Victorian Ladies fashion
Unlike male fashion, Victorian female fashion changed considerably during the reign of Queen Victoria.
In 1837, when Victoria ascended the throne, the look was still very much that of the Romantic era, with ankle length bell shaped skirts, puff sleeves and large hats. Within a few years, bodices became rigidly corseted and shaped to a point at the waist, with wide necklines and sloping shoulders. Skirts became fuller and needed more petticoats to puff them out. The Victorian lady would have worn many undergarments to achieve the desired look. These included long bloomers (anklelength pantaloons), a chemise, a starched petticoat, a crinoline (this was a caged undergarment which gradually grew more fuller), a flounced petticoat, a muslin petticoat and finally the gown itself.
By 1862 the crinoline had been flattened out at the front, first by only having half a cage (to the rear) and then becoming the bustle, (a pad or small cage positioned to emphasise the bottom of the lady). In the early 1870s, with the introduction of aniline dyes and the invention of the sewing machine, clothes became brighter than the soft, subdued look of the previous decades. At this time bonnets were discarded in favour of small hats or fascinators. These were perched on a mass of curls. (Hair often had to be imported to help this fashion). Towards the end of Victoria’s reign the bustle had dropped to the floor forming a long train, or waterfall effect and there was a move to more practical tailored garments for women. Throughout the Victorian era no woman would go out in the summer without a parasol or hat, or to a function without a fan. Gloves were worn throughout the century.
During the 1890s, the earlier fashion for pantaloons was revived by creating knickerbockers (instead of undergarments, these were a loose form of trousers which tapered at the ankle) to enable women to ride their bicycles unhindered by skirts. This look was also seen in the style of the Victorian/Edwardian bathing belle.
Ladies Victorian fancy dress costumes are available for hire or to purchase, normally for a wealthier look. We also stock short gloves and parasols to help you to complete your Victorian outfit.
Named characters from the Victorian era
- Amelia Bloomer – American lady who scandalized fashion in the 1850s by advocating the bloomer dress (a shorter dress worn with bloomers underneath that allowed more freedom of movement).
- Anne, Emily & Charlotte Bronte – Victorian family of authors who published their works during the Victorian era.
- Florence Nightingale – A pioneer and reformer of the health service during the Victorian era.
- Lily Langtrey – Known as the Jersey Lily.
- Sarah Bernhardt – Famous French stage & early film actress.
- Queen Victoria – Reigned from 1837-1901.
Other Ladies Victorian fancy dress suggestions:
- Carol Singer
- Dickensian Book Characters such as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and Nellie from Oliver Twist.
- Ice Skater
- Maid – There were many different types of maids, from the lowly scullery maid who gets all the boring jobs to the Ladies Maid.
- Music Hall Star
- Nanny – A popular profession during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. .
- Street Seller – Match girls and flower girls are just two examples.
- Victorian Vampiress – A creature of the night in human form based on the dark period clothing and Victorian-style seen in the film ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ featuring Gary Oldman as the Count.