1800s – Victorian Fashion: Evolution and Influences

A portrait of two women in Victorian-style clothing traveling in a carriage.

The 1800s were a century of significant change, particularly in the world of fashion. The Victorian era saw the evolution of fashion, as well as its influences from culture, societal norms, and technological advancements.

At the start of the century, women’s fashion was characterised by the high-waistline Empire silhouette. The ideal image of beauty at the time did not require a curvy figure, but rather a straight, slim physique. The fabric of choice was lightweight and undergarments were minimal. However, as the century progressed, fashion took on a different form.

The 1830s saw the rise of the Romantic Era, which was all about soft lines, intricate details, and ethereal fabrics. Bell-shaped skirts and puffed sleeves began to make an appearance. Women started to wear large bonnets as well, which soon became a staple in women’s fashion.

The 1850s marked the beginning of the crinoline era, where the bell-shaped skirts were held away from the body with a frame. This period also introduced the “basque,” a tight-fitting bodice that flared out at the hips. This silhouette accentuated the hourglass figure, which was the ideal feminine form of the time.

As the 1800s progressed, fashion continued to evolve. The 1870s saw the rise of the “bustle” era, with skirts being shortened at the front and drawn upwards at the back. The bustle, which was initially worn underneath the skirt, eventually became a significant design feature. The sleeves became more fitted, and the corsets were tightened even more, stifling women’s movements.

A woman picking flowers in the garden.

At the turn of the century, fashion became more relaxed, shedding off the constraints of the previous era. Women’s garments were designed to give them more mobility, which saw the rise of the “hobble skirt.” This skirt was long and tight, limiting women’s steps to short, rapid ones.

In conclusion, the 1800s saw the evolution of fashion from the high-waistline Empire silhouette to the hobble skirt at the turn of the century. There was a constant influence from culture, societal norms, and technology, which played a massive role in shaping fashion during the Victorian era.