Princess Victoria became Queen in 1837. It wasn’t anticipated that she would reign for 64 years; however, she did. The name itself, Victoria, represents a complete era famously known as the Victorian Era. Subsequent to 1840 when Victoria married Albert, the zenith of Victorian attitudes of prudishness and of austere external ethical code remained until around 1890 which is when Prince Edward, the Prince Of Wales, and his more vociferous lifestyle was imitated in society. Throughout the Victorian era, the exact cut, material and tint of a garment showed the upbringing of the wearer. With increasing prosperity fashions for women of the upper classes expanded and became somewhat complex.
Dresses were created with several layers of various shades, materials and trimmings proposed to be worn together with both under and over dresses. Ladies appropriately dressed wore accessories such as bonnets and gloves. Bust lines were pushed up and waistlines dropped as designers resurrected the popularity of ceremonial dresses suggestive of Georgian France.
In the initial quarter century, puffy “mutton-leg” sleeves were the height of fashion. These were eventually substituted with fitted sleeves and finally bell sleeves. Victorians felt that the hourglass figure was perfect for flattering the female body so women wore tight corsets to realize this image. The Victorian era progressed from crinoline skirts to hoop skirts as well; then eventually bustled skirts. When the sewing machine arrived, it revolutionized women’s fashion and made it more practical.
The main accessory for women of the Victorian era were the cameos. Cameos, sometimes customized, worn during this period were frequently affixed to a black velvet ribbon and worn as a choker. Men’s fashion during the Victorian era consisted of an informal sack-coat during the day while formal attire included a top hat, dapper cutaway coat or frockcoat, waistcoat, cravat and trousers.