Characteristics of Victorian Fashion
Victorian fashion became popular during the reign of the young Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom and the British empire from the 1830’s to the very early years of the 1900’s. During these years, Victorian society was very much bound with social ritual and many codes of etiquette. There were so many rules on women’s clothing that the era was also known for its restrictions on the freedom of women. The wives’ roles in society when it came to dressing was to show off their husbands’ status and wealth – thus the elaborate and exaggerated dresses and accessories.
Here are some of the pieces and looks of the Victorian era that were a must in every woman’s wardrobe:
The main philosophy of Victorian fashion was exaggeration. Because there were so many layers of clothing, the waist had to be emphasized to bring out the hourglass figure that was the focal point of fashion at the time. Women had to wear whalebone corsets, with some having wood or steel to add more structure to the undergarment. This was very controversial as many women at the time suffered from fainting spells due to the tightness that constricted women’s bodies, coupled with the heaviness of the dress and the inner garments.
The Hoop Skirt
Because the key silhouette was the hourglass figure, the small waist was always paired with the very full skirt – only achieved by the metal or whalebone hoop. The bigger the skirt the better, and along with the tightness of the corset and the weight of the materials of the hoop, women’s movement were very limited – supplementing the restrictions placed upon by society on women at the time. In the late 1800’s though, the hoop skirt was replaced by the bustle, with a skirt that had a narrow silhouette.
Women during the Victorian era never went out without a hat, bonnet, or adornment on the head. Feathers, flowers, pins, and embellishments were often seen on women, as during the time, any respectable woman never appeared in public bareheaded. Gloves, fans, and parasols were also very popular during the decade.
The Make up
Make up wasn’t popular during the era as only actors were known to wear them. The look of gentility was much favored as the trend in women was the fragile lady look. Looking pale was highly fashionable as it denoted an upper class status – someone who did not work in the country. Thus, hats and parasols were used to protect the skin from the sun, as well as thick and heavy velvet curtains inside the houses.
The Victorian era in fashion was when haute couture was born – the invention of the sewing machine made it possible for many details and embellishments to be added to the dresses. However, many controversies surrounding women’s dressing engulf the era, as it restricted women’s basic rights and freedom. However, the silhouettes and details of Victorian fashion are still alive today- as seen in many wedding and haute couture gowns. Small details such as lace, heirloom styling, and fine fabrics on casual clothes are also influenced by Victorian fashion.
Author Kristinsson Magz