Tag Archives: Victorian fashion

Costume Sketches for The Young Victoria (2009)

26 Dec

I love period dramas and I love costumes in them! In fact, I love to gaze and admire the costumes so much that sometimes I don’t even care for the film itself; if the costumes are an eye-candy, I will probably enjoy the film as well. Aesthetic is everything. So, maybe I am not the best judge of a particular film itself, but I think it doesn’t take a genius to see that the costumes for the film “The Young Victoria” (2009) are gorgeous! The costume designer Sandy Powell won an Oscar for the costumes she designed for this film and today I wanted to share some of her, seems to be, watercolour sketches which look so vibrant and playful, and more free-flowing and sketchy than a Victorian era fashion plate would be. The film follows Victoria, played by Emily Blunt, from the times she was a Princess Victoria, through her coronation, falling in love with Albert, their marriage and ends with the birth of her first child, daughter Victoria in 1840. The time period is short, covering the 1830s and 1840, but fashion-wise subtle changes can definitely be felt, from puffy 1830s sleeves to simpler 1840s styles which I love very much.

Here is what Powell says about the process of finding inspiration and research for the costumes: “There are a lot of royal portraits of Victoria and the family, so obviously, we started with that. And written material, including her own diaries. She was very specific about her clothing and would describe in great detail what she was wearing and what she did that day, so that was very useful. And after that, I went to Kensington Palace, where there is a museum, and also some of her original pieces of clothing are archived there. We had access to look at those.” And also she emphasised the point of how simple the 1840s fashion actually is: “With the women’s clothes, I don’t think that they are complex. I think they’re quite simple for this period. The most important thing is the undergarment. A woman will have a corset and petticoats on, and that creates the silhouette — the base on top of which the dresses will go. The dresses themselves are very light. They’re made of fine fabrics– silk, mostly — and they just pop over the top of the underwear that’s already created your foundation. So in a way, once an actor has her underwear on, it becomes a question of putting another dress over it.” You can read the entire interview here. Ahhh, to be clad in those long silk gowns, with flowers in my hair, wander the lonely and cold corridors of my palace, only in a dream!

Victorian Influences in Lolita Fashion: Cuteness meets Modesty

10 Jan

I do not dress as a Lolita, but I sure love adding a bit of that cuteness to my wardrobe, and I love the style, not only because it’s cute, slightly eccentric and a bit over the top, but because it is heavily inspired by Victorian fashion. And I made a few collages to illustrate the point.

Contemporary Lolita fashion, which originated in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s but has since gained world wide popularity and attention in fashion magazines, is heavily inspired by certain eras of western fashion – mostly the Victorian fashion or the period from 1830s to early twentieth century. So, it’s a Japanese style inspired by the west, or, more specifically, it’s a romantic vision of the western fashion as seen by the Japan. Lolita fashion isn’t the only occurrence when the Japanese take something from western culture or fashion, twist it around and turn into something fascinating and new, and cover it with a thick layer of cuteness. The aim of Lolita fashion is to look cute or “kawaii” and girly, but there’s also an emphasis on modesty and refinement; nothing tacky, too revealing or too tight-fitted would be accepted into Lolita style.


A typical Lolita dress has a tight-fitted bodice and a wide skirt; either a bell-shaped skirt which flares out from the waist down and ends just below knees, or an A-line skirt which is also flared, but more subtly. While the waistlines may wary; natural waistline is by far the most popular choice, but a high waist and an empire waist similar to the Regency era fashion are also common, the skirt is always wide, like an upside down flower in bloom, it is never tight-fitting or short. This silhouette brings to mind the crinoline dresses from the mid nineteenth century, but they were floor length, while the Lolita dresses are shorter and have more in common with the Victorian fashion for little girls and teenage girls.


Lolita headwear tends to be elaborate and distinctly Victorian. Usually a bow or two, but when it comes to bonnets, they are very similar in shape and decoration to the bonnets worn in the early Victorian era, c. late 1830s and early 1840s. Lolita bonnets tend to be even more elaborate, with frills, lace and flowers, and not to forget the ribbons that tie under the chin.


