Victorian sculpture
Julie Gale
Victorian Dresses and Accessories, Lectures and Presentations

Victorian Fashions

Often when we think of the Victorian Era we visualize one particular fashion that we may have seen in a picture or movie. In truth the Victorian Era included many different styles. A woman born in 1858 might have worn a crinoline as a little girl, a bustle as a young woman, huge balloon sleeves as a married woman, and by the time she was 40, the graceful pouchy front blouses of the early 1900’s. During the last half of the 19th century women’s fashion changed rapidly, each new one gradually evolving from the preceding style. It was influenced by changes in the artistic and social world.

During most of the period, a woman’s place was definitely in the home and the tight lacing of the era emphasized the leisurely lifestyle of the well-to-do woman. The fashionable woman changed clothes several times a day. Different dresses were required for morning wear, walking, paying calls, tea, and of course, dinner. The most elaborate of dresses were required for balls, and during the social season dressmakers were often kept busy late into the night making sure their clients ballgowns were finished on time.

The middle class Victorian woman’s wardrobe was a bit different from her fashionable sister. She might have a clothing allowance for two or three new dresses a year from her husband and would have had to make do with these and her older dresses. However, with the invention of the sewing machine and the introduction of dress patterns the middle class woman could now have as fashionable a dress as she could produce.

The Victorian Era was a time of great beauty and elegance in woman’s dress but also a time of great constriction for a woman not only in her waist but also in her life. There were many calls for dress reform but it wasn’t until women took an active role in the workplace that dress became less restrictive, allowing them to move freely. Some sort of corsetry for woman remained up until the first World War and it wasn't until the 20’s that women became totaly free.