On 24th March 2016 my latest fashion history book will be published by Bloomsbury/Shire – Victorian Fashion. A modest guide to a vast and complex subject, this introduces the main aspects of dress for women, men and children between 1837 and 1900.
Drawing on written and printed sources, surviving garments and diverse images including fashion illustrations, paintings, advertisements and family photographs, firstly we study the ever-changing sequence of Female Fashions, from the demure poke bonnets of the early-Victorian age to the spectacular bustles of the 1880s and showy ‘leg-o’-mutton sleeves of the 1890s.
Next is Menswear – often overlooked in conventional fashion histories, but here considered in all its fascinating detail, from the brash waistcoats of the 1840s and 1850s to the exaggerated, slender elegance of the late-Victorian ‘mashers’
Children’s Clothes also receive a good airing – the smock frocks, knickerbocker outfits, picturesque sailor suits, woollen stockings and miniature adult costumes designed for the discomfort of the younger generation.
Next we look at Assembling a Wardrobe – the purchase and making of clothing in the days before few outfits could be bought ‘off-the-peg’ but often entailed the painstaking assembly of many individual elements.
Evening Dress then sways into view – a glimpse of glittering ball gowns, clouds of tulle and suave evening suits. Initially these frivolous toilettes were limited mainly to the social elite, although by the late-1800s some of our ordinary ancestors enjoyed dressing up for the occasional dance or dinner party.
We also investigate Sportswear – the modified or specially-designed dress worn by more active Victorians for archery, riding, tennis, cycling, swimming and other outdoor pursuits of the day.
In the next chapter, Bridal Style, we investigate the diverse array of wedding fashions that spanned the period, and how the ‘traditional’ white wedding gradually evolved, under royal influence and encouraged by the popular press.
We end with a look at Mourning Costume – a curious form of dress to modern eyes. Most firmly associated with the Victorians, mourning customs were already beginning to decline by the end of the nineteenth century.
Victorian Fashion should interest fashion students, historical dress enthusiasts, costume designers, family and local historians and hopefully steampunks too.