierarchy of close or distant
relationship with the deceased. The closer the relationship, the
longer the mourning period and the wearing of black. The wearing of
full black was known as First Mourning, which had its own expected
attire, including fabrics, and an expected duration of 4 to 18 months.
Following the initial period of First Mourning, the mourner would
progress to Second Mourning, a transition period of wearing less
black, which was followed by Ordinary Mourning, and then
Half-mourning. Some of these stages of mourning were shortened or
skipped completely if the mourner's relationship to the deceased was
more distant. Half-mourning was a transition period when black was
replaced by acceptable colours such as lavender and mauve, possibly
considered acceptable transition colours because of the tradition of
Church of England
NORMS FOR MOURNING
Manners and Rules of Good Society, or, Solecisms to be Avoided (London, Frederick Warne bombazine fabric covered with crepe ; widow\'s cap , lawn cuffs , collars 6 months: less crepe 6 months: no crepe, silk or wool replaces bombazine; in last 3 months jet jewellery and ribbons can be added 6 months: colours permitted are grey, lavender, mauve, and black-and-grey
Daughter for parent 6 months: black with black or white crepe (for young girls); no linen cuffs and collars; no jewellery for first 2 months 4 months: less crepe – 2 months as above
Wife for husband's parents 18 months in black bombazine with crepe – 3 months in black 3 months as above
Parent for son- or daughter-in-law's parent – Black armband in representation of someone lost – 1-month black –
Second wife for parent of a first wife – – 3 months black –
The complexity of these etiquette rules extends to specific mourning
periods and attire for siblings, step-parents, aunts and uncles
distinguished by blood and by marriage, nieces, nephews, first and
second cousins, children, infants, and "connections" (who were
entitled to ordinary mourning for a period of "1–3 weeks, depending
on level of intimacy"). Men were expected to wear mourning black to a
lesser extent than women, and for a shorter mourning period. After the
mid-19th century, men would wear a black hatband and black suit, but
for only half the prescribed period of mourning expected of women.
Widowers were expected to mourn for a mere three months, whereas the
proper mourning period expected for widows was up to four years.
Women who mourned in black for longer periods were accorded great
respect in public for their devotion to the departed, the most
prominent example being
Women with lesser financial means tried to keep up with the example being set by the middle and upper classes by dyeing their daily dress. Dyers made most of their income during the Victorian period by dyeing clothes black for mourning.
Technological advancements not only influenced the economy but
brought a major change in the fashion styles worn by men and women. As
Charles Fredrick Worth, a prominent English designer, became popular
amongst the upper class though its city of destiny always is Paris.
Haute couture became popular at the same time when sewing machines
were invented. Hand sewn techniques arose and were a distinction in
compared to the old ways of tailoring. Princess Eugenie of France wore
the Englishman dressmaker, Charles Fredrick Worth's couture and he
instantly became famous in France though he had just arrived in Paris
a few years ago. In 1855
By 1860's when Europe was all about made to fit tailoring crinolines were considered impractical. In 1870's women preferred more slimmer silhouette hence bodices grew longer and polonaise was introduced that was a skirt and bodice made together. In 1870s there was a invention of Ciurass Bodice that is a piece of armour that covers the torso and functions like a corset. Towards the end of Victorian reign dresses were flared naturally as crinolines were rejected by middle class women and designers such as Charles Fredrick Worth were also against it. All these inventions and changes in fashion led to women liberation as tailored looks improved posture and were more practical.
Victorian decorative arts
Home decor started spare, veered into the elaborately draped and
decorated style we today regard as Victorian, then embraced the
Main article: Victorian morality
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"The proper length for little girls' skirts at various ages", from Harper\'s Bazaar , showing a 1900 idea of how the hemline should descend towards the ankle as a girl got older
Men's clothing is seen as formal and stiff, women's as elaborate and over-done. Clothing covered the entire body, we are told, and even the glimpse of an ankle was scandalous. Critics contend that corsets constricted women's bodies and women's lives. Homes are described as gloomy, dark, cluttered with massive and over-ornate furniture and proliferating bric-a-brac . Myth has it that even piano legs were scandalous, and covered with tiny pantalettes .
Of course, much of this is untrue, or a gross exaggeration. Men's
formal clothing may have been less colourful than it was in the
previous century, but brilliant waistcoats and cummerbunds provided a
touch of color, and smoking jackets and dressing gowns were often of
rich Oriental brocades . This phenomenon was the result of the growing
textile manufacturing sector, developing mass production processes,
and increasing attempts to market fashion to men.
Home furnishing was not necessarily ornate or overstuffed. However, those who could afford lavish draperies and expensive ornaments, and wanted to display their wealth, would often do so. Since the Victorian era was one of increased social mobility, there were ever more nouveaux riches making a rich show.
The items used in decoration may also have been darker and heavier than those used today, simply as a matter of practicality. London was noisy and its air was full of soot from countless coal fires. Hence those who could afford it draped their windows in heavy, sound-muffling curtains, and chose colours that didn't show soot quickly. When all washing was done by hand, curtains were not washed as frequently as they might be today.
There is no actual evidence that piano legs were considered
scandalous. Pianos and tables were often draped with shawls or
cloths—but if the shawls hid anything, it was the cheapness of the
furniture. There are references to lower-middle-class families
covering up their pine tables rather than show that they couldn't
afford mahogany . The piano leg story seems to have originated in the
1839 book, A Diary in America written by Captain
Victorian manners, however, may have been as strict as imagined—on the surface. One simply did not speak publicly about sex, childbirth, and such matters, at least in the respectable middle and upper classes. However, as is well known, discretion covered a multitude of sins. Prostitution flourished. Upper-class men and women indulged in adulterous liaisons.
A mid-Victorian interior: Hide and Seek by
William Powell Frith
Day dress, c. 1875
Whistler 's Portrait of Lady Meux , 1882 *
Renoir 's portrait of
Portrait by Alexander Melville of
Men's swimwear: Cartoon from Punch by George du Maurier
Victorian dress reform
* Women in the
* ^ A B C D E F Breward, Christopher (1995). The Culture of
Fashion. Manchester University Press. pp. 145–180.
* ^ "Gender roles in the 19th century". The British Library.
* ^ A B C D E F G Steele, Valerie (1985). Victorian Fashion.
* ^ Aspelund, Karl. Fashioning Society. Fairchild Books. * ^ Martin, Richard; Koda, Harold. Haute Couture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. * ^ Saillard, Olivier; Zazzo, Anne. Paris Haute Couture. Skira Flammarion. * ^ Martin, Richard; Koda, Harold. Haute Couture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. * ^ Gernsheim, Alison (1981). Victorian & Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey (New ed.). New York: Dover Publications. p. 65. ISBN 0-486-24205-6 .
* Phipps, Elena; et al. (1988). From Queen to Empress: Victorian dress 1837-1877. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870995340 . * Sweet, Matthew – Inventing the Victorians, St. Martin's Press, 2001 ISBN 0-312-28326-1
* Victorian Fashion * Mostly-Victorian.com –