Fashion and footwear from the Victorian era

The Victorian era was a period in time from the years 1837 – 1901. It was called the Victorian era because this was when Queen Victoria was in power in the United Kingdom. She became queen in 1837 and reigned until her death on 22 January 1901.

Fashion during the Victorian era was quite conservative, and covered the entire body for both men and women. Dresses for women were long. Only young girls could wear short skirts or short dresses, and the hemlines lengthened as the girl grew older.

Both men and women wore hats and gloves when outdoors. Hats that were popular among Victorian women were bonnets and straw hats. Hats could be big, and over the top, trimmed with feathers, flowers and ribbons. Sometimes, a hat could even feature a stuffed bird. Many birds were slaughtered during the Victorian period to provide decoration for hats.

This woman wears a hoop skirt, gloves and hat trimmed with feathers, fashion from the Victorian era. The penny-farthing bicycle was a type of bicycle that was popular during the Victorian period.

This woman wears a hoop skirt, gloves and hat trimmed with feathers, fashion from the Victorian era. The penny-farthing bicycle on the left was a type of bicycle that was popular during the Victorian period.

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Bonnets were also popular with women during the Victorian era.

Something that was very popular among women in the Victorian era was crinoline, or also called the hoop skirt. It was a type of petticoat, and as the name suggests, the skirt is made up of hