An Introduction & Concise Guide to
The Early Victorian Era
Circa 1840-1869
by Lord Scott
To be followed by...
An Introduction & Concise Guide to Ladies' Clothing & Fashions of the Early Victorian Era

A Introduction & Concise Guide to Gentlemen's Clothing & Fashions of the Early Victorian Era

An Introduction & Concise Guide to Clothing & Fashions of The Late Victorian Era circa 1870-1900


Dear friends,

It has come to my attention that some of you have an interest in developing a period “look” for our Historic Grand Balls oriented to the “Early Victorian” / “Civil War” era. I would be glad to do anything I can to encourage and facilitate this desire. Below you will find links to some information I have written regarding the dress of the era in question. If at first it seems overwhelming, don’t be dismayed! For those of us who take our look very seriously, much time and money have been expended to acquire a wardrobe we find acceptable. But we warmly welcome and embrace the entire range of experience from those veterans who are experienced and well studied to those excited novices who are only just beginning their own great historical adventure.
So don’t be daunted my friends. Fear not! This may be all new to you but it is your desire and effort which will be applauded and appreciated. Enjoy yourselves!
If you would like guidance regarding where to acquire period-type patterns, fabrics or ready-made clothes I would be happy to supply you with advice and good sources.

Your humble servant,

Lord Scott
We Make History


An Introduction to the Early Victorian Era

The middle decades of the 19th century were a time of romance and elegance but also of industrialization, change and conflict. “Gentlemen” were motivated by the ideals of honor and chivalry while “ladies” were virtuous, admirable and if need be heroic. These ideals and associated codes of behavior were found throughout western civilization but were perhaps most deeply cherished and practiced in England and the American South. Yet at the same time this was an era that also saw the rise in wealth and power of rail barons, shipping magnates and industrial tycoons whose ethics were often considerably different than those held by country gentlemen. Meanwhile, preachers such as Charles Spurgeon of England and Dwight L. Moody of the United States gained international renown calling millions to faith and virtue even as the theories of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx began to pull others in very different directions. Radical elements among nationalist, abolitionist and other political groups began to espouse and practice what we would today call terrorism in their desire to tear down and then remake society according to their own visions. A few early feminists demanded the “right” to dress like men and smoke cigars, a position that was appalling to the vast majority of women during a time when classic feminine virtues were greatly admired and appreciated by both sexes. Thus had begun a lengthy clash of industrial vs. agrarian, urban vs. rural, atheism vs. faith and liberal vs. conservative which in time would result in many of the traditional ways being “gone with the wind” in the wake of a “modern” world.
In Europe the British Empire of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had achieved international commercial success through being “mistress of the waves” and reaping the benefits of worldwide colonial holdings. Under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck, Prussia was on its meteoric rise to European preeminence due to diplomatic successes, stunning military victories over the Austrian and French Empires and commitment to an efficient and successful industrial economy. Prussia’s rise would culminate in the unification of Germany in 1871. Italy pursued unification as well behind the leadership of such patriots as Guiseppe Garibaldi. The Ottoman Empire continued its steep decline and Russia found itself being punished by an international coalition during the Crimean War, a conflict which would see the efforts of Florence Nightingale as well as the “Charge of the Light Brigade”. France was ruled by Louis Napoleon (aka Napoleon III), nephew and namesake of the earlier and greater French Emperor.
 As well known as Napoleon III was his wife Empress Eugenie. The most imitated woman of her time, Eugenie’s tastes in fashion were followed to a greater degree than any woman since Marie Antoinette, Queen of France during the late 18th century. (Alors, Why is it always the French?) Eugenie is even credited by many with both beginning and later ending the hoopskirt craze, the most defining and easily recognized fashion symbol of the era. Charles Dickens wrote novels which featured both the best and worst aspects of the various classes of English society, “Pre-Raphaelite” artists satisfied a growing taste for historic/romantic painting and in Vienna, grand capitol of Austria, Johann Strauss composed music for waltzes. Originating in Germany, the waltz would prove to be the most popular and enduring of the new couple oriented dance forms which were beginning to sweep Europe.
In the United States,  the “manifest destiny” of western expansion proceeded unabated. Mexican dictator Santa Anna, the self-styled “Napoleon of the West”, sent forces across the Rio Grande, boasting that he would capture Washington, D.C. and “plant the tricolor on the banks of the Potomac.” But in the end it was his own capitol which was taken by American forces led by Winfield Scott (with the United States flag flying over the “Halls of Montezuma”) at the culmination of an effort that the Duke of Wellington considered the “greatest military campaign of modern times.”
“Texas Fever” continued to draw thousands to that independent nation which then became the “Lone Star” state. The “Gold Rush” of 1849 attracted multitudes to California while tales of good land had a similar effect in populating Oregon. Railroads, coal mines, steel mills and shipping interests flourished yet cotton was still king, accounting for over half the total value of U.S. exports in 1860 and providing (through tariffs) the lion’s share of the revenue for federal spending.
For political, economic, constitutional and (not least of all) cultural reasons the northern and southern states finally came to blows in 1861. The resultant “War Between the States” held enough tragedy, sacrifice, heroism and human drama to still inspire people today. Civil War reenacting has the highest number of participants of any type of historical reenacting in the United States, the second highest number in Great Britain (behind England’s own Civil War of the 1640’s), and is also practiced by groups in France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Australia and even Japan!

