FASHION OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

There came a time in England, where men were no longer the objects of attention. A lady ascended the throne and ruled from 1837-1901. Her name was Queen Victoria. Power now lay in the hands of a woman and that completely changed the fashion trends of that era. It is now remembered as the Victorian era of fashion.

Queen Victoria

Fig 1: Queen Victoria I

It was a period in time well associated with ornamentation. Not only were the clothes very detailed but curtailed movement and also caused a dab of suffering here and there. During this time the industrial revolution took place. This led to a boost in the economy and led to the increased production of cloth. Not only did it become cheaper but also easily accessible. Hats off to the women I must say for all the several layers they had to wear. The Victorian era was all about focusing on the form of the body along with elaboration. To be precise, they had to first wear a drawer, followed by a slip, a corset, petticoat, camisole, a bustle which added to the form of the dress, the underskirt which flared from the knees and finally the skirt and a jacket. There was no one piece dress at that time, they were available in two pieces. Sleeves underwent a constant evolution during the Victorian Era. A variety of colours were available when it came to dresses ranging from soft pastel shades to darker colours. In those days darker colours were expensive to dye which often made it a status symbol affair.

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Fig 2: A Victorian gown

bustle

Fig 3: A bustle usually added to give fullness to shape

Men in this era primarily wore waistcoats, trousers, shirt and a Victorian coat. They were available in any combination of colour and garment one could think of. With the opening of the Silk Trade route in China, it became popular and was not so expensive. Even during day time, men would enjoy wearing a silk vest and would wear their coats buttoned only from the top. This would allow a bit of visibility of the silk vest worn underneath. Later over the years, wool and cotton vests became in sober shades became more common. Towards the 1950s, it was dominated by a frock coat which would be long enough till the knee. It was the commonly worn by men for all occasions. It was the beginning of the three-piece suit as we know of it today. Unlike today’s fashion, trousers were worn higher with the top of the trouser at the same length or below the navel. Belts did not exist at that time. Suspenders or braces made of leather were worn by the Victorian men instead. In those days there were attachable band collars and cuffs due to the unavailability of washing machines.  This was to give a neat appearance. They also carried walking sticks, pocket watches as some of the additional accessories.

frock coat

Fig 4: The Frock Coat of the Victorian Era

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Fig 5: top hat

As for the shoes, they started distinguishing the left from the right show. Boots became a unisex statement. Earlier only produced in leather, the focus shifted towards rubber. Initially it was an expensive accessory which was not affordable by all the sections of society. Gradually in the 19th C with the mass production of shoes the prices became affordable.

lace up boots

Fig 6: Laced boots

Another additional add-on to the accessories were hats. Mainly used to avoid sunrays and injuries they subsequently became fashion statements and a sign of authority. Hats worn by men and women were distinct. In many paintings of the Victorian era hats are often found to be worn by the ladies when outdoors. They were made from a range of fabrics such as cotton, velvet etc. One of the most well remembered hats of the 1850s was a leghorn straw with a wide brim dipped down at the back and slightly at the front. On formal days or special occasions, men would wear the tall silk hat. It was in fashion in the 1860s for racing parties. Slowly there was a shift from formal to informal hats. Men at that time also wore caps made of close knitted wool.

hat

Fig 7. Victorian Hats

Additional accessories included shawls, cloaks, and scarves. Gloves were widely worn by women as they looked very dainty and elegant. They also carried fans around at social events which were often made of silk and other expensive materials. Fur was also big in the Victorian era of Fashion. During this time women wanted to look delicate and dainty. High emphasis was placed on a pale complexion as it signified that the women came from a wealthy background and did not have to work. Looking oneself in dark and dim lit rooms was a popular practice. They would also apply rouge on their cheeks.

Fig 8 :Victorian bone horse head walking stick

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Fig 9: Makeup in the Victorian Days

Hairstyles during the Victorian era were very elaborate. They were out of fashion by the end of Queen Victoria’s rule. Women’s hair was given a lot of emphasis. A variety of hairstyles were introduced. Hair was often curled or braided, tied or pushed towards the back. Leaving one’s hair open in public was considered bad etiquettes. Hot irons were bring used to give their hair a wavy feel or to make ringlets.

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Fig 10: Hairstyle


References

1. Truly Victorian, n.d, What is the Victorian era?, http://trulyvictorian.com/history.htmlAccessed Nov 11, 2014

2. Victorianeracnr, 2011, Fashion, http://victorianeracnr.blogspot.in/2011/01/fashion.htmlAccessed Nov 11, 2014

3. Victorian Web, 2014, What Victorians wore: An overview of Victorian costume, http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/costume/index.html, Accessed Nov 11, 2014

Annexure

1. Figure 1, Daily Mail UK, 2011, Perfection down to tea: The Royal family private Faberge collection goes on display, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arts/article-2014615/Faberge-collection-Royals-goes-display-Buckingham-Palace.html, Accessed Nov 11, 2014

2.  Figure 2, Metropolitan Museum of art, 1860-1861, Dress, http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/107767?img=1Accessed Nov 11, 2014

3. Figure 3, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bustle, 1885, http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/157993, Accessed Nov 11, 2014

4. Figure 4, Bloglovin, n.d, OMG THAT DRESS, http://www.bloglovin.com/viewer?blog=2242994&post=2138746377, Accessed Nov 11, 2014

5. Figure 5, gdfalken, n.d, Dapper, http://www.gdfalksen.com/post/66729862862, Accessed Nov 21, 2014

6. Figure 6, LACMA, 1890, Pair of Women’s Boots, http://collections.lacma.org/node/170336, Accessed Nov 21, 2014

7. Figure 7, Etsy, n.d, Victorian/ Kentucky Derby/Bridal Designed by Loreli “Sweet Temptation”, https://www.etsy.com/listing/70263872/victorian-kentucky-derbybridal-designed?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=ShareAccessed Nov 21, 2014

8. Figure 8, Ebay, n.d, Victorian Bone Horse Head Walking Stick, https://wordpress.com/post/73465875/567, Accessed Nov 21, 2014

9. Figure 9, Flickr, n.d, Timeless beauties, https://www.flickr.com/photos/huntanpeck/galleries/72157625378773314/, Accessed Nov 21, 2014

10. Figure 10, Flickr, n.d, Mrs Thaw, https://www.flickr.com/photos/22702991@N02/5001500744/, Accessed Nov 21, 2014

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