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  • Victorian Costume: the mid Victorian years

    Lady’s Costume

    In the 1860s it became fashionable to emphasise the back of the skirt, whilst keeping it flat at the front. This could be achieved by adding additional layers to the skirt. Crinolines and cages suddenly disappeared and were replaced by tournures and bustles. Additional skirts called aprons were added, and layers were cut and turned back to reveal contrastingly coloured underskirts and gown layers.

    By the mid 1870s, for evening wear, soft bustles were becoming so extreme in styling that they dropped down at the back to form a tiered, draped and frilled train. These were very heavily ornamented with frills, pleats, ruffles, braids and fringing.

    In the 1870s, uncorseted tea gowns were introduced for informal entertaining at home and steadily grew in popularity.

    For riding, the well dressed Victorian lady had a matching jacket and skirt (but no bustle), worn with a high collared shirt and a top hat with a veil. Hunting costumes had draped ankle length skirts worn with boots or gaiter. For walking, the lady wore a long jacket and a skirt with a bustle, finished with a small hat or bonnet.

    Men’s Costume

    Changes to the Victorian gentleman’s costume were less extreme. Neckties in the 1860s became wider and were tied in a bow or looped into a loose knot and fastened with a stickpin. Frock coats were shortened to knee length. Top hats briefly became the very tall "stovepipe" shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular.

    In the 1870s it became popular to wear a three-piece suit with a patterned fabric short.

    During the 1870s, three-piece suits grew in popularity along with patterned fabrics for shirts. Neckties were the four-in-hand (the “normal” kind of tie knot) and, later, the Ascot ties (an Ascot tie being a narrow neckband with wide pointed wings). Flat straw boaters were worn when boating.

    Formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers with a dark waistcoat, a white bow tie, and a shirt with a winged collar. Around 1880 the dinner jacket was used for more relaxed formal occasions. The Norfolk jacket worn with tweed or woollen breeches was the clothing for rugged outdoor pursuits such as shooting. Knee-length topcoats, often with contrasting velvet or fur collars, and calf-length overcoats were worn in winter.