A few movies which endeavor to portray aspects of this time period include Gods & Generals, Gone With the Wind, Little Women, Ride With the Devil, Gettysburg, and The Littlest Rebel.
Non-fiction books dealing with the era are abundant and easy to find as are classic works of fiction written during the period by authors such as Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Louisa May Alcott, Augusta Jane Evans, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is a must read (the book being far superior to the movie) and I would also highly recommend Lamb In His Bosom by Caroline Miller, So Red The Rose by Stark Young and None Shall Look Back and Penhally, both by Caroline Gordon. Each of these is a real gem which utilizes fictional but realistic characters to bring to life the thinking, culture, events, struggles and personalities of the time. For autobiographical works chronicling the real life experiences of everyday people during the Civil War I know of nothing to compare to "A Mississippi Rebel In The Army of Northern Virginia" for a truly riveting man’s perspective and would recommend A Blockaded Family, The War the Women Lived and Heroines of Dixie for the gripping experiences of female participants.

Please Note: This article is the property of Lord Scott and We Make History and should not be reproduced except by written permission of the author. ©2001-2009 All Rights Reserved.




























































An Introduction & Concise Guide to
Ladies' Clothing & Fashions of the Early Victorian Era
Circa 1840-1869    

All ladies’ items are listed in the order in which they would typically have been put on.

Stockings   -   These were long, coming up well above the knee and were made of silk, cotton or wool. Leather or fabric garters could be used to hold them in place.

Pantalets   -   Pantalets were crotchless underwear of about mid-calf length. They could be of cotton, silk or linen and often had lace trim at the bottom. Sometimes they were even flounced.

Chemise   -   The Chemise (aka “shift” or “shimmy”) was the basic undergarment and looked like a long blouse or short nightgown. Cotton, silk and linen were the fabric options. A woman clad in only her chemise was considered to be “naked” and would never be seen in such a condition by other than immediate family, a doctor or perhaps a personal servant.

Corset  (aka “Stays”)   -   Virtually all women owned at least one corset and it is a necessary item to obtain a true mid-nineteenth century look as the dresses, skirts and bodices of the time were designed with the assumption that one would be worn. The corset of this era had a fair amount of “boning” for support and was designed to create an “hourglass” figure. It was worn over the chemise. The corset could be made of heavy cotton, linen or silk. Any woman who went out in public without wearing a corset was considered by at least one fashion and etiquette writer of the period to be “loose”. (Whether this comment was intended to be relative to her physical or to her moral condition is somewhat open to conjecture.)
At any event featuring historic attire of this period the difference in authenticity and quality of look between ladies who do and those who do not wear a corset can be quite striking. Good ones are fairly expensive to have made but not too difficult to make yourself.