Lolita hairstyle have very little in common with the hairstyles that women wore throughout the Victorian era, but they have a lot in common with the hairstyles typically worn by little girls and teenager girls before they had their debutante balls and tied their hair up as a sign of maturity and accepting the new womanly phase in life. Lolita fashion has a taste for long hair, worn sometimes in pigtails but mostly in long silky ringlets that look just very similar to the way girls wore their hair in some old Victorian photos, and the way hair was styled for child roles in period dramas set in the Victorian era.

Bodice (Blouse)

In cases where the attire isn’t a one-piece dress but instead constitutes of a skirt separate from the bodice, a white blouse is a popular option, often decorated with subtle lace detailing, little bows or interesting collars. White blouses were often worn by Victorian women, mostly in the late Victorian era and well into the early twentieth century too.


And lastly, gloves or lace mittens, a staple piece of a respectable Victorian lady’s wardrobe, which sadly isn’t so fashionable anymore, but a Lolita, especially the Classic Lolita would never leave the house without them.

1840s – ‘Fashion of Sombre and Wilting Demureness’

28 Apr

Since the story I am writing is set in the 1840s, I came up with a cunning plan to write a post about women’s fashion at the time! Decade of 1840s represents both the first, and the simplest and most romantic decade of Victorian fashion.

1848. fashion 17

In cultural dimension, the 1840s were a fruitful period for Bronte sisters (1847 in particular), Chopin, Franz Liszt, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the Pre-Raphaelites, and it also the first decade of applicable photography (Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill were active in this decade).

This is also the the first decade of Victorian era; Queen Victoria married Albert in 1840 and six out of their nine children were born in this decade. Movies set in the 1840s with accurate fashion are: The Young Victoria (2009), Jane Eyre (2011), Effie Gray (2014), La Dame aux Camélias’ (1980), Cranford (TV Series) and Return to Cranford (2009). Costumes in Sweeney Todd (2007) bear resemblance to the 1840s fashion as well.

young victoria blue gown 5

1840s Queen Victoria by Franz Winterhalten1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, duchesse d'Aumale by W.

Fashion in the 1840s represents a muted version of the romantic and flamboyant fashion of the 1830s. Sombre colours and simplicity were in vogue after a decade of exaggeration and flashy colours. The biggest changes in the silhouette occurred in two spheres – firstly, natural waistline came into fashion after more than forty years of high-empire waists, and, secondly, the volume of the sleeves had collapsed.

1843-1848. Elizabeth (née Rigby), Lady Eastlake by David Octavius Hill, and Robert Adamson calotype1845. three dreamy ladies

1841. May court fashions (England)1841. May court fashions (England)

The silhouette of the 1840s was that of a bell shaped skirt, narrow waist and slopping shoulders. Sleeves were tight and simple, without excess decoration, as was the bodice. Skirt was simple as well; bell shaped, sometimes with delicate flounces of lace, but for day wear the appearance was kept modest. The fashionable look of the 1840s could be described as modest, sombre and demure, and, I’d dare to say, a bit gothic, especially with evening dresses, accesorise and details such as black lace, mitts, roses.

1843. house dress1840s grey silk satin gown 2

1840s Dresses, Striped and Bonnets

In the early years of the decade sleeves still resembled those of the late 1830s; fulness of the sleeves has moved from the shoulder to the lower part of the arm. From about 1843. narrow sleeves were fashionable, and they continued to be so until the late 1850s. Skirts faced changes too; they were gradually becoming wider and wider, richer in flounces and details, and worn with many layers of petticoats to achieve the desirable fulness.

1840. November fashion

To keep in touch with the overall moderate and dark spirit of the decade, popular colours were rather gloomy and toned down, especially for the day wear. Rich shades were popular for evening dresses, but white was favourable as it symbolised innocence and naivety and was therefor perfect for debutantes. ‘In the 1840’s, soft shades of yellow, greenish gold, blues and pinks were worn; but from the late forties stripes, plaids and the more brilliant shades of blues, greens red, and yellows came into fashion.‘ I have also noticed plaid being a popular fabric for day dresses. As for walking and outdoor dresses, my personal remark is that eggplant purple, cobalt blue and dark greens (darker colours in general) were common, at least judging by the fashion plates.

jane eyre 25

An interesting and accurate description of colours in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre which was written and set in the 1840s. Blanche Ingram’s evening dress at a small gathering at Thornfield Hall:

