Looking Good In Victorian Times

During the Victorian Era of 1837-1901 going out badly dressed was never an option for all but the poorest in society. In the 1860s, high fashion demanded the wearing of very wide, ‘crinoline’ dresses. There were supported by a hooped affair that the unfortunate lady had to wear strapped around her middle. Then yards of heavy material in the form of an underskirt and overskirt would be worn underneath, and fastened around the hoops, After all that, the final dress would be put on by a helpful relative, or a ladies’ maid, often having to be sewn into position at the last minute.

No wonder houses had bigger entrance doors at the time!

The demand for ever smaller waists in female fashions led to some drastic measures. Corsets stiffened with whalebone (yes, from real whales) would be tightly laced around the middle, from under the breasts, to the swell of the hips. This was done with such force, it was almost impossible for the poor woman to consider doing it without help.

Not only did they have to suffer the corsets, but also smart ‘corset covers’ that were applied over them. This on an undergarment that nobody could even see!
Many versions were widely available.

The resulting tiny waist has to be seen to be believed. Small wonder that women dressed like this could not eat, found it almost impossible to go to the toilet, and often fainted as a consequence of their internal organs being compressed unnaturally.

A snazzy striped dress was the height of fashion too. This lady was very much ‘on trend’, in around 1880.
Her waist reminds me of a wasp!

This is what passed for mainstream ‘glamour’ photography at the time. πŸ™‚
Although tame by modern standards, it serves to illustrate just how much underwear was worn under everyday clothes.

Men had to look good too of course. Though they might have escaped the rigours of corsets and crinolines, they were expected to wear three-piece suits in all temperatures, along with hard collars, and ties of course. And not forgetting trying to keep a heavy top hat on their head.
As well as the clothes, facial hair was the ‘mark of a man’!

This smart chap obviously loves himself.
He has included the cane in his photo, showing him ‘getting his swag on’!

So the next time you are slipping on a barely-there pair of thong panties, a baggy T-shirt, some black leggings, and flip-flops on your feet, just be grateful that you were born after 1920.

65 thoughts on “Looking Good In Victorian Times

  1. I have often thought that the most drastic change in fashion was from Victorian times to the Jazz age. If we think parents had a hard time with their kids wearing jeans and tee shirts, imagine parents whose daughter suddenly wore a loose dress to her knee, and cut all her long hair into a bob. That must have been shocking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the ‘Flappers’ were considered to be outrageous. No corsets or bras, smoking cigarettes, and rolling their stockings down. I am always reminded of the song, ‘Anything Goes’, from the 1930s.

      Anything Goes
      Cole Porter
      Times have changed
      And we’ve often rewound the clock
      Since the Puritans got a shock
      When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
      If today
      Any shock they should try to stem
      ‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
      Plymouth Rock would land on them.
      In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
      Was looked on as something shocking.
      But now, God knows,
      Anything goes.
      Good authors too who once knew better words
      Now only use four-letter words
      Writing prose.
      Anything goes.
      If driving fast cars you like,
      If low bars you like,
      If old hymns you like,
      If bare limbs you like,
      If Mae West you like,
      Or me undressed you like,
      Why, nobody will oppose.
      When ev’ry night the set that’s smart is in-
      Truding in nudist parties in
      Studios.
      Anything goes.
      When Missus Ned McLean (God bless her)
      Can get Russian reds to “yes” her,
      Then I suppose
      Anything goes.
      When Rockefeller still can hoard en-
      Ough money to let Max Gordon
      Produce his shows,
      Anything goes.
      The world has gone mad today
      And good’s bad today,
      And black’s white today,
      And day’s night today,
      And that gent today
      You gave a cent today
      Once had several chateaux.
      When folks who still can ride in jitneys
      Find out Vanderbilts and Whitneys
      Lack baby clo’es,
      Anything goes.
      If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction
      Instruct Anna Sten in diction,
      Then Anna shows
      Anything goes.
      When you hear that Lady Mendl standing up
      Now turns a handspring landing up-
      On her toes,
      Anything goes.
      Just think of those shocks you’ve got
      And those knocks you’ve got
      And those blues you’ve got
      From that news you’ve got
      And those pains you’ve got
      (If any brains you’ve got)
      From those little radios.
      So Missus R., with all her trimmin’s,
      Can broadcast a bed from Simmons
      ‘Cause Franklin knows
      Anything goes.
      Source: LyricFind
      Songwriters: Cole Porter
      Anything Goes lyrics Β© Warner Chappell Music, Inc

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You can say what you want: Fashion makes life worth living. I see it every day in this region. Only discount clothes are not the real thing. I fear, however, that this climate-protection craze will end up in a kind of Orwellian grey. ;-( Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also recall ladies in ‘foundation garments’ and girdles when I was young. They had suspenders dangling from them, for stockings to be attached. Then in the mid-1960s, came the ‘Panty-girdle’. My first girlfriend used to wear those, in 1967. πŸ™‚ (And she had no need to, as she was very slim)

      Some of the most expensive hats were beaver fur. They were waterproof, and highly prized. I will look into a post on hats for you, Lara. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, I have read about the beaver-fur trade. It was a source of fierce competition between Canadian and American traders, and the cost of transporting it across the Atlantic meant that it commanded a premium price too. πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

        1. I have to admit that I found all that rarely-seen ‘lingerie’ to be very sexy at the time. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
          Ladies’ underwear departments in big stores were embarrassingly eye-popping for me!
          (Probably still would be, if it was around now)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Makes you think.
    Mind you I’m guessing this was the preserve of the upper classes? Much the same as today, they need something to spend their money on, plastic sugary, liposuction and injections. Have things really changed that much πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even ‘upstairs’ servants were expected to dress very well at all times, often in uniforms provided of course. Most shop-girls wore corsets, as did female stage entertainers, and many waitresses and restaurant workers. You probably had to be a ‘very’ working-class woman, like mill-workers, kitchen maids, and farm workers, before it was ‘acceptable’ for you to wear rough clothes that didn’t accentuate your figure. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I had the rare privilege of getting to ‘try on’ my great-grandmother’s corset – back when I was young, wore size 3 jeans and worked two jobs involving physical labor – which meant – I was a ‘stick’ – πŸ™‚

    My natural waist was 21″ – we tried to get towards the famed “16” waist of Scarlett O’hara – I sat down, with very good posture – anything else would have cut me in half –

    With short breaths in between, I managed to get out the words – “Okay – experienced – get – – – this – – – OFF – – ME!!!!” – πŸ™‚

    I can’t remember where I read, but there were women who underwent surgery to remove lower ribs, just to get their waist even tinier – sigh –

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I felt my lungs constricting at the sight of those corsets. And that dress could never enter through my door… Even though we wear a lot of cloth in India (Sarees are 5 metres of cloth along with other ensemble) but atleast they allow you to breath. No wonder, Europeans used to fall ill in India in 1920s. Imagine wearing that dress in 50 Degree Celcius temperature with no Air Conditioning.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes indeed, Shaily. The Victorians (male and female) arrived in India dressed for an English winter! No wonder the women were always ill, and the families moving to the hill stations for cooler weather. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great set of photos Pete, thanks. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the series about women with Kathy Burke on Channel 4, but somehow I couldn’t see her submitting to this form of torture, even for an acting job! [and rightly so, of course] πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh man….I almost go out of breath when I see those pictures. Those women must have suffered so much during those times. Totally horrible. Have to admit that some of the outfits do look amazing, but well glad that in these days women don’t have to endure such torture anymore😊 Great post as always Pete! πŸ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot even imagine the pressure on the body, in order to achieve such tiny waist measurements.
      It’s bad enough having to reduce one notch on my belt after a big meal! πŸ™‚
      Thanks, GP.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post as usual…..but do women have it so much better today? I mean they have to look a certain wayt so that means lots of exercise and money spent to get up appearances…..some may wish there was some way to get “the bod” without all the effort…..just a thought…..hate the top hats….cane looks cool chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some women still feel that pressure, I have no doubt. But most of those I see around town here don’t seem to worry that much these days. I certainly couldn’t imagine them bothering with corsets, and yards of underwear! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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