Petticoat   -   The petticoat was essentially a skirt used as an undergarment. It was worn over the chemise, pantalets and corset but under the hoopskirt. A woman would wear at least one and possibly several. They were most often cotton but could be linen, silk or wool. In the early part of this period, ladies achieved the fashionable dome shape by using multiple petticoats, some of which may have been padded or quilted. The “crinoline” was originally a petticoat which had been stiffened, often with horsehair in order to hold out the voluminous skirt. But then in the 1850s came a new French contrivance popularized by Empress Eugenie – the Victorian era hoopskirt!

Hoopskirt   -   Types of artficial skirt support with varying shapes, forms and names (such as farthingale, bumroll, pannier, crinoline, cage crinoline, hoopskirt, bustle, etc.) were popular during the majority of the period from 1530-1890. The horizontal volume they created fell out of favor during the Regency Era (circa 1795-1825) with its emphasis on classical simplicity and vertical lines but then began a resurgence through the use of multiple petticoats and “crinolines”.
During our era in question actual hoopskirts (often still called “crinolines”) reappeared in the early 1850s as a dominant fashion trend. They began fairly even all around in a dome or bell shape (very much like the 1720s variety) but then gradually flared out a little more toward the rear in the mid 1860s for an elliptical effect. Some ladies wore “cage crinolines” of hooped steel wires connected by linen strips. Others wore the classic hoopskirt (a skirt with hoops sewn in) which during this period could range in circumference from a humble 90 inches to a grand but rare 180! The skirt fabric might be cotton or linen and the hoops of wood, cane, steel or whalebone. The purpose was to create a “pedestal” on which a woman’s beauty and charm might be suitably displayed. (This was an era in which chivalry was still alive and ladies were held in high regard!) In 1869-1870 the all-around hoopskirt began to be supplanted by a "backward" trend which ushered in the Victorian bustle of the 1870s & 80s. By 1890 such contraptions had disappeared and haven’t returned to general everyday fashion since.
Smaller hoopskirts are better for shorter women and informal wear. Larger hoopskirts should only be used if you are quite tall or if you are at least of medium height and attending a formal event.
A hoopskirt with a 90” bottom circumference will suit a woman under 5’5” for day wear or a woman of perhaps 5’5” – 5’9” for casual work wear.
A hoopskirt with a 120” bottom circumference will suit most women for most circumstances. It is by far the most versatile of the common sizes and for the great majority of women it is the best choice if you only intend to own one hoopskirt. A woman of anywhere from 5’5” – 5’9” could easily wear this size for both day and evening wear. If you are under 5”5” don’t go larger than this even for formal wear. If you are over 5”9” use this size for daywear and go larger if you desire for formal events.
A hoopskirt with a 150” bottom circumference can be used for formal wear for any lady of about 5”5” or taller.
A hoopskirt with a 180+” bottom circumference is rarely attempted and for good reason. Don’t try it unless A) you are a very, very tall lady, B) the event is ultra-formal , C) the room is quite large and D) you will only be dancing with gentlemen who possess very long arms.

Overskirt   -   An overskirt was sometimes worn over the hoopskirt and under the dress. The purpose was to keep the “boning” (hoops) of the hoopskirt from showing through the dress. Alternately, the purpose could also be accomplished by sewing flounces onto the outside of the hoopskirt to cover up the curves made by the hoops.

Dress or Gown   -   The dress could be sewn all together or more likely consist of separate bodice and skirt and was worn over all else. It could be very simple or extremely elegant and typically reached in length to within two to four inches of the ground. Bodices were generally quite form-fitted through the use of darts or gathers and could utilize any of a large number of popular sleeve styles. They were usually cut higher for day wear and lower for evening attire, sometimes even being off-shoulder for the latter. A “bertha” was a fashionable option which consisted of gathered fabric sewn or worn along the neckline. A blouse, possibly along with a vest and/or jacket, could be worn with some outfits as an alternative to the bodice. Skirts could be cut straight or gored, be either pleated or gathered at the waist and could be plain, multi-flounced, scalloped or even split in front as per 18th century style in order to reveal a petticoat underneath. Cotton, wool, linen and silk were all used. The fabric could be a solid, stripe, plaid, print or brocade. Lace and ribbon were extensively utilized for ornamentation. Artificial flowers were common as well.

