The Victorian Era was one of the most beautiful eras in terms of fashion. The Victorian era was a period between 1837 to 1901 when Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Victorian-era fashion till date is admired all around the world. The fashion styles were differentiated and classified based on class, gender, wealth, position in society.
The clothing was sometimes even uncomfortable to wear, but it was still appealing to the eye because it was fashionable.
Fashion is not confined to a single form, and it is all about trying new fashion trends using new designs, new fabric materials, accessories, and colors.
The fashion in Britain kept changing with the eras. Each era had its own specialty, which marked it differently from the other eras.
The prominent fashion eras in Britain were namely the Victorian period, the Edwardian period or era, World War II, the Twenties, and the Sixties.
Mass production of sewing machines made many changes to Victorian-era fashion, and sewing became easier and less tiring.
Synthetic dyes were a new invention in that era, and they gave a variety of gorgeous colors to the outfits.
Victorian Era Fashion for Women
The beginning of Victorian-era fashion for women was all about long large dresses, hoop skirts, top hats like poke bonnets which complemented their dresses well.
Victorian fashion is given major focus whenever fashion history is studied, as much of today’s fashion has evolved from it.
The Victorian upper-class and middle-class women commonly wore a fancy dress, and the men wore an overcoat, trousers, hat, and a tie.
Surprisingly, there were vast differences in the fashion trends, which were only a few years apart; for instance, if a particular clothing trend was popular in the 1830s, there was a completely different trend in the 1850s.
Changes were seen in dressing gowns and patterns, fabrics, day dresses, undergarments, and hairstyles.
As the Victorian era witnessed the industrial revolution, the manufacturing of clothes became simpler. In fact, the industrial revolution was one of the major contributors to diversity in fashion.
Sewing machines made the production of complicated dresses easier. Synthetic dyes helped in creating more colors to make the outfits look gorgeous and colorful.
1830s fashion was all about super fancy dresses, more accessories, elegant gowns, and bonnets.
However, in the very next year, the fashion toned down, earthy colors became popular, minimal accessory looks were trending among the women. If you are into classic literature, you can relate the dresses from the 1840s to those shown in Jane Eyre, the novel, or the movie.
In the 1850s French-inspired fashion was everywhere, be it French laces with pearls or more flowers for decorations.
This was to portray women as more delicate and graceful.
Cage crinolines were introduced in 1856, and crinolines were petticoats to support the skirts.
The cage crinolines were manufactured from the spring steel wire, and they were also called a ‘ skeleton petticoat of steel springs.’ Other materials like whalebone, natural rubber were also used in their making.
Victorian women wore hoop skirts to make the gown look wider and bigger.
Again in 1856- 1860, there was a slight decline in loud fashion trends as earthy colors like brown, olive green, yellow, grey, black became popular.
In the 1870s, again, there was a peak in fashion as pastel colors were in trend, more decorations were made in the outfits by the designers, bodices got higher, crinolines bustles provided wide support at the back.
Bell-shaped sleeves were enormous in the 1870s.
During the 1880s, collar patterns changed, strict silhouette looks were popular, and in the 1890s, huge flowy sleeves were trending.
Different outfits were worn for different activities like day dresses, afternoon tea dresses, sportswear, evening gowns which also had variations based on where it is to be worn, for instance, if it is to be worn at a concert or opera or a ball.
Bare shoulder evening gowns were trendy for balls, and in fact, it seems that the off-shoulder tops, dresses of today’s time are somewhat inspired by the bare shoulder look from the Victorian period.
After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria began wearing black gowns.
Thus, gowns started being worn among the common people to express sorrow and grief.
Some Important Aspects of Victorian Era Fashion for Women
The corset was a part of the undergarments Victorian women wore. In fact, the corsets gained popularity among the masses after the Victorian era.
Initially, it was used as an undergarment only, but later on, on an occasional basis, women wore it as an outer garment.
Corsets caused many disorders in women, as they were very uncomfortable and excessively tight.
They constrained the movement and made one look stiff.
Later with the evolution in fashion, the super tightening corsets lost their shoulder straps. To focus and highlight the small waists of the ladies, boning corsets were used in long gowns.
The corsets’ function was to hold tightly on the waistline to emphasize the small waist of the female wearing it.
It also helped stop horizontal creasing. Although corsets successfully highlighted the waist, they had many adverse effects on women’s health due to the body’s tight lacing.
2. Victorian Hats
Hats also underwent an evolution during this time. Victorian women wore hats to complement their fashionable dresses and hairstyles; they had hats for every occasion, such as morning wear, riding, walking.
Victorian hats were made very beautifully; they were extremely appealing to the eye, with their different shapes, amazing decorations, and designs.
Bows, flowers, ribbons, feathers, and laces made the hats and bonnets more beautiful.
Victorian women wore bonnets during Queen Victoria’s accession; bonnets were a must-wear part of women’s clothing in the mid 19th century.
3. Victorian Hairstyles
Long hair was trendy in the Victorian era simply because it was considered more feminine.
Short hair was a sign of sickness, or it showed the lady had undergone treatment of some sort.
The lady’s maid did her hair in the Victorian period.
The 1870s had the most complicated and difficult-to-do hairstyles like Marcel wave, crimped updos, the Victorian mullet, and children’s sugar curls or barley curls.
However, the hairstyles were much simpler in the 1840-1860 period; at the end of the 1870s, bangs became popular.
Victorian Era Fashion for Men
Victorian-era fashion for men was not that unique, and it didn’t have the variety which women’s fashion had.
In the early years of the Victorian era, men wore stove-pipe pants. Men were supposed to wear formal clothes to display rigidity and discipline.
Men’s formal dress suits consisted of three garments, namely breeches, waistcoat, and coat. They could be made of fabrics like linen, silk, wool.
A suite of three identical pieces was known as a ditto suit.
The upper-middle-class men wore Dicken’s costume, including a top hat, double-breasted vest, tailcoat, and high waist with button-on suspenders.
Shoes were pointed and low-heeled. Accessories that the Victorian men carried reflected their social status, elegance, business, and dominance.
The frock coat was a part of Victorian men’s clothing worn through the 18th -20th centuries. It is a collared knee-length overcoat buttoned to the waist.
To conclude, the Victorian Era was definitely a turning point for all the fashion trends as it reflected the changing society now. The industrial revolution enabled Victorian Era fashion to take its form, making it very interesting and novel. Thus, we can still see the imprints of Victorian-era fashion on today’s trends and in shows and movies.
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