Victorian Fashion; Jul 23, 2009 0:53:21 GMT -5
Post by Admin on Jul 23, 2009 0:53:21 GMT -5
The incredible dresses of the Victorian era are as instantly recognizable as the Japanese kimono and the Indian sari. The elaborate sleeves and the layered fabric of the skirts haunt the dreams of any clothing fanatic (Jackson concurs)
Everyday Clothing + Accessories
Much like the fashion of today, fashion in the Victorian era concentrated on appearance over functionality. Clothing was a symbol of status, and much like today, your clothing was a sure indicator of your class. Unfashionable: dirt poor and disrespected. Fashionable: rich.
As seen in the above picture, the basic [everyday] Victorian dress was composed of a few separate layers. There was the under-layer of the dress which was usually very simple, and then a layer of stylized (in this case, ruffled) fabric, and then a coat overtop.
Women at this stage wore corsets [groan] to give a sleeker shape to their figure, though they were much less...er, dangerous than in previous eras.
Modesty was a very important part of these dresses. According to rules of clothing-related modesty, a women's legs shouldn't be seen and her arms should be covered. Of course, at fancy balls and during the summer the latter rule was usually exempt. Functionality gets three points!
Hats were also common, and usually were very elaborate and complicated with lots of feathers and silk flowers and ribbons. Hats were very important for a full outfit and absolutely had to coordinate with everything else [also. In every movie based in the VE that I saw, EVERYONE wore a hat, no matter what class they were in. Weird.]
And, of course, gloves were important; for both women and men. Gloves kept your hands soft, and added a certain elegance to your general visage. Outdoor shoes were usually chunky and laced-up, and hidden beneath layers of fabric. Dancing/indoor shoes were much lighter and comfortable.
Off to the Dance!
Completely on the other end of the fashion scale were the party and ballroom dresses of Victorian women.
Simple, yet elegant in this fashion, and very functional. A perfect reprieve from tight corsets and suffocating fabrics. Most gowns were sleeveless, with a boatneck collar. Colors were often soft, such as yellow or white with various embroidery or patterns.
The shape of the dress was simple, but flowy; a dancing dress. An important feature was the lack of bustle (a feature common in everyday dresses).
Ah, people and hair. One devotes lifelong affection to the other and in return, it becomes beautiful and shiny.
For women, hairstyling was often a dreaded, hours-long exercise. It was always pulled up in some fashion, and ringlets were very popular through most of the century. Pulling up the hair made the neck and shoulders appear feminine and graceful, which was what everyone was aiming for.
This site provides a visual experience.
It was nowhere NEAR the dreaded horror of the 'Antoinette' up-do's [they weaved clocks into her hair for Christ's sake!] and certainly many Victorian women shuddered in horror at what the French had done to fashion.
Here's an interesting chapter that many fashion mavens seem to glance over. While many people's eyes are instantly drawn to the incredible dresses and hats of the women, we often shut out the masculine aspect of Victorian fashion.
Much like the lady's fashions, men's clothing was also composed of many different layers. In the same way, the style of a male Victorian's clothing is instantly recognizable.
In the Victorian era, daily dress was much more formal than it is today. Unless they were a workman or laborer, every gentleman was expected to wear a coat, vest, and hat. To walk around in shirtsleeves without vest or coat would be the modern-day equivalent of traipsing about in one’s underwear. Very unseemly, and most ungentlemanly!
Now, let us discuss the layers of a man's outfit.
1) First, we start with a basic shirt. Like this one: CLICK! Most shirts worn in England were white, but sometimes other colors were also used. Also, since washing machines were not available clothing was washed much more infrequently than today. As a result men wore band collar shirts and for dress occasions added a separate collar and cuff. Also, some shirts had a removable bib front, which was reversible to allow a man to hide any unsightly stains. This allowed them to keep a neat appearance without requiring the entire shirt to be laundered. [also: a plain undershirt was worn underneath this shirt]
2) Next was the waistcoat (vest), which was the centerpiece of any outfit. Usually they featured bright colors, to offset the somber tone of the rest of the outfit.
3) Trousers was the term used instead of 'pants' by the British (it sounds cooler too...). Victorian men wore their pants higher with the top of the trouser at or just below the navel. Belts were not used; usually suspenders or braces were employed for this purpose. They were generally plain, and sometimes features a simple striped patterns, though they were usually a solid color.
4) Aaa~and of course: the coat. These are pretty much recognizable. Coats came in all colors, though they were usually plain shades such as blue, gray, black, or tan. The second half of the nineteenth century was dominated by the frock coat – a man’s coat with full skirt both front and back that reached just above the knee. It was common for both day and evening wear through the 1880’s, making it the most versatile coat of the Victorian wardrobe. Tailcoats – coats with a knee length skirt in the back contrasted with a short front - were popular for most of the century, often used for parties and formal events. Like today, the styling included single and double breasted as well as straight and pointed fronts.
In terms of accessories, there was usually a limited line of things to carry. Like with women, gloves were worn by the gentry as a sign of status. Some etiquette books indicate that it was considered unseemly to allow a man’s skin to touch a woman, making gloves a necessity. And yes, men did throw gloves at each other to declare a fight.
Another important detail was the cravat, the Victorian gentleman's tie. Beyond a man’s clothing, the most basic accessory for every Victorian gentleman was the cravat. Cravats ranged in width and style, from the basic thin strip to frilly cravats with decorative prints and wide cut black. For those who are unsure of what the hell I'm talking about... this is a cravat.
Let's finish this up by discussing manly haircuts. Men in the Victorian era usually wore their hair short, brushed a certain way to make it appear curly or slightly floppy, though for most this was too much and they simply chopped it shorter than that.
Most men wore facial hair, including sideburns, mustaches, and short beards. All together, grooming was important.
I'd recommend reading this, page 385-ish.
AAANNNDDD that's pretty much everything I can tell you about clothes. Everything else is pretty much straightforward. But if you want to dig deeper, check out these links:
[ www.gentlemansemporium.com/victorian-clothing-guide.php ] - This site provided a ton of information for Men's Fashions, and partial snippets of info belong to them.
[ www.fashion-era.com/the_victorian_era.htm ] - Kudos to Fashion-Era, this site has so much info on it. I've only posted the Victorian Era section, though.