Shoes   -   There were various styles, (mostly of leather) both lace up as well as “slip on” with an early elastic gusset.

Accessories   -   Cameos, brooches, earrings, badges, reticules (small purses) and “Medici” belts were all widely used for fashionable and/or practical adornment. Gloves or mitts (most often of white or off-white color) would be worn to any social function with white gloves of cloth or kidskin being considered necessary for formal dancing.

Hats and Bonnets   -   Hats and bonnets of various styles were commonly worn. Bonnets could be made entirely of fabric or be based on forms of wooden or whalebone slats. Hats were often made from wool felt sewn over a stiffener such as buckram. Both hats and bonnets could be plain or richly adorned with ribbon, fabric, flowers, feathers, cockades or just about anything which tasteful creativity might suggest.

Hair   -   Most women parted their hair in the center. Most women didn’t wear bangs. Some women wore their hair in two coils, one on each side of the head. Some women wore their hair pulled back in a bun. Some women let their hair hang long in back or on each side. Some women wore “sausage” or “Grecian” curls. Some women wore braids. You’ll notice that I’ve used words like “most” and “some” but not “all” or “none”. Look through photos and paintings of the era and you will find great variety in women’s hairstyles. Let us notice also that hairpieces began a steep rise in popularity during this era, eventually culminating in the huge demand for such during the 1870s and 1880s.
Please Note: This article is the property of Lord Scott and We Make History and should not be reproduced except by written permission of the author. ©2001-2009 All Rights Reserved.



























































An Introduction & Concise Guide to
Gentlemen's Clothing & Fashions of the Early Victorian Era
Circa 1840-1869    

Unlike the 17th and 18th centuries when both men and women often dressed quite colorfully and ostentatiously, in the 19th century men’s clothing became generally much more conservative, the idea being that men served as a suitable backdrop to the beauty and display of the ladies. By the early Victorian era this meant that black, browns, greys and blues had become the predominant colors in men’s fashion with black and white becoming firmly entrenched for formal wear. Other colors such as green and burgundy were still sometimes worn but almost always in a muted shade. Brilliance, brightness and color for the most part belonged to the ladies.

Trousers   -   Most trousers (pants) were made of wool though heavy cotton, linen and even hemp were also used. They were cut with a waist that was higher than the modern garment (reaching to the vicinity of the navel and were made to be worn with cotton, linen or leather suspenders (braces). Trousers earlier in the century were of the “drop front” variety but by this time the great majority of men wore the “fly front” style. All trousers buttoned shut as zippers were still decades away from being developed.

Coat   -   Virtually all men wore coats in public, regardless of the time of year, unless actively engaged in actual physical labor. The coat was most often made of wool and could be lined with wool, polished cotton, cotton or silk. Most varieties could be made either single or double breasted. The buttons could be pewter, brass or more likely, fabric covered. Velvet trim in a contrasting color was a fairly common added option.
The frock coat became the most popular and dominant coat during this period. It was the rough equivalent of today’s suit jacket and was worn by upper class men as daywear, business wear and sometimes evening wear. It could be worn by middle class men for any occasion. The frock coat could be either quite plain or very dressy depending upon the quality of materials used.
The tailcoat was used for both day and evening wear from the 1790s into the 1850s. From the Civil War era until the present it has been most associated with more formal evening wear. The version common to the Early Victorian era was either single or double breasted, fit the body snugly, cut straight back at the same level as the bottom of the waistcoat and had a long tail in the back which may or may not have been split. When used for daywear the tailcoat had been made in a number of usually darker colors (black, brown, blue, green, grey, burgundy) but for evening wear black was the most accepted choice.
The cutaway or  morning coat (often confused with the tailcoat) was similar to the frock coat except that the front was cut so that it flared back rather than having the more straight cut of the frock coat.
The loose fitting sack coat also became popular during this period and was usually associated with informal, casual wear.