She was dressed in pure white; an amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls.‘ (Chapter 16)

Dresses that Mr Rochester wanted to buy for Jane Eyre:

‘The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr. Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was ordered to choose half-a-dozen dresses. (…) I reduced the half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he would select himself. With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink satin. (…) With infinite difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk.’ (Chapter 24)

1842. eveninng dresses,  Petit Courrier Des Dames 1848. fashion 20

To balance out the dreariness of the day wear, evening dresses were, although simple in cut, often in rich shades of colours, usually decorated with a deep flounce of black lace and roses – the particular look is evident on many portraits of the time. Evening dresses were worn with lace mitts, opera gloves and sheer shawls which were quite popular during the decade.

Colours that I have noticed being popular for evening or dinner dresses are different shades of green such as lime and emerald green, raspberry pink, lilac, silver grey, sapphire and sky blue, amber and honey yellow. I have also observed that red wasn’t as popular in the 1840s as it shall be in the following decade; if worn, currant and garnet red were favourable.

1848. January ballgowns, France

Hairstyles of the 1840s are rather distinctive; hair was centrally parted and, while the back of the hair was shaped into a bun, front tresses could either be curled tightly or smoothed back over the ears and looped or braided. Compared to the hairstyles of the 1830s, these are quite simple.

Bonnets were toned down too; they became smaller and less extravagant and were decorated only by subtle flowers and tied with ribbons. For evening wear hair was in most cases worn curled and decorated with flowers, and occasionally, by the most fashionable ladies, little turban style caps were also worn.

1840s Back view of a Victorian coiffure 1840s headdress1847. Abendfrisur

The wedding dresses of this decade are, in my opinion, the most beautiful Victorian wedding dresses. They were worn with long veils, and a dash of lace, with the hair decorated with roses or other small flowers. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert on 10 February 1840, and successfully started a trend for white wedding dresses. However, wearing white for wedding wasn’t as special and new as it seems now; white wedding dresses were worn in the Regency era too as white was the most fashionable colour, and, in addition, white was, as already mentioned, extremely popular choice for evening dresses, especially for young women.

1844. march wedding dress and day dress

1844. nice shawl, Le Moniteur de la Mode1844. December Le Follet.

Still, as a Queen, Victoria popularised white for brides and made it a standard colour for wedding dresses, but also strengthened the Ideal of Womanhood. ‘Women were told from all quarters that their job was to stay close to the home and shape the world only through their calm and morally pure influences on the men in their domestic circle.’ Therefore, white colour for wedding dresses was more symbolic than ever. Image of Queen Victoria as an adoring and innocent bride, really captured the public’s imagination and along with the common character of a ‘modest bride in white’ often found Dicken’s novels, she cemented the ideal image of a bride.

1844. April Le Follet.

Mr Rochester remarked, upon seeing Jane in a white wedding dress and a simple white veil, that she was ‘fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes.

Queen Victoria described her wedding dress in her journal: ‘I wore a white satin dress, with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, an imitation of an old design. My jewels were my Turkish diamond necklace & earrings & dear Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch.

1842. A young Queen Victoria 1840. Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress 1839. sketch by Queen Victoria, Design for her bridesmaids dresses                                      1839. sketch by Queen Victoria, Design for her                                                                                       bridesmaids dresses

Shawl was very fashionable for outwear as it fitted perfectly with the silhouette of sloping shoulders and a bell shaped skirt, and it gives, if I may add, a romantic touch to the outfit. As the sleeves were tight, jackets and coats came into fashion again, but for walking dresses, especially on the north where the Brontës lived, pelerine was both fashionable and practical as it protected the wearer from the strong wind.

1840s Blue plaid winter cloak1845. Dress and mantle, England

As for footwear, 1840s are sadly the last decade of flat shoes. Fashionable shoes for women were satin slippers tied with ribbons around the ankle, and decorated with bows or lace.

1845. evening slippers, england 1845-1865. Evening slippers Queen Victoria's wedding shoes

That’s it! I sincerely hope that this decade of fashion appealed to you and captivated you as much as it captivated me.

Classic Lolita Lifestyle

30 Jan

Drinking a nice warm cup of tea and reading a book on a rainy afternoon, or perhaps flipping through the pages of your herbarium; the epitome of a Classic Lolita lifestyle.

