Friday, January 9, 2009
A Victorian Fashion Show
In the early years of the nineteenth century, women’s fashion was influenced by the classical simplicity of Greece, a style embraced by Napoleon’s wife Josephine. However, by the end of the 1820’s women shifted back to romanticism. Skirts were belled out by undergarments, shortened sleeves increased in bulk, and hair was curled into ringlets. The simple, classical gown was replaced with myriad bows, ribbons, tucks, and decorative buttons. Clothes were now made of stiff pastel colored fabric, not soft muslin.
In the mid 1830’s the crinoline was introduced to make ladies’ skirts stand out. It was made of horsehair and linen and shaped and wired to make the skirts as big as possible. Women also wore small, tipped-forward hats. Unfortunately, this style was constrictive and artificial.
During this time period each time of day and each occupation necessitated a complete change of clothes. The first separate blouse and skirt combinations were introduced to simplify things somewhat. Fabrics were the same stiff textured cloth of the earlier decade with cotton for summer wear. Daytime colors were brown, rust, gray, and green as well as Scottish plaids. Pale pastels were used for evening wear.
Lace mitts, parasols, and pouch bags with wooden handles were carried by every fashionable lady. Hair was neatly parted and drawn back into snoods. If you wore them for evening wear they had to be ornamented.
During the 1870’s and 1880’s extreme circular skirts were abandoned in favor of full skirts pulled to the rear and supported by a wire cage, the forerunner of the bustle. Corsets were looser, but emphasis was still on the bust. Style innovations included the high collar, long, tight sleeves which eventually morphed into leg-o’-mutton sleeves. Lace jabots and edgings were used at the neck.
As the century wore on costumes were developed for leisure time activities such as croquet.
It might be pointed out that common people and wealthy people didn’t wear the same types of clothes. Those of the common people were far plainer and simpler. They had to be; the common people had to work.
I recommend that you go to http://locutus.ucr.edu/~cathy/weev.html and look at Victorian fashion decade by decade. My information for this article came from What People Wore by Douglas Gorsline.
What do you think, readers? Would you have liked to be a Victorian? Not me. I look awful in hats, and I’d rather die than wear a corset. I couldn’t bear the heat in the summer either. All those layers! And have you ever seen a picture of a real puffed horsehair crinoline? Yuck.