The Victorians were very interested in fairies and all sorts of other spooky stuff. A flower fairy costume would be a good one for a little girl, even if the costume is not everyday wear for a Victorian girl. The costume would also do good service for dressing up in other contexts or as a party dress.
A truly authentic Victorian Lady’s costume is quite complex. See below for how they dressed – it’s no wonder they needed servants and dressers to help them with their clothes! But you can get the Victorian Look much more easily today, without having to go to all the trouble that Victorian ladies had to take just to get dressed!
These included a corset, to create an hourglass figure for the fashionable Victorian lady, frilly, long legged pants and plain stockings in wool or cotton. The corset was worn over a simple white cotton under-dress that reached the thighs.
The Victorian Petticoat
Women wore petticoats to prevent their legs from showing as well as to protect themselves from the hoop and the bustle (of the early Victorian era). You can make a simple petticoat by using an old white sheet and cutting it so that it won’t show below your dress. If you use the hemmed edge of the sheet for the bottom of your petticoat, you will save yourself some work. Simply gather the sheet and attach a band to the top with simple stitches.
The Hoop Or Bustle
Hoops are generally built into an additional petticoat. They are made from wire and can be purchased relatively inexpensively online. Bustles are also constructed of wire and covered with material. They have a sash attached to wrap them around the waist to raise the dress in the back.
The Victorian Dress
Most dresses were elaborately hand sewn with rich fabrics. There are patterns available but are often quite complex and you may need to start creating your dress quite some time before the event so you may prefer to consider purchasing one that is already made. Dress colours typically were royal purples, deep blues, and vibrant pinks. They were enhanced with fine embroidery using pearls and beads and elaborate gathering.
The Victorian Accessories
No upper class Victorian female would consider leaving the house without her gloves and a bonnet. Most gloves were made of solidly covered material since the dresses themselves were so elaborate. Occasionally, they might have beads or jewels sewn onto them for classic effect. Glove stores frequently have stunning high fashion gloves for sale and you will have loads of fun shopping for this accessory.
Find a simple straw bonnet and decorate it with fabric that matches your dress. The ribbon can wrap around the base of the hat and double as a tie to secure it to your head. Flowers and feathers are always a welcome addition to any bonnet.
With full bodied, dresses, bustles and crinolines, it might seem that Victorian women must have had very good bladders! This short video shows exactly how easy it was to use a chamber pot or toilet even wearing the largest of crinolines or a bustle. NOTE: this video is fun and perfectly OK for anyone to watch.
A fun video, suitable for all to see, showing how someone dressed in Victorian clothes could use the toilet.
If you want to make your own Victorian costume, you could start by making a walking skirt. This video shows how to make and cut out the pattern, cut and sew the material and shows how it was sewn together on an old hand-turned sewing machine. The video also includes adding a pocket to the skirt.
Girl’s Flower Fairy Costume
The Victorians were known for believing in fairies. A flower fairy dress would fit well with a Victorian party theme.
For a man, there are also great Victorian costumes to choose from but it can be a lot more difficult to source these. The majority of wealthy men from that era were known for wearing calf-length frock style coats that were custom fitted along with either a waist coat or a double breasted vest.
Colours were mainly neutral but could sometimes be bright. There were of course many poor men, country lads, grooms, chimney sweeps, road sweepers, butlers, footservants and soldiers. Alternatively, you could choose to go as a professional from that era, such as a schoolmaster, lawyer, judge, Minister of Religion or even a detective!
No one is going to worry if your costume is not totally authentic, so wear what you enjoy, although wearing an authentic Victorian bathing costume or nightshirt and cap might get a little chilly!.
Queen Victoria ruled a powerful and wealthy Britain for over 60 years, from the 1830s until her death in 1901. This long period of history saw many changes in fashion styles.
Victorian Women’s Fashions
At the start of Queen Victoria’s reign the ideal womanly shape was that of a long slim torso and wide hips. This required tightly laced corsets with a chemise underneath. On top of these came a tight-fitting bodice with a low waistline and a long skirt made full by layers of horsehair petticoats. Skirts were looped, draped, or tied up in various ways, and worn over matching or contrasting underskirts. Towards the end of the period there was a gradual return to a narrow silhouette and the return of the bustle.
Hats were essential. They were large and often elaborate, usually lined with wide brims to protect their owners’ faces from the sun. Victorian women did not like the tanned look, they preferred to be pale. Hat trimmings were elaborate and changed every season. The ladies often did their own trimming, perhaps adding or subtracting flowers and ribbons and even ornaments and frills. Bonnet shapes, however, did not change much over the period.
Creating A Victorian Woman’s Outfit
So, to recreate an upper class Victorian woman’s costume, you will need either a long dress or skirt with a full shape and a blouse. You will also need accessories like a bonnet or hat, a shawl, lace up boots, long gloves and heavy jewellery. If you want to go in an evening gown, these were elaborate with low neck lines. Long gloves, choker necklaces and jewelled collars were popular. Working class women wore simple dresses in dark materials, with narrow sleeves and no petticoats. They might wear an apron (with a bib) over the dress, and a shawl tied over their shoulders.
Victorian Men’s Fashions
Upper class Victorian men wore high waisted trousers, dress shirts, waistcoats, cravats, a top hat and boots or you could go for the morning coat, gloves, spats and pocket watch look, with a top hat or bowler. Working men wore collarless shirts (grandad shirt) or smocks, with the sleeves rolled up. Men’s footwear was very formal mainly short ankle boots for wearing around town. Hats were always worn when outside. This includes working-class men who might wear battered top hats, flat caps or lower-crowned, broad-brimmed hats.
Creating A Victorian Man’s Outfit
Give a plain white shirt a period look by turning up the collar. You could add a ribbon, or scarf or even a fancy cravat and knot this in front. A flat cap and waistcoat, with an open shirt and high waisted trousers would create a working man’s outfit very simply. For an upper class man’s outfit, you could perhaps source a morning coat and top hat from a charity or vintage shop.
Victorian Children’s Outfits
The clothes of baby boys and girls were quite similar for most of the Victorian period. Older children’s clothes were very similar to those of adults. Babies were dressed in layers of petticoats (yes, boys as well as girls) to keep them warm and make it easy to wash them. A baby might wear a simple circular cape while outside, to keep them warm. They would also have warm elaborate bonnets.
Victorian Fancy Dress
Getting these outfits together could be as easy as raiding your granny’s wardrobe or perhaps visiting a charity shop or antique store. For women, a simple Victorian outfit can be made from a long skirt in a thick material and a high collared shirt (preferably with puffy sleeves). Women should also wear hats. Of course, you could have costumes custom-made for the event, or even make them yourself, if you want authenticity.
Most events where you can wear Victorian fancy dress may take place in the colder months. It can get quite cold outside from October onwards, depending on where you live. The best way to keep warm without hindering activity or covering your costume is by adding extra layers underneath. For girls and women, leggings and vests or t-shirts will help keep them warmer. Boys and men could wear sweatpants under their costume, thicker socks, warm shoes or boots. Layering costumes on top of spandex body suits are another great way to stay warm during autumn and winter.
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