Victorian Fashion and Its Influence
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
All Images by Kathryn Houghton
The Victorian Era spanned from 1819 to 1901 and saw many changes during its time, including fashion advancements. However, styles that defined the time didn’t come into play until 1837. Victorian fashion was the epitome of class and sophistication. It paid great attention to detail and believed appearance was everything.
There was also the introduction to synthetic dyes which led to wild vibrant colors. Not only this, but ornamental fashion led to more lace, ruffles, and draping. Oftentimes, the more material used for an outfit, the more money you were worth.
Men’s fashion during this time often consisted of waistcoats, smoking coats, trousers, cummerbunds, and shirts and ties.
They kept neutral colors at all times, having sophistication be the goal. They were seemingly always stiff and formal. Blazers were also hugely popular, as were three-piece suits. Accessories would usually be limited to a top hat. As far as shoes go, they often wore low heeled boots.
The corsets and undergarments usually consisted of whalebone to give the dresses their desired shape. The structure of corsets and bustles changed almost every 10 years.
The top. called a bodice, would often connect to the skirt with lacing or hooks. The sleeves and waistline often changed throughout this era, and to go through each one would make a very long article.
To complement their dresses, the Victorians would wear pointed shoes along with broaches, necklaces, and bracelets. Shawls and parasols, along with gloves and bonnets, would complete the look of a Victorian woman.
Gender roles became more defined in this era, and women would often give up work entirely if at all possible. Industrial work wasn’t in such a high demand anymore, so style and dress became less utilitarian. However, this was defined by class. Usually, lower-class women couldn’t afford to have such femininity.
The lower class generally couldn’t show as much skin as the middle and upper class. For example, the Bertha neckline, which is an off the shoulder style of dress that would expose the neck and shoulders, would often be worn by the rich.
As far as hairstyles went, it was usually worn up in a bun or with ringlet curls on each side, pinned up in some fashion. Hair extensions were immensely popular, as was putting flowers and leaves in your hair.
Ultimately, this period was a time for experimentation. Although it was ruled by a higher society and known as distinguished, they came up with some really wild trends. The era is known by many as an enlightenment period. Maybe we can learn from their ways of constant changes.
Don’t let current trends deter you from your own ideas. Fashion comes and goes and can mean many things, but the style is forever. Wear whatever you want and do it with confidence; maybe you’ll make the history books one day. Or maybe you’ll be the next trendsetter. After all, who knows what these Victorian women were thinking when they came up with their hoop skirts or new bustles.
Wikipedia, "Victorian Fashion" - August, 2020 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_fashion
Vintage Dancer, "Victorian Fashion 1840s to 1890" - June 19, 2018 https://vintagedancer.com/victorian/victorian-fashion-hisory/
Fashion Lady, "Victorian Era Fashion: Historic Clothing" - December 6, 2016 https://www.fashionlady.in/victorian-era-fashion/855