the earliest times on, the history of dressing has been far more than just
keeping a record of what people wore through the centuries. Clothing not only
has been a means of warmth and modesty, but also it reflects a form of adornment
for personal enjoyment and expression, social status, cultural and technical
achievements, political ambition and rank, and attraction to the opposite sex.
ladies of the Victorian Era dressed opulently, as the most lavish symbol of
their wealth was their clothing. In addition, the trend toward extravagance
found an outlet in variety. Even when “commoners” finally gained a position
in the community, they aimed to demonstrate that they, too, possessed all the
virtue of the “upper class”, and it was evident in the way they dressed.
There was almost a ridiculous code of strictness and modesty in ladies attire
that everyone recognized was synonymous with dignity, elegance and
respectability. Though, perhaps “modesty” not in the same way one might
think of its meaning today. It seems that the ladies dared not reveal the
“bottom” portion of the body at all, and their upper parts were also “up
tight and obscured” as well. But, the revealing the “upper portion” or
shoulders and décolleté was considered appropriate, even within modesty for
ladies dresses and gowns were easy to describe in one word, and that is
“beautiful”! After all, remember too, that she had to “compete” with the
dress of the gentlemen of the day!
example, a day dress may have been described as follows: Rose-colored taffeta
“very full” skirt, bodice and full puffed 3/4 length sleeves--embroidered
band trimmed shoulder line and cinched waist, off the shoulder fluted white
organdie ruffles attached to the bodice with lace extending upwards to cover the
neckline, lower quarter of full skirt is double full white organdie extending to
the floor. In this exquisite, colorful, truly feminine day dress with all of the
appropriate accessories, the lady was a “sight to behold”. (1830-40)
example: Dress done completely in emerald green velvet, with a “V” necked
bodice and attached cream colored lace “cape let” (bertha and collar) which
extended over the shoulders down to the forearms and wedged into the torso of
the dress with three jeweled buttons, full length slim velvet sleeves trimmed at
the wrist with the lace, and extremely full floor length attached skirt. The
lady has a matching bonnet of green velvet, shirred and corded silk lace, tying
under the chin, with an attached back veil that draws to the front of the face.
(1842) Picture how glorious we would feel in this day gown, ladies!
another ladies simple evening gown: Almost floor length black, sheer lace
(sweeping scalloped edged) mantelet attached to “olden medium blue” silk off
the shoulder yoke, with long narrow sleeves, blue silk gown with very full
flowing floor-length skirt. The lady’s matching blue straw bonnet cradles the
crown of her head and is accessorized with blue silk ribbon ties, white roses,
black lace and green foliage. (1860)
we can see from the three magnificent clothing descriptions above, the lady was
impeccably dressed to the finest detail, with no expense spared~During
the1800’s to 1900’s, women’s clothes passed through more changes than in
any other previous period. In 1851, Isaac Singer invented an improved sewing
machine, so, this and other new inventions started the production of
manufactured clothing. Although, many still preferred those made by tailors and
dressmakers. With the crinoline, bustle and corset, the fit had to be just
right. Small waists were accentuated by enormous fullness in the skirts and
bodices were close fitting but allowed for shapeliness.
fabrics used for the ladies dresses and gowns were of the most exclusive silks,
satins, velvets, taffetas, bolt laces, organdies, French gray cloths, chintzes,
and silk-cotton blends. Fur was frequently used for trims as well as the most
expensive laces, feathers and ostrich plumes and spun silks. Fabrics also
included that of brocade, soutache embroidered finishes, decorative felts,
stripes, checks, and jeweled fabrics.
sleeves of the gowns were either long, straight and tight fitting or enormously
full, “leg ‘o mutton” and balloon styled. Also, the skirts of the gowns
were frivolously full and to the ankle or floor length. Necklines varied, yet
absolutely always portrayed femininity.
for ladies clothing ranged from the richest deepest purples, lavenders,
magentas, blues, greens, reds, and grays to black, which was worn very often in
velvets and laces. In addition, they wore the softest pastels (pinks, lavenders,
peaches, light greens, blues and white, of course, but not too often for the
ensembles---but rather, for their accessories.
a few years around l910, women wore hobble skirts. These were so tight at the
bottom that women could hardly walk. But it didn’t take long, with
modernization, inventions and activities in which women could now participate,
for things to change. By 1920, ladies clothing became radically different; women
stripped away the flounce and artificial undergarments and they began to wear
straight, short dresses that ended at or above the knee.
we realize the end of the fabulous, and fascinating dress of the Victorian Era.
But, ladies, may all of the extraordinary values of that “time gone by”
always live in our hearts and minds. And whenever we can successfully
incorporate the refinement, beautiful dress and ideas into our daily lives,
ladies please---let us do so!
items on this page are for sale. This page is a recap of the Victorian
Era. To visit Victorian
Bazaar's Shopping Boutique of products, CLICK