Classic Lolita Lifestyle 4 b text a

Classic Lolita is considered the baseline of Lolita style, mainly for it features all the crucial Lolita elements; bell-shaped dresses, lace details, bow headbands, delicate white ruffly shirts etc. It is the basic style, and the wellspring of all the other Lolita styles. Though Classic Lolita style could be considered plain and too simple, often in the shadow of the more popular Lolita style such as Sweet Lolita and Gothic Lolita, it is very mature, refine, elegant and deeply rooted in Victorian Fashion. Perhaps that is the reason why I prefer Classic Lolita style over all the others; whenever I feel like dressing in Victorian style, I turn to Classic Lolita for it is the perfect reinterpretation of the Victorian era.

Classic Lolita dresses and head decorations capture the spirit of the Victorian era so splendidly. Classic Lolita dresses with their bell shaped skirts, high collars often decorated with ruffles, interesting sleeve styles, ribbons and cameos really evoke the Victorian spirit, for me at least. Colour pallette varies from sentimental floral prints, to elegant and sophisticated greys, lilacs, deep blues, muted reds, mauve purples and browns. Classic Lolita headdresses look as if they could with no trouble, belong to a 1840s lady, the same goes for the curly hairstyles. Movies such as Jane Eyre (2011) and Young Victoria (2009), and even Sense and Sensibility (1995) could all serve as fashion inspiration for Classic Lolitas.

Classic Lolita Lifestyle 1 a text aSource: all the pictures found on pardonmybloomers.tumblr.com

Classic Lolita dresses have the same silhouette as all Lolita dresses; bell shaped, however, baby doll style are also popular, and you can’t believe how baby doll cut fits nicely in the overall Victorian theme. Lots of ribbons, cameo necklaces, delicate pearl bracelets, subtle colours, interesting sleeve shapes, more often than not influenced by Victorian fashion, 1840s most popularly; these are all keywords when it comes to describing Classic Lolita fashion. It is subtler and simpler than Sweet Lolita, which probably comes first to your mind when you think of Lolita fashion, but this subtlety give a touch of mystery and richness in clothing.

All those prevailing Victorian and other historical influences, Regency era for example, make the Classic Lolita style so alluring to me, so indescribably tempting. It is however, the Classic Lolita lifestyle that appeals me the most, even though Gothic Lolita culture is quite interesting too. Classic Lolita lifestyle resembles the life of a Victorian lady, reinterpreted in a modern way while still capturing that spirit of the era.

While reading about classic Lolitas, I realised how my own daily activities match the Classic Lolita ones. Classic Lolitas are generally more withdrawn from society, they prefer spending time in solitude, reading or embroidering, quietly, or perhaps having a small gathering with friends, sipping tea and eating cupcakes. Elegance and modesty are two words that best describe the over all Classic Lolita lifestyle.

Classic Lolita Lifestyle 2 text aCredit: first (unknown) via Pinterest, other ones here

Other Classic Lolita activities may include reading classic literature, listening to or playing classical music, perhaps the great works of Chopin or Schubert, gazing at the rain falling down and daydreaming, sipping tea, a lot of tea, writing elegant letters with ink on antique papers, making a Victorian style scrapbook, collecting flowers and pressing them, later, in winter, cataloging pressed wildflowers, enjoying Victorian poetry in quiet evenings at home.

When it comes to literature, a typical Classic Lolita reading list would include works written between 1600-1900. in Europe or North America, novels that are now considered classics but were scandalous for their time. Works of Bronte sisters, such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, works by Jane Austen, Frances Hodgson Burnette (The Secret Garden). If a Classic Lolita is in the mood for something more sentimental and romantic, she’d probably read Shakespeare’s or Lord Tennyson’s poetry, or Il Canzoniere (Song Book) by Petrarca. A Classic Lolita my also relish reading The Lord of the Rings for example, there are no limits as long as things stay refined.

Classic Lolita may also be interested in Pagan history, nature, tea culture, biographies of Victorian era women, art in general, calligraphy, a little bit of history, different cultures, dolls, scrapbooks, painting or writing stories, baking old fashioned dishes, collecting antiques and vivifying the atmosphere of Victorian era.

