Calling all modern-day fashionistas! If that made a few of your heads turn, then by all means, please read on. If you are indeed a fashionista and yearn to walk the catwalks of London, all you have to do is look around. The sidewalks crisscrossing one another are like the long runways of Paris fashion week. Now, granted in the winter time they are less so because of the snow taking up so much room. But don’t let that keep you from strutting your stuff. It’s also harder to tell what people are wearing on the winter catwalk because they are so bundled up in winter clothes. But, come springtime, you better believe they’ll be out in force.
That aside, as you’re wandering the catwalks of London amid all of the lovely Victorian buildings, do you ever wonder what was considered fashionable by Victorian standards. The Victorian age saw an immense population explosion and the influx of huge numbers of people would’ve meant changes in both custom and fashion. So, what would men and women of the day been wearing while taking a walk around town?
Well, in order to figure that out, we’ll have to go back to a time when what you wore on the outside was nothing compared to what you wore beneath those clothes on the inside to make your body appear as well as it good.
So, without further ado, let us to back to a time when Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were all the rage describing the very city within which you live.
For the Ladies
This was a time when women were all but tortured to fit in the gowns and dresses of the day. In the 1850s and 1860s you would have likely already turned your nose up at natural, flowing, transparent fabrics for the heavier fabrics of the day. These included velvet and silk which were tailored to fit much tighter about the waist and chest than the previous clothing you might have worn. The corset has become every lady’s best friend because without it, how on Earth would you contort yourself into the latest fashion trend?
In many cases you will adorn yourself—with what we consider ridiculous today but were simply divine then—in accessories that were incredibly busy looking as well as vast amounts of jewelry. While this might sound incredible gawdy and even downright atrocious was considered quite elegant for the day. While colors were chosen to be overly vivid this was due to the lack of proper lighting which was provided either by a candle or gas lamp. With the yellow hued lighting, many ladies of the day chose to wore various shades of blue to help counteract it so their complexions would look less jaundiced.
Well, what other things might the ladies be apt to wear? Why a fashionable red petticoat made of flannel. In the winter it would due to keep ladies warm and comfortable, large enough to cover their bottoms which was quite important in the winter time indeed. For no one wanted to be embarrassed by falling in the snow only to have the dome-shape crinoline billowing outward to show her wares for all to see. While the dome framework was vital to maintaining the dresses support and to help the heavier fabrics billow outward, they were more than brutal to walk in never mind trying to fit through a doorway or even sit down. A tool of torture I say. The bonnets of just a few decades earlier have been replaced by lovely hats and while you may think it strange, you will wear gloves whenever out in public and even most times while in private.
Gentlemen of the Day
Fashion for gentlemen has never changed as drastically as it does for women so much of what you will be wearing in the Victorian day is what you’ve worn for a few decades. That being said, you will need to be adorned with a frock coat when out during the day. This garment falls almost to the knee and unlike the tails of a dress coat, it is the same length all the way around. Just as the ladies do, you will also be required to wear gloves nearly all the time. It is important to wear white gloves to dinner parties and balls to appear upper crust. Most of the outer clothing will be made of wool. And unlike in today’s high society, where clothes can be pressed and starched, your trousers will almost always appear wrinkled. The undergarments of the day are made of linen and are comprised of a shirt and boxer shorts. They will require a great deal of washing. Why keep them clean? Well, if peers see you wearing clean linen, they will think you can afford to buy clean linens which will provide you with a higher status.
There will be no bears or mutton chop sideburns. No, this part of the century, you will be clean-shaven and found to be walking around town in boots. They are considered formal when compared to shoes and given that the road conditions are quite terrible in many areas the need to hop onto a trusty steed so you’re not trudging through the mud means you’ll need boots.
Now once we move beyond the 1850s, beards were considered quite the rage. If you want to create an air of fortune and wealth, a can or umbrella in hand will do the trick. It is the Victorian era version of the sword with which 18th century noble birth would carry by their side. And while the reason for carrying an umbrella might be different day, why not walk around with it as if you were a nobleman? Who would be the wiser?
Feel free to try and dress in Victorian-era clothing and see the reaction around town. I think you’ll find it quite extraordinary.