Vest (Waistcoat)   -   The vest of the time had a “shawl” collar or a “notched” collar, could be single or double breasted and could be made from any of a variety of fabrics. Therefore silk, wool, cotton, polished cotton and linen are all possibilities. These fabrics could be solids, stripes, checks, prints or brocades. The vest front was typically straight across at the bottom unlike the later era when it was often cut flared open at the front center bottom. If a man desired a bright color this would be the only garment (other than some military uniforms) where such would generally be permissible. For formal occasions most vests would be either black or white.

Shirt   -   The shirt would most often be made of cotton though linen was common and silk was also known to be used. White shirts were ubiquitous but solid colors, stripes and checks were all worn. Buttons could be made of pewter, brass, gold, silver, bone, porcelain, mother of pearl, thread over wire or fabric over a metal form. Most shirt collars were of the “turn down” variety but for formal wear the standing collar similar to that made popular during the Regency era remained in vogue. A man wearing only trousers and a shirt was considered to be “undressed”.

Undergarments   -   Men’s undergarments were in two pieces (thus no “long johns”, a later contrivance) and were usually made of cotton though linen and silk were also available.

Shoes and Boots   -   Boots were always made of leather as were most shoes. They were nearly always black or brown. The brogan was a common shoe for soldiers, labor and general wear. Fashionable smooth leather, lace up styles became popular circa 1801 with the Jefferson presidency and continued on with little change for many decades. Most shoes laced up but shoes or low boots with elastic gussets did exist.

Hats   -   A great array of  hat and cap styles were available. The top hat, slouch hat, planter’s hat and mechanic's cap were all common. Wool felt and straw were the most often used basic materials. The hat would be touched for a man you were acquainted with or for any man who appeared worthy of the courtesy. The hat would be actually tipped or removed for a lady. Hats were not generally worn indoors and certainly not if ladies were present.

Cravate   -   The cravate (or necktie) was a necessary part of any man’s wardrobe and no gentleman would go out in public without one. Silk, polished cotton and cotton prints were all used. Many styles of tying were in fashion including the bow, the Windsor (from circa 1860 on) and what we might call the “Colonel Sanders” style of string tie. Pre-tied bow ties with the bow sewn in place were available. Black was the most common color for neckwear though other colours and patterns were used. For formal occasions either a white or black bow tie was most appropriate though during the 1860s white was beginning to be preferred.

Accessories   -   Canes, pocket watches, leather or fabric wallets and handkerchiefs of silk, linen or cotton were all widely used. White gloves would be worn for Balls and other social occasions.

Hair   -   Not until our own time would there again be such diversity of accepted hair and facial hair styles for men as there was circa the 1860s. The hair could be worn very long, long, medium, short or cropped. It could be parted on one side, brushed up high, or combed back. A man could be clean shaven wearing no facial hair at all, wear only sideburns, wear only a moustache, wear only a beard or sport any combination of beard, moustache and sideburns. Goatees were worn in various shapes and styles. Beards could range anywhere from mere stubble to considerable length and were occasionally even known to be forked.
Please Note: This article is the property of Lord Scott and We Make History and should not be reproduced except by written permission of the author. ©2001-2009 All Rights Reserved.

















































An Introduction & Concise Guide to

Clothing & Fashions of The Late Victorian Era

Circa 1870-1900

Late Victorian Ladies’ Clothing

The silhouette of women’s styles in the post Civil War era was entirely different from that of the preceding decades, the large hoopskirts of the 1850s and 1860s having been replaced by the bustle of the 1870s and 1880s. One contemporary source lamented that the fashions of the day made the fairest half of humanity look as if they all had tails! In reality the bustle served the same purpose as the hoop, to make the waist look small in contrast to the vast size of the skirt below it. Heavy fabrics were the order of the day for most ladies’ clothing. When the fashion journals spoke of draperies, they meant exactly that, and usually in almost upholstery weight fabrics like silk damasks, brocades, failles, and heavy wools trimmed with pleats, ruffles, fringes, tassels, beads, and passementeries. Yet summer and “wash” dresses were often made of lightweight cottons, like ginghams and batiste. With the arrival of the 1890s, the shape of the dress changed again. This time, the small waist was emphasized by the size of the huge sleeves and the stiffened hems of the bell, umbrella, or fan shaped skirts.

