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TheBrassGlass's avatar

Know your Victorian looks

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My recent commissions made me realize how difficult it can sometimes be to explain the different Victorian fashions. And that's totally understandable! I mean, all of England's most famous queens (Elizabeth I, Victoria, Elizabeth II) ruled for a very VERY LOOOONG time. Victoria's reign: 1837-1901. :faint: That's a lot of time for fashion to change, and it most certainly did.

Anyway, for this demonstration I have borrowed Cszemis's beautiful Victorian time-traveling character, Julia Elderslie. I will probably add two more illustrations to this, one for the 1830s and one for the late 1880s to 1900, but for now, these are the three most well-known looks of the Victorian era. You can see how one naturally leads to the other, and actually, by the end of the century the fashion had swung back to imitate the earlier looks of her reign, but I'm getting off on a tangent now.

In each of the decades of the Victorian era, one or two features was/were especially exaggerated.

The crinoline was that broad, bell-shaped style of hoop skirt. With the crinoline, the skirt's breadth was the exaggerated feature. Toward the middle of the 19th century, it had grown wider and less graduated, but then began to grow thin again by the mid-1860s. American Civil War buffs will recognize this style right away. For this particular gown, I tried to cram two styles together just for the purposes of demonstration. So you have the flouncy wide collar, but also the bell-sleeves with military-style knots. The flouncy collar was more typical of day or ball gowns, while the military stylings were more popular with outdoors wear, such as walking jackets and riding clothes, that would have been made of heavier fabric. The military stylings became very popular on such garments; some even went so far as to have lacing up the front and even stylized epaulets embroidered on the shoulders. Julia wears her hair in a very typical style, parted in the middle and rolled up into a fine hairnet in the back.

The crinolette was a somewhat short-lived style of half hoop skirt. It was as if they cut one side off the crinoline and put that in the front. If you've ever seen Anna and the King, the character Anna wears a crinoline and a crinolette at times. Note how the waist is beginning to grow longer and thinner. With the crinolette, the slope of the -ahem- backside was exaggerated.

And of course the crinolette led directly to the bustle. The one I've depicted here is called the Canfield style of bustle frame, but there were several different kinds, some of which were shaped like a bell jar with the middle actually curving inward before curving outward again at the bottom. Rolls of fabric were worn both under the skirts and on top of them, the latter in decorative folds and drapes. Note how long the torso has become and how thin the waist. The waist's length and thinness, and the -ahem- backside were the exaggerated features in this style. The color of this dress is of particular notice; Julia is wearing a shade of magenta, a mauveine aniline, one of the first synthetic chemical dyes ever discovered (1856), which quickly became popular in ladies' fabric.

Special thanks to Cszemis for letting me borrow her character! :D
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Hillary9skirt's avatar

Thank you. I like the 'nod to male fashion' elements of epaulets etc -'What goes around..' (Power shoulders 1980s)..

Fairydust07's avatar
Beautiful, informative, fantastic!

Personally, aesthetically, I prefer the bustle.
TheBrassGlass's avatar
Thank you! :heart: Yes, I think a lotof people do. XD
TheDevilReborn's avatar
Beautiful, and exactly what I needed to know. 
coredumperror's avatar
OH this is just wonderful! I loves me some crinoline gowns and bustles, but I didn't really know a thing about the crinolette.  Thank you for educating me!
roxya1's avatar
I love learning about fashion, thanks for this wonderful illustration!
Cantthinkofaname523's avatar
Beautiful...but I do not understand how women could sit down when they were wearing these things under their dresses.
TheBrassGlass's avatar
They were flexible, but women kind of had to perch in their seats rather than sit; in the case of the bustle, they were designed to be collapsible to an extent. :)
Cantthinkofaname523's avatar
OK, thanks for explaining that to me 😊
AmberAmethyst's avatar
Each of those dresses are awesome. I love the crinoline.
TheDevilReborn's avatar
This is wonderful!
ProfessorBats's avatar
There are actually 2 bustle eras with somewhat different silhouettes, the early (or first) bustle 1869-1876, and the late (or second) bustle, 1883-1889. In-between came the natural form fashions, with no bustle or crinoline, and the by the 1890s only small pads were worn to "improve" the backside curve (more like today's pushup bra than a bustle, the latter being never meant to look like you have that big a butt!).
Lovely drawings.
TheMasterandhisMaid's avatar
amazing and beatiful.
Madrigal2000's avatar
Wow, I bet it was a pain in the butt to wear any of these. Still, I love the way the dresses looked like. :D
TzarinaRegina's avatar
This is such a nice reference, thanks for posting! 
ARIrish's avatar
I'll take a crinolette any day.  That thing is looking sharp
Art-Fashion-History's avatar
Very interesting and beautiful!!!
VFreie's avatar
The more I look at historical fashion (well, certain fashions at least), the more thankful I feel for jeans and tees. Anyway, love how you showed the progress here. c:
juliassundial's avatar
Oh wow, this incredible! You've totally nailed the fashion eras and Julia looks absolutely fantastic in all of them!!! The bustle is my favourite though but its all so beautiful!
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