Classic Lolita Lifestyle 3 text aSource: first picture here, second (unknown) via tumblr, third via wikipedia.

Even in Classic Lolita home decor, one can feel the spirit of the Victorian era. Furniture is not however, as dark and massive as a typical Victorian furniture would be, it is lighter and sweeter, mixing the opulent Victorian style interiors with shabby chic and French country style. An isolated mansion or a snugg little cottage in a picturesque nature would be perfectly suitable for a Classic Lolita.

Still, when it comes to decorating, a Classic Lolita would probably be surrounded by things reminiscent of Victorian era such as nicely carved wooden jewellery box, antique tea cups and a tea pot, old dolls, doll’s house, Victorian style stationery with gorgeous floral printed notebooks and lots of old-fashioned paper with ink for writing letters, bookshelves and books with nice covers, lots of cushions, Victorian style wallpaper (William Morris print perhaps), fresh roses and wildflowers in spring and summer, and dried flowers in colder months. Classic Lolita may also have her diary or a scrapbook on hand.

Classic and Gothic Lolita Lifestyles are quite similar for they are both deeply rooted in Victorian tradition, and, as such, they often intermingle.

1840s Evening and ball gowns

25 Oct

There’s something about 1840s fashion that instantly enchanted me; was it the dark colours, Gothic influence or sentimentality and melancholy of Post-Romanticism that dragged me into this beautiful era.

EPSON scanner Image

I find that 1840s as a fashion era have been pretty much underestimated. Maybe that also one of the reasons I adore this era. The decade of 1840s has been characterized with mixture of styles;  sentimentality of Post- Romanticism mixed with the rigidity of the upcoming Victorian era. Quite a charming era I’d have to say.

Just look at the evening dresses in the picture above. Aren’t they just lovely ? Sloping shoulders with full, bell-shaped skirts covered with flounces and intriguing embroidery. The dress on the left is simple, but only on a first sight. Beautiful white silk or tarlatan seems to be transparent and fluid in the skirt area and that interesting combination created this simple, yet opulent evening dress. The colours can seem somber, but that’s the Gothic influence that created itself a way through fashion at the same time Romanticism was at it’s decline.

EPSON scanner Image

The two dresses above have the elements of the 1850s decade; lots of bows and crazy, yet luxurious lace details. White muslin has actually been the favourite fabric for young ladies evening dresses because it symbolized virginity and opulence at the same time. White fabrics were hard to wash so only the rich ladies wore dresses in this colour.

Dresses in one colour were very popular in this era as a reaction to over-the-top dresses of the previous decade. Details and decorations are also toned down compared to not only previous decades, but the one that will follow, 1860s and 70s for example.

1848. evening dresses

I must say that my favourite evening dress is no doubt the one above on the left. I love it’s toned down dove grey-blue colour, sophisticated black lace and black ribbons. Simplicity that looks so opulent and eye-catching. The dress on the right also indicated the style of the next decade; emphasis on the upper part of the dress and rich detailing on the sleeves.

Black lace is an unforgettable Gothic detail on evening dresses. Favourite accessories worn with the evening dresses were certainly long and dashing opera gloves, preferably in white colour and all kinds of scarfs, tiaras, exotic turbans, flowers and small, delicate bracelets.

1848. January ballgowns, France

Fashion plate above shows the exotic influence that was evident in 1840s fashion, but only in accessories, never in patterns or designs. These kind of little turbans certainly brought a pop to an outfit and did the job of being noticed. Beautiful, toned-down colours are shown in both dresses, but this sentimental delicacy is defied by deep neckline.

A thing that I absolutely adore about this silhouette are sloping shoulders. I find it the most beautiful way of shaping the upper part of a dress. It brings out the undoubted delicacy of female body.

1848. paris evening dresses

Perhaps the simplest dresses of all, but equally beautiful. This pale blue dress is particularly interesting to me; simple and casual yet elegant and refined. In my opinion perfect for Debutantes and young ladies. These simple dresses only enhance the natural beauty of young aristocratic Victorian ladies. Just look at the hairstyles with soft curls and lovely romantic roses.

1849. March ballgowns

Can you imagine Queen Victoria, Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts or Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna wearing these dresses and dancing on the latest tunes composed by Schumann.