What Clothes Did the Victorians Wear?


Quick Answer

Fashions changed several times during the Victorian era from 1837 to 1901. Men's clothing became more comfortable and less flamboyant. The invention of the sewing machine and the use of aniline dyes resulted in brightly colored and over decorated clothing.

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Full Answer

During the 1840s women wore wide, full skirts supported by several horsehair petticoats, stiffened with padding, worn underneath. Day dresses had narrow sleeves, with the shoulder line ending below the natural shoulders, forcing the wearer's arms to their sides. By 1850, sleeves were wider and more petticoats were worn underneath fuller skirts with flounces added to provide an even wider look.

The cage crinoline was introduced in 1856, allowing skirts to expand even more. Sleeves for daytime dresses were pagoda style, meaning they were full or slit at the wrist with linen sleeves underneath and gathered at the top for a narrow shoulder cap. Necklines for evening wear were typically off the shoulder and were visibly decorated in the front and back.

The hoop skirt eventually lost popularity and was replaced by a bustle, giving the appearance of being full in the front with even more fabric gathered in the back, at the waist. This style was popular until 1876, when it was replaced by the natural form; the bustle had diminished from a cage to just a small pad or nothing at all. In 1892, sleeves began to pouf again while bodices remained slim.

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