Everybody’s idea of Victorian fashion sense is one of formality and being prim and proper. But is this really true?

In this blog we investigate all about women’s fashion in Victorian times. Women still did not have the vote, and in society they had to know their place in a male dominated Victorian England. But this still did not deter dress designers at the time opting for an exaggerated look. Things often went to excess, such as gigantic hooped skirts with bustles that were quite fantastic, if not even absurd.

Society Driven Clothes

The tone of the day was one of propriety, and dress sense had to be respectable and definitely not show any female flesh. Dresses were made with lavish amounts of material and were expensive, and that is why most women could not afford many different outfits. A way to get more out of a dress was to use detachable collars and cuffs, this would help to change the appearance and get more life out of clothing. Of course, the more money you had meant that you could afford more dresses and use the dearest materials.

Early Fashions

The Victorian fashion era took over from the Romantic era, and the large Ginot-type sleeve was slimmed down, and the seam line was dropped so the shoulders were a little lower. Of course, under the dress’s corsets were worn by rich or poor.

The 1840’s saw added frills, and embellishments were made to skirts. The skirts also became hour-glass in shape, with layered petticoats worn underneath. Formal evening dresses exposed the shoulders a little more, and so corsets lost their shoulder straps. One fashion trend that carried on through almost the entire Victorian era were three quarter length sleeves, some including ruffles. Head-wear was usually in the form of a bonnet and these could be heavily decorated.

Hair & Make-Up

Most Victorian women liked to keep their hair long, and it was normally kept up high in a bun or a chignon. Ringlets were fashionable in the 1840’s, but this changed in the following two decades where the hair at the back was left long but the side hair was drawn up. Victorian women often wore hair pieces and extensions and were likely to decorate their hair with all sorts of adornments. These could include flowers, leaves and often ornamental small objects like beads and glass butterflies.

As such there was very little make-up actually used, the only real group of people that used make-up in earnest were people that worked in the theater. And even then, it was mostly the male actors who would be made-up more than the women actually were. In part two of our look into the fashions of Victorian women, we will take a look at one of the most important items of female attire that everybody used but hated, of course it was the Victorian Corset. This most uncomfortable of garments was almost obligatory, especially for society women.