Rich women wore corsets under their dresses. At the beginning of Victoria's reign it was fashionable to wear a crinoline under a skirt. These hoops and petticoats made skirts very wide. Later in the period skirts were narrower with a shape at the back called a bustle. An outfit consisted of many layers which meant that rich Victorian women needed help getting dressed from a maid. During the day women wore simpler dresses but might change into a smarter dress if they went out to call on friends. In the evening a lady would change for dinner, usually into a silk or satin gown.
Men's fashion changed very little during the Victorian period. The main outfit was the suit. Waistcoats were also worn, sometimes these were brightly patterned. Hats were worn outdoors. Wealthy men had different outfits for different activities, for example, hunting or going to the theatre. A pocket watch and handkerchief were often carried and gloves were worn outside. In the evening men changed into a dinner suit with a long frock coat and bow tie.
Children tended to wear miniature versions of adult clothes. Boys wore dresses until they were about five years old. Once of school age they wore suits or short trousers and jackets with a cap. Sailor suits were also fashionable. Girls wore dresses with a pinafore over the top but did not wear crinolines or bustles until they were older.
Read on to find out about the clothes of the Victorian poor.
A typical Victorian day dress. Copyright York Museums Trust (York Castle Museum). (Click on image to enlarge.)
A Victorian dress with full crinoline. Image courtesy of www.eriding.net (Click on image to enlarge.)
Photograph of children wearing sailor suits. Image courtesy of www.eriding.net (Click on image to enlarge.)