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Fashion 101

After doing some research on what it took to be considered ‘high fashion’ in the Victorian Era, a woman living in 2013 can have a new found respect for the women living in that time. The women of the Victorian Era endured more pain than women today could even understand in the name of beauty. Not only this, but the Victorian women must have worn more than twice the amount of clothes that women today do. This post will be discussing the types of clothes that women wear today, and the types of clothes the women in the Victorian Era wore. I will later be discussing how women’s fashion effected their lives.

Fashion in the Victorian Era was not simple, it seems that the most important aspect of Victorian fashion was the corset.


These articles of clothing went underneath a woman’s clothes in order to keep her posture straight, and her waste as tiny as possible. Women of all classes were able to wear different variations of this article. Even pregnant women wore this garment. Most cases it was to ensure the public did not see her stomach growing over the nine months, this is said to lead to the rise of still births during that time (Freeman). Freeman also quoted another scholar in saying that it is estimated that 21 to 28 pounds of pressure per square inch was put on the women wearing corsets. Therefore this reduced their lung capacity by 20% or more (Freeman). Freeman also explores other effects of the garment “nausea, constipation, eating disorders, and uterine displacement were nonetheless exacerbated by the constrictive garment” (Freeman). This garment has lucky been faised out, and is not used in everyday life to make women today thinner.

Other Garments that Victorian women typically wore dresses. These dresses are not like the ones that we see in todays society, they were used to portray a message of the “exquisite slave”. The idea of this was that women were constrained so much within their clothing, that it was mearly impossible to do anything but look pretty. The shoulders on the sleeves of these garments would go down so low on the women’s arms and would be so tight that it was impossible to raise ones arms without ripping the dress. Within the 1850’s the petticoats were introduced.



This made the movement of the legs much less functional. In the 1860’s the crinoline and cages that were introduced, replaced the peticoats. Although it may have been easier to actually move your legs, you were surrounded by a cage from the

waste down, making getting around very difficult.


cagecage dress


It is evident from exploring simply a few garments of the Victorian Era, and these women endured copious amounts of hardships in order to be considered beautiful.

In today’s society, clothing is different but also can be uncomfortable. It is interesting to see that the idea of a woman trying to look a certain way, no matter how uncomfortable, still exists. Throughout time, one can see the reoccurrence of retro fashion trends sneaking their way back into modern trends. Things such as Bell Bottoms were popular in the 70’s and made their return in the early 2000’s, or Leg Warmers, which were popular in the 1980’s made their return just a few years ago. In comparison to Victorian fashion, women today typically wear corsets as a form on lingerie. Today they are not used to make one thinner, but to communicate sexual desires, and make ones self more desirable to their partner. Today, fashion is much more about showing off ones body, than it was in the Victorian Era. A way to explore this idea would be to compare two scenarios.

In the Victorian Era if women were to attend a party, they would dress in their most elegant gowns a hat or bonnet, and of course a corset underneath. They would show off very little skin, and their arms (or a majority of their arm) was sleeved. Although they did not show their skin, their curves were accented, and this showed off their womanly figure. Here is a picture displaying this:



When comparing this to young women today, who attend parties, the idea of fashion is very different. It is evident that the idea to show more skin is much more popular in todays society. Today women’s is shown off by wearing skin tight clothes, and less clothes in general. People today desire to look ‘sexy’ rather than elegant.


Here is an example of figures that we see daily, at a party. You can see the outfits in which they wear are not portraying the same image as the Victorian women were, and could quite possibly be just as uncomfortable.

To end off this blog post, here is a satirical clip on Victorian fashion. In my next post, I plan on discussing how the way in which people dress expressed the class they belonged to.



One response »

  1. Taylor Leeder

    I really love your blog and such a different take on the project then a lot of us other students took. I applaud your creativity. Also I just wanted to comment that I worked for 5 years at a local history museum that would often host historical fashion shows. I have modeled some of the Victorian clothing you have mentioned including corsets and petticoats. It is in fact next to impossible to maneuver in them and even worse when you add a hoop skirt. When I was wearing these articles of clothing I could not help but think how restrained I was. The clothing of the era literally policed the women who had to wear it.


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