Perhaps you are a modern-day fashionista. The sidewalks of London are indeed like long-running and intersecting catwalks (less-so now in the winter, I’ve noticed, simply because it’s cold and people are bundled up! But come spring, be prepared to be dazzled with the creative combinations). So, as you walk among the many Victoran buildings–built during Queen Victoria’s reign when London had a massive population explosion–what would you have been wearing then?
According to What Jane Austen Ate & Charles Dickens Knew…
Ladies, in the middle of the 19th century, you have already cast-off your natural, flowy, transparent muslins for heavier fabrics like velvet and silk tailored much more tightly about your waist and chest. To help you suck it in, the corset is your new best friend. You also have the liberty to pimp yourself out with crazy-busy accessories like feathers and a lot of jewelry. That might sound garish in addition to the vivid colors of your dress, but it really doesn’t come across that way–the candle/gas light is dim. Because the lighting is also much yellower, many ladies like you will wear blue to counteract it.
If it’s the 1850 -60s, you might be wearing a fashionable red flannel petticoat this time of year for both warmth and to cover your bum in the horribly embarassing event that you fall over with your awkward, dome-shaped crinoline leaving you exposed to all. This birdcage-like contraption is what helps support and billow out your dress’s heavier fabrics, but it’s brutal to walk in, especially when you’re trying to pass through a doorway or sit down! Luckily, this look will go by the wayside, leaving behind just the bustle. A delightful hat has replaced your bonnet, and you always wear your gloves outside (and most of the time indoors as well).
Gentlemen, you are wearing a frock coat by day that extends down almost to your knee. It is black and the same in length all the way around (as opposed to having tails–that sort of dress coat, like today’s tuxedo, is saved for evening). Like the ladies, you also wear gloves outdoors, and, indoors, you bring out your nice white pair for dinner parties and balls. Your outer clothing is mainly made of wool, and, being before the invention of trouser presses, you are likely walking around looking like you’ve just climbed out of your hamper. Your undergarments and shirt are made of linen to keep you cool, but require frequent washing. Indeed, if you are always spotted by peers in clean linen, you will be accorded high status, as it shows you can afford enough of it.
If it’s the first part of the century, you will be clean-shaven, and on your feet will almost always be boots. They are not only considered more formal than shoes, but they’re also far more practical given the dirty road conditions and the fact that you often need to hop onto your trusty steed. But beyond the 1850s, you are wearing a beard if you want to look like anyone who’s anyone, but of course. Adding to your respectability is the cane or umbrella that you carry, which is the Victorian version of the sword that the 18th-century gentlemen of noble birth carried around with them. (These days, you’ll carry that umbrella simply because you never know when the sky will open up, but pretend that it’s your sign of a gentleman; that’ll be more fun.)
Regardless of your style, we want you to just dress comfortably when London Relocation Ltd. takes you out on your viewing day. We will still treat you like the ladies and gentlemen that you are!