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VICTORIAN COSTUME

Victorian costume display

EARLY VICTORIAN DRESS 1837-1850

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. At this time it was very fashionable for women to wear big wide skirts and have a very small waist. This was achieved by wearing a very tight corset. Upper-class women wore clothes covered with frills and lace. Hats, gloves, scarves, parasols and many accessories added to the fashion of covering every part of the body.

The division in fashion between the upper, middle and lower classes were very strongly evident in early Victorian times. Clothes were a sign or symbol of one's status in society.

Men's fashion changed little but was dominated by a sense of sobriety. Tall black hats and dark frock-coats were worn by the upper class men.

Poor people couldn't even afford a pair of shoes.

MID-VICTORIAN COSTUME 1850-1875

The Industrial Revolution, which happened early in the 19th century led to the production of cheaper cloth. This meant that new styles of dress could be bought for less money and the fashions changed more quickly.

The invention of the chain-stitch sewing machine and the long stitch machines in the 1840s made it possible to manufacture "ready-mades". This meant that the middle classes could afford cheaper fashionable garments and the division between classes became less obvious.

With the use of analine dyes in the mid-1860s colours became brighter. The wide skirts with supporting hoops went out of fashion and changed to a gathering of the material towards the back, which was known as a bustle.

LATE VICTORIAN DRESS, 1875-1901, BLACK FOR MOURNING

After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, Queen Victoria wore black as a mark of respect. All her servants were required to wear black arm bands for eight years. Widows were forced by respectable society to observe certain standards.

'If she lifts her skirts from the mud she must show by her frilled black silk petticoat and plain black stockings her grief has penetrated to her innermost sanctuaries'. From the Gentlewoman's Book of Dress' by Mrs. D.Douglas, about 1890

Even young children were to be dressed in black as a mark of respect. Queen Victoria is known to have upbraided her daughter for not putting her five month old baby into black clothes on the occasion of its grand-mothers death.

VICTORIANS

DEATH IN VICTORIAN TIMES DISPLAY

SHOES DISPLAY

DISPLAYS IN THE COLISEUM