The Victorian Era is named for Queen Victoria, who reigned in England from 1837 to 1901. As you might imagine, fashions changed dramatically over this 60-year span, but the changes didn't happen as quickly as you might think. During the early years of the Victorian era, travel and communication were much slower than today, so a particular style might stay in fashion for many years. It wasn't until faster methods of travel and communication were possible, that popular styles began to change more rapidly, causing fashionable women to bemoan the cost of keeping their wardrobes up with the current trends.
The entire era reflects a certain romance and gentility, fostered in great part by the beautiful and much adored Queen Victoria for whom the entire era is named. In the early years, and throughout the period, the image of a woman was one of fragile beauty and domestic enterprise. It was the man's responsibility to provide a home and income, and the lady was to make that home a place where the family was nurtured and prepared for the future. Clothing for women was utterly feminine, and was designed to emphasize the much-admired small waist. Ladies wore as many as seven petticoats under their voluminous skirts, and bodices were high necked, long sleeved, and tightly fitted to the body.
The invention of the sewing machine in 1844 meant that clothes could be more lavishly trimmed than ever before. About the same time, lace machinery was developed to make lace at a fraction of the cost of hand-made lace. This meant that elaborate trims and flounces soon appeared on nearly every garment. Chemists developed new dyes that were cheaper than before and were much more vibrant than the old animal or vegetable dyes, which popularized clothing in bright colors.
Toward the end of the era (about the 1890's) women's fashions became simpler and less extravagant and bustles fell out of fashion. The new, looser dresses gave way to a more flowing look. Corsets were still worn, but became slightly longer to provide the slimmer shape that was coming into fashion. Fabric became thinner to the point of being sheer, and lavish embroidery and lace inserts were a preview of the lacy lingerie dresses that would soon come with the Edwardian era. Clothing sets which included a skirt, blouse and jacket emerged as a practical and acceptable way to dress.
We hope you find the perfect Victorian outfit as you browse these pages!
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Most people find that our sizing runs generously. If you are undecided with which size to order, it is best to order the smaller size, or give us a call to assist you (1-800-452-5925). You may also email us at email@example.com with your measurements (bust and waist) and we can help you choose the nearest size.
An exception to the generous sizing is the type of ball gown that requires boning in the bodice and that supports a heavy skirt. Many times this style is also "off-the-shoulder" and requires a firm fit to stay up. These styles tend to not run as generously as most of our other garments because of this. But please, give us a call if you are uncertain.
In most cases you should take your bust and waist measurement to determine your size. Please wear the undergarments that you intend to wear when you do your measuring. For example, take your measurement over the type of brassiere or corset that you may be wearing.
Measure the fullest part of your bust around and the smallest part of your waist.