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Would you enjoy wearing Victorian Dress?

January 27, 2022

An Outing to Fenelon Falls

Victorian fashion was conspicuous—at public occasions, both ladies and gentlemen often dressed so very well, regardless of the weather. For an outing, gentlemen typically sported jackets, tie, pants and nice hat, even in summer, even to go hunting or fishing. But the effort that they put into their appearance was nothing compared to what society expected of ladies. It was quite the undertaking to get dressed for a formal occasion, let alone all the work that went into making the clothes that would be your Sunday Best.

There were many changes in Victorian ladies’ fashion, but they generally emphasized the waist, and most involved enhancing the hips and constricting the waist. From bustles, steel hoops, or pads to (many layers of) petticoats, there were different fashions of what could be worn under a skirt to create a desirable figure.

Fabric corsets, sometimes with whalebone for rigidity, reduced the waist size, so “the ladies never seemed at ease…. For their dresses were always made too tight, and the bodices wrinkled laterally from the strain; and their stays showed in a sharp ledge across the middle of their backs. And in spite of whalebone, they were apt to bulge below the waist in front; for, poor dears, they were but human after all, and they had to expand somewhere.”

Looking back, it is hard to believe that nineteenth century ladies managed to fit in some of the articles of clothing. At Maryboro Lodge, we have many christening gowns with waists that are larger than the wedding dresses. Victorian ladies’ shoes were strikingly narrow, as were period gloves. Imagine manipulating your body to such a degree, to dress so perfectly, and yet always maintaining congeniality and good social grace.

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