Stockings: Made of silk, cotton lisle, or wool, these were still long, coming well above the knee and held there by garters of knitting, crochet work, ribbon or elastic during the 70s and 80s, or by elastic suspenders attached to the corset hem in the 90s.

Drawers: Made of cotton, linen, or silk for summer, or wool flannel for winter, drawers were usually made in the open style, being worn beneath the corset. They extended to just below the knee and were trimmed with rows of tucks, insertions, and lace, or could be made like knickers with a fitted band to which the leg opening was gathered. During this time period, too, the “combination” garment was developed. It was a one-piece item intended to replace the drawers and the chemise. Combinations could be made of cotton with lacy trim, or of knitted wool stockinette, much like a man’s “union suit.”

Chemise: Made of cotton or linen, this nightgown-like garment extending to mid calf, was worn next to the skin to keep the corset clean and the fair wearer un-chafed! Ladies’ magazines showed numerous patterns for ornamental embroidery and lacework intended for use on the yokes and hems of chemises and drawers. Monogramming became popular on underwear, as well as household linens.

Corset: During the early 1870s, the corset retained much of its 1860s shape, rather short- waisted and broad in the hips, but toward the end of the decade, the long, slender look became popular, necessitating a corresponding long, slender corset. During the 1880s and 1890s, waistlines grew even longer and slimmer. Tight lacing became a topic of much discussion. Corsets laced in the back, but contained a front opening busk to enable the wearer relative ease in removal. They were usually made of cotton or silk, and were no longer made only in ”practical” colors of drab, white, or black, but also pale blue, pink, turquoise, peach and red and they were often trimmed with contrasting ribbons, lace and embroidery. This was a period when wearing fancy, colorful underwear became acceptable even among respectable women!

Bustle: During the ‘70s and ‘80s, the bustle reigned supreme, with the exception of a few years at the end of the 1870s when the “natural form” was in vogue although the skirts then were still draped up at the back. Bustles were made of many materials including hoop wire, springs, and horsehair. They could be incorporated into a petticoat, or be separate apparatuses worn over or under the petticoat. One simple item, called a “skirt improver”, resembled a small apron covered with crinoline ruffles. It was worn over the back of the petticoat and tied at the waist in the front. Most full bustles had tapes inside to regulate the size and position of the garment on the wearer. The bustle reached its apex about 1887, when it was said that these rear appendages were so large and angular that one could balance a tea tray there! By 1889, the bustle had all but disappeared.

Petticoat: These underskirts, made of cotton, wool or silk, were worn over the bustle during the ‘70s and ‘80s to soften the lines of that foundation garment. In cold weather they were often made of red flannel, and worn under the bustle for additional warmth. Hems could be trimmed with fancy white work, lace, tucks, or fabric folded into decorative shapes. During the 1890s, the petticoats became slimmer at the top and often had starched ruffles at the hem. Fancy colored petticoats made of silk taffeta and trimmed with lots of frills were popular for their elegant rustle They were sometimes worn under the corset to ensure that the smooth line over the hips was not interrupted by superfluous gathers.

Dress: At the beginning of the ‘70s, skirts still retained some of their former fullness, although it was concentrated toward the back of the skirt. Overskirts which consisted of a draped apron at the front and a large pouf at the back were popular. The bodices, which ended at the natural waist at the beginning of the decade, gradually descended by mid-decade into the popular basque bodice, a tightly fitted, hip-length garment . Polonaises, one-piece overdresses, were also worn over skirts, which had narrowed considerably by the mid-70s and were often highly ornamented in the front and trained in the back. Fitted long sleeves and shallow “v” or high necklines were worn for day, while evening bodices were cut with low rounded or square necklines and short or ¾ length sleeves.

