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Today’s society is captivated by Victorian culture and fashion. The Victorian era occurred during Queen Victoria of England’s reign from 1837 to 1901. Fashion defined the Victorian era in many ways, so much so, that it’s still immediately recognizable today.
An Overview of Victorian Fashion
Petticoats, corsets, bonnets, crinoline, bowler hats, overskirts, bright colors, and so much more are just a few of the defining characteristics of Victorian fashion. Women’s fashion consisted of tight corsets, as well as high necklines, hats, and sleeves that greatly restricted movement and comfort. Women were also generally dressed in brightly colored fabrics to note the dyes available at the time, whereas men primarily wore black and dark colors. Men would also wear tophats, frocks, and lapels to maintain a formal air even during informal dress. Victorian fashion was bold and bright, no matter the occasion.
The Victorian Era concluded with the death of Queen Victoria and was a defining period consisting of elaborate displays of class and wealth through fashion. Each decade during this era was marked by a unique set of fashion standards. From the 1840s to 1850s women wore at least five layers of clothing. The desired figure was a tiny waist and wide-set shoulders so clothing was used to exemplify this. This was done with corsets and hoop skirts as well as petticoats and chemises.
Victorian Fashion in the 1860s
The 1860s during the Victorian Era was known as the civil war period. Skirts were pleated towards the center front and back. It also consisted of plain colored blouses. The Medici belt also defined this era, named for the Medici family. They consisted of a widely cut piece of cotton ranging in many shapes and colors. Colors were still muted or natural as alkaline dyes were just coming into popularity at this time. There were also a wide range of undergarments used at this time such as chemises and under corsets. These trends defined this decade as well as fed over into the next.
Victorian Fashion in the 1870s
The 1870s were defined primarily by the bustle dress. This consisted of lace, ribbons, frills, and all of the bows and fringe you can imagine! This still consisted of cotton fabrics but the coloration was starting to get more vibrant. Chemises, drawers, and corsets were still a must at this time as well. The early bustle dress was in popularity from 1868 to 1875. The bustle dress had a wire frame beneath it giving it a large hoop shaped frame and had most of the emphasis and detail on the back of the dress. This dress was usually paired with a hat or bonnet. Next came the natural form bustle from 1878 to 1883. This dress had a far flatter shape, sometimes even having a pillow placed beneath it to give off the flat shape. Finally came the Victorian Late Bustle from 1884 to 1890 which consisted of a flat front to the dress and a long train in the back. While the bustle dress carried on through various decades, it particularly defined the 1870s era of Victorian fashion.
Victorian Fashion in the 1880s through 1905
The 1880s began to leave behind the trend of the bustle dress, with particularly the wealthy women making fashion progress at this time. This period was marked by more form-fitted bodices and dresses so long that they needed to be lifted to allow walking.
Next came the Gibson Girl era from 1890 to 1905 at the tail end of the Victorian fashion era. This period began to transition into more lightweight and wearable fashion that was shorter and allowed more freedom of movement. Skirts became simpler and more focus fell upon the bodice to allow more freedom of movement.
The Victorian Era was a time of many fashion trends, too many to compile in one place, but are still recognizable and important to fashion today. What trends do you still keep in your wardrobe?
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