Women’s fashion Status

Victorian ideologies about women’s bodies were primarily based around the perception of the woman as an object maintained by patriarchal desires: “one bound by tight corseting and domestic confinement.”[1]  Their bodies acted as artistic forms of moral and domestic societal values,[2] but they also acted as expressions of the self and social status.[3]  During this time period industry, import, and commercialism were thriving, therefore, prosperous families were not only able to afford elaborate clothing and accessories, but they were informed by commercialism what extravagancies were on the market world-wide.

Materials of all shades and colours, made from silk, velvet, satin, feathers, etc. were used to create the most artistic styles for any occasion.  Clothing details were not the only focus in Victorian fashion, but the women’s bodies themselves were transformed by their outfits to resemble idealness.  Corsets and waists were important items used to mask their natural forms and even advertised to cure women’s ailments like nervous debility and constipation.  The ideal waist size was a mere twenty inches, but for child-bearing attractiveness the bustle was worn to embellish the hips.  Modesty of the female body was primary, despite the exaggerated nature of their outfits. Sleeve and skirt length allowed for little to no skin visible, otherwise gloves or stockings were worn in public.[4]


[1] Mary Blanchard, “Boundaries and the Victorian Body: Aesthetic Fashion in Gilded Age America”, The American Historical Review, 1995, p 2

[2] Blanchard, “Boundaries and the Victorian Body, p 3

[3] Blanchard, “Boundaries and the Victorian Body, p 5

[4] Little, “Elegantly Attired”, p 1

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