 The years from about 1878-1881 were known as the tie-back years, because, while the skirts were still festooned with layers of fabric and trim and draped at the back, they were also tied back with tapes inside the skirt to give a very straight columnar shape from the front. It was during this time that the bustle was abandoned, only to return in its most extreme form during the ‘80s. The 1880s were a very “angular” decade. The bodices featured a long, thin waist and a very upright posture. Skirts grew larger in the back to accommodate the bustle, and they grew plainer, without trains. Polonaises as well as overskirts, often with an asymmetrical front drapery, were still popular. The high band collar and long or ¾ sleeves were usual for daywear, with a low cut square neckline and short sleeves worn in the evening.

 Sleeves were the defining feature of the 1890s. They grew from a few slight gathers at the sleeve head in 1890 to huge, padded “leg-o-mutton” sleeves by 1896. The fitted, waist length bodices featuring these were worn over rather unadorned gored skirts, gathered or pleated at the back and stiffened at the hems. The “shirt waist” worn with a skirt became the uniform for the increasing number of working women. In 1897, the sleeves collapsed to just a little puff or ruffle at the top of a long fitted sleeve. Necklines were high, with upright collars, and sleeves were long for daywear. For evening low, necklines and large puffed sleeves were worn.

Shoes: Little boots which buttoned or laced, as well as fancy pumps, some with Louise IV heels and bucked straps (for evening) were worn during this time. The toes were slightly squared in the 70s, but by the 1890’s the long, narrow toe on a high-laced boot was common for daywear. Flat slippers, trimmed to match the dress were often worn for dancing.

Accessories: During the entire thirty years, ladies’ watches, on long chains were popular. In the 70s, heavy chain necklaces for day and velvet ribbon chokers for evening were often worn. Bracelets, especially for evening were common. Brooches and bar pins were worn at the high necklines in the 80s and 90s, and fancy dog-collar necklaces for evening. Earrings utilizing earwires were worn; the screw-back was not invented until the 1890s. Small purses made of beads, knitting, crochet, fabric or leather were used extensively. Belts of leather or fabric were worn when waistlines permitted.  No lady would have considered herself dressed without her gloves. These were of fabric or kid leather, matching the ensemble, or generally white or light colored for dancing, Fans were also found most useful for balls and other evening entertainments.

Hats and Bonnets: A large variety of chapeaus were worn during this period. Generally, hats were small, often with a scarf or ribbons dangling from the back during the 70s. Bonnets were “proper” for solemn occasions. The headwear of the 80s seemed to echo the angular aspects of the gowns. A tall, almost conical style almost like an inverted flower-pot was worn during the mid-80s. Even the bonnets of the 80s had peaked brims! The most ubiquitous hat of the 90s was the “boater” worn with dresses as well as suits.

Hair: During the 1870s, hairstyles included braids, curls and chignons of various sorts, all heaped high up on the head. For evening, a long sausage curl, or curls were often worn trailing over one shoulder. For those who were not endowed by nature with bountiful tresses, a wide variety of hairpieces were available to fool even the most discerning eye! In the 1880s curly bangs or “frizzettes” were worn with the rest of the hair pulled back into a sleek knot at the nape of the neck, or a French twist. Again, curls attached to a comb were available for those ladies who were unwilling to cut their hair for bangs, (or for those who had scorched their own with a curling iron over-heated in the chimney of a lamp)! Bangs were still worn by some women during the 1890s, but the knot had crept steadily up the back of the head until it formed the “door knocker” style which was the trademark of the decade. Sometimes a decorative comb worn in an upright position supplanted the upright knot of hair. Evening coiffeurs were ornamented with feathers and combs for mature women and flowers for the young ladies.

Late Victorian Men’s Clothing

While men’s fashion changes at a snail’s pace compared with the rapidity of ladies’ styles, there are some differences between the men’s clothing of the pre and post Civil War era. It has been said that the “War of the Rebellion” here and the death of Prince Albert in England had such a sobering effect on the world that men’s clothing became much less flamboyant than it had been in previous times. Colors used for suits were limited to black, gray, blue and brown. Bright colored waistcoats which had formerly been common and acceptable now became the province of dandies and gamblers. Heavy woolen fabrics were popular for suits. Stripes and plaids enjoyed much favor. Sometimes two different plaids would be worn together. Linen, often white, was also used for suiting in warm climates.

Coats: A wide variety of coat styles were available to the late Victorian gentleman. The frock coat, cut with slightly flaring, squared skirts and made either single or double-breasted remained the basic of a well dressed man’s wardrobe. It was suitable for business and all but the most formal occasions. Sack coats, loose, unfitted predecessors of today’s suit jackets, had increased in popularity after the Civil War, when they were the uniform jacket of the military. They were often made of plaid or checked fabric, and worn as casual, “leisure suits” at home during the first part of the period, but they had become acceptable business and street attire by the 1890s. Another style of popular coat was the black morning coat (aka “cutaway coat”), something like a frock coat with the skirt cut back in a rounded shape at the front. These were frequently worn with black and gray striped trousers, for business and informal social occasions. Balls and formal evening events required a black tailcoat, worn with a white waistcoat and tie.

Waistcoats: The waistcoat, (vest), was an indispensable part of a man’s dress. No self respecting man would venture outdoors or into the presence of ladies without one, since his shirt was part of his “linen” or underwear, and he would be undressed without his waistcoat. Waistcoats could be made of a fabric to match the trousers and coat, or of a contrasting solid, striped or plaid fabric. The models for day wear usually had five buttons and a relatively high neck with or without rounded or notched lapels. A low cut three-button version, made of white pique, with a scooped neckline and rounded lapels was worn with the tailcoat for formal events.

Shirt: This basic undergarment was usually made of cotton or linen, but sometimes of wool or silk. White dress shirts were now made from a pattern having naturally fitting shoulders, a plain or simple tucked front bib, and less fullness in the sleeves and body than was common earlier. Most shirts were of the pull-over variety, having a center front placket which opened only about half way to the hem. Some dress shirts buttoned in the back and had an ornamental placket in the front. Most shirts had a collar band and cuffs to which separate starched collar and cuffs could be attached. Collars came in several styles, folded down over the tie, or standing upright, sometimes with wings. Formal shirts did not have fold down collars. Work or leisure shirts could be made of colored fabric, in solids, stripes, plaids, or small prints on a light ground, and with or without attached collars.

Trousers: Men’s trousers during this period were made with a front button fly, waistband at the waist (higher than modern pant waists), and straight or slightly tapered legs, cut longer at the heel than the instep. They were held up by braces, (suspenders) attached to buttons on the waistband. Trousers waists could be adjusted by a little buckled strap at the center back waist. Trouser legs had no center crease or cuffs until the 1890s when Prince Edward of England, quite the model of masculine style, was the first to crease and cuff his pants, (or have someone do it for him)!

Underwear: Late Victorian men wore cotton or soft woolen drawers between themselves and the heavy wool fabric of their trousers. Drawers had a buttoned waistband and were between mid calf and ankle length. Woolen union suits were also worn for warmth during the winter.

Shoes: Leather boots of all lengths, lace-up and pull-on, were worn extensively. They were usually brown or black. During the 1890s, Spats worn over patent leather shoes were adopted by the “swells” (trendy young men) and others of less conservative taste. Low heeled, low cut slip on pumps were worn by some men for formal occasions.

Accessories: Almost every man of even moderate means wore a pocket watch with a chain draped across the front of his waistcoat. Stick pins were worn with ascots and “four in hand” ties. Walking sticks and canes were used by even those who did not need their support.

Neckwear: Neckties were the one place a man could display a splash of color. They came in many colors of silk, solid, striped and figured, and could be snappy bow ties, wide new “four-in-hands”, ascots, or kerchiefs.

Hats: The top hat was worn for most occasions during this period, although the derby gained favor for casual, sport, and even business by the turn of the century. Collapsible silk top hats were often worn for formal attire, and a straw “planter’s hat” was worn with those light colored linen suits mentioned earlier.

Hair: As the era progressed most men wore their hair short and most were clean-shaven, with the possible exception of a moustache which became quite popular late in the period.

Please Note: This article is the property of Lord Scott and We Make History and should not be reproduced except by written permission of the author. ©2001-2009 All Rights Reserved.









































































































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