June 13, 2016
When you think of the Victorian era (that spanned from 1837 to 1901), you’ll immediately picture a woman dressed elaborately in her enormous feathered hat and a large bell-shaped dress. You’re not wrong; but even after Queen Victoria’s reign has long ended, Victorian fashion has evolved into so much more than that, and is still very much present in our modern-day wardrobes.
Corsets must have been the most uncomfortable thing ever. Tight-fitting and suffocating, Victorian women wore them in order to accentuate their waists and emphasise their bosoms. Essentially worn under their many layers of clothing, the corset ensured that their figures wouldn’t be lost under the thick layers of cloth. This was when the Victorian women were still very much restricted by the patriarchy; when appearances mattered the most. Most women who attended balls were expected to look presentable in order to attract the wealthy aristocrats – the Victorians were all about getting married and the elevation of social status, basically.
The corset-related piece of clothing that’s most relevant today would be the latest lace up trend that took all of us by surprise. We’d never have expected this, but anything that Kim Kardashian wears, everybody wears.
PETITE Tie-Front Body, $39.90, available at Topshop.
2. Old English sleeves
These dramatic sleeves that the women wore added extra volume to their dresses and overall silhouettes. With the huge sleeves and the dome-shaped bottoms, this further emphasised the slim waists that women strictly had to have. These sleeves were also a symbol of wealth and class, and most of the aristocrats then loved to dress dramatically in order to flaunt the wealth they had.
Today, we have the comeback of these old English sleeves in the form of breezy bell sleeved tops that have become everybody’s staple piece, on especially lazy days.
Dress with Frilly Sleeves, $39.90, available at Zara.
We’re attributing the extreme layering to the harsh weather conditions in the past. The Victorians loved wearing layers – even beneath their dresses, they wore layers of petticoats, fabrics under their sleeves and a cage crinoline that created an hourglass figure. Their elaborate dresses also featured layers of fabrics, and on top of that, heavy winter coats when the weather turned cold.
While the weather forbids us to to dress in such crazy layers anymore, some layering with lightweight fabrics will do the trick. The key is not wearing too many layers, which is something that will only turn you into a shapeless blob. Invest in a lightweight duster coat to keep layering easy-breezy.
Monki Oversized Duster Coat, $110.61, available on Asos.
A popular design in the Victorian times, and they were meant to give dresses a dramatic flair. Ruffles and frills definitely exude femininity; and even though they can get cringeworth when they exist on outfits in excess, keeping them subtle won’t hurt. Hey, ruffles have survived the test of time, so we think they’ll continue to be here to stay.
Poplin Top with Frill, $55.90, available at Zara.
Since lace was considered to be cheaper than other fabrics, most of the Victorian women’s dresses or skirts had elements of lace in them. Ethereal and romantic, lace is the classic, and we’ll never get tired of it either. However, be sure to pair your lace tastefully; an overload of lace is a definite no. Avoid looking tacky with your lace by pairing them with a pair of brown or black sandals for contrast. A better alternative would be to pair a lace top with your favourite pair of jeans, plus chunky boots.
Lace dress with asymmetric hem, $55.90, available at Bershka.
6. Tailored jackets
The late 1800s saw a gradual change in women’s place in society. Due to the constrictive clothing that often restricted movement, many demanded a reform of women’s clothing. Early feminists began to view clothing as an oppressive force, and sought to change the way women wore their clothes. Tailored jackets were soon introduced as they were said to improve posture, and make it easier to get work done.
These tailored jackets have come a long way since the Victorian era. While it used to be considered a piece of provocative clothing, blazers have become an essential for all of us today. It’s also a great layering piece that will look great when worn with matching pants or a simple dress. You could also pair it with a basic T-shirt and ripped jeans, which will lend edginess to a rather simple coordinate.
PETITE Girlfriend Blazer, $116, available at Topshop.