A Victorian Fashion Show

Imagine you’re attending a fashion show in the Victorian era. You get to choose the trends for the next Victorian season—what’s hot and what’s not from the entire period of Queen Victoria’s reign—1837-1901.

Before we begin voting yea or nay, let’s review the Victorian ladies fashion scene.

In the 1840s and 1850s, dresses were mostly simple and pale, often with wide puffed sleeves. Corsets and chemises were worn under gowns, together with multiple layers of petticoats. The arrival of the crinoline meant far fewer petticoats were required to maintain the desired fullness and volume of skirts. Dresses with a solid bodice were worn during the day, and a low-neckline off-the-shoulder look was typical for evening wear.

By the 1860s, skirts were  flatter at the front and projected out more at the back. Wide pagoda sleeves and high necklines with lace or tatted collars became popular. The low-neckline evening dresses were worn with short gloves, fingerless lace or crocheted mitts. In America, the influence of civil war military-style decoration appeared in civilian clothing.

In the 1870s, tea gowns were worn for entertaining at home and didn’t require corsets. Bustles replaced crinolines for supporting skirts, as a slimmer style came into vogue. Evening dresses were very tight around the corseted torso.

During the 1880s, bustles initially became less prominent, but sizes grew again later in the decade. Greater affluence brought more leisure time with fashion catering to riding and walking pursuits.

High collars, held in place by collar stays, and stiff steel boning characterized the 1890s. Crinolines and bustles were no more. Instead, in came the tiny wasp waist.

Vote yea or nay for your favorites below …





David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.