Victorian Fashion refers to the styles and clothing worn before and during the Civil War era of the United States, 1860-1900. This era was filled with a very difficult way of dressing oneself and to deviate from this line of dress was unheard of, and worthy of being outcaste. Victorian women’s clothing was layers, heavy, and barely manageable to even wear. Many different articles made up the full garment such as the undergarments, the skirt, top, shoes, accessories, and even the hair. How did women ready themselves for the day in this era and how did they deal with all the cumbersome attire?
The attire of the period had variants sometimes when it came to age, social class, economic position, ...view middle of the document...
The corset was one of the heaviest parts of the whole ensemble. By the 1860’s, 13 American companies manufactured corsets and even more being shipped in from Europe for their less expensive nature (Mitchell 22). The corset was used to support the figure of the woman. And with ten or more layers of fabric pressing tightly to the woman’s body by the end of dressing, the corset was almost a necessity to compensate for the accumulated thickness (Setnik 10).
Once the corset was strapped on and tightened, the petticoats, hoopskirt, or crinoline could then be added to the woman’s frame. For many years, layers upon layers of petticoats had become the norm. So many petticoats became cumbersome and heavy, thus the hoopskirt, or crinoline, replaced them by the late 1860’s (Mitchell 19). As Linda Setnik informs us, “Though still cumbersome and sometimes even dangerous, catching on to objects, or coming in too close proximity with stoves or fireplaces, many women appreciated the hoop for being lighter and cooler than the numerous petticoats it replaced.”(Setnik 10). The next part of the undergarment went just atop the crinoline. This was the bustle or tournure and became popular from 1869 to 1888 (Setnik 10).
Now, once the undergarments had been donned, the outer garment could be placed upon the body. This posed a bit more work for the dresser with so many steps to follow. Firstly, the skirt must be fastened to the waist via a side front opening, or “Placket”. This opening was concealed by the attached bodice. The bodice itself was then placed on and held in place with indivisible interior hook and eye or buttons (Setnik 43). The bodice was a snug fit to the body, matching the corset underneath. The bodice was boned like the corset beneath it, to help keep the shape of the woman’s form slim and the waist line tiny (Setnik 43).
The bodice was generally plain with side darts as bust line darts were not employed during this time period. Although it was used sparingly, sometimes trim could be found on the bodice and extending down the arms (Setnik 43). Belts tended to be worn over the bottom of the bodice and the top of the waistline and fastened with invisible hook and eye. Some were enhanced with a buckle (Setnik 43).
Sleeves alone came in many varieties to match a dress. Coat sleeves, pagoda sleeves, and bishop sleeves are only a few of the variety a woman could pick from. The bishop sleeve was a single piece of fabric pleated into the armscye, where it hung loose and full, and gathered into a narrow wristband. The coat sleeve was cut into two pieces with a narrower section situated beneath the arm, the crescent-shaped sleeve fit smoothly into the armscye. The pagoda sleeve was reserved for dressier daytime garments. This sleeve was generally three quarter length and widened progressively from the armscye with moderate to large proportion at the irregular hemline three quarters down the arm. This option was preferred for warmer weather. (Setnik 45).