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  • Victorian Costume: the Late Victorian years

    Lady’s Costume

    Bustles and crinolines were out by the 1890s to be replaced by a simpler less extravagant style. Skirts were more trumpet shaped, and the hourglass shape became popular again. Corsets were still used. High necks, supported by high boned collars, and huge puffed sleeves became popular. By night exceptionally low sweetheart, square and round décolleté necklines allowed women to wear quantities of fine jewellery but cleavage was not acceptable and the bust was covered to form a single shape. Leisurewear for Victorian ladies now included bicycling dresses, tennis dresses, and swimwear. By the mid Edwardian period skirts brushed the floor, often with a train, even for day dresses.

    In the early 1900s the fashionable shape for lady was that of a mature woman, with full low chest and curvy hips. Dresses were decorated with plenty of lace. It was still common for the dress to comprise a separate bodice and skirt and by 1905 press fasteners had been invented which would keep the two parts together. During this period capes, wraps and jackets replaced the shawl.

    Around 1908, a new silhouette began to emerge with a straighter column-like style. The waistline was raised until it was a column like empire line or Directoire after the styles designed by fashion designer Paul Poiret. Corsets now reached down almost to the knees!

    In the early to mid Edwardian period huge, broad brimmed hats were worn which were trimmed with masses of feathers or decorated with ribbons and artificial flowers. Occasionally complete stuffed birds (male hummingbirds for those who could afford them) were included! Masses of wavy hair was fashionable, swept up to the top of the head sometimes helped by horsehair pads called "rats". By the end of the period, hats had smaller drooping brims that shaded the face and deep crowns but the overall top-heavy effect remained.

    Men’s Costume

    During the 1890s, the blazer, a navy blue or brightly-coloured or striped flannel jacket was introduced, and was worn for sports, sailing, and other casual activities. The Norfolk jacket remained fashionable for shooting and rugged outdoor pursuits and was often accompanied by matching breeches. Hair was generally worn short, often with a pointed beard and generous moustache.

    The lounge coat continued to replace the frock coat for most informal and semi-formal occasions. Three-piece suits consisted of a jacket with matching high-fastening waistcoat and trousers, although it was not unusual to have one of the three pieces in a contrasting colour. Trousers often had turn-ups or cuffs, and were creased front and back using the new trouser press.

    The cutaway morning coat was still worn for formal occasions and worn with striped trousers, while for formal evening dress a dark tail coat and trousers would be worn with a dark or light waistcoat. The outfit was completed with a shirt with a winged collar and a white bow tie. The less formal dinner jacket was also acceptable worn with a white shirt and a dark tie.

    1901 fashion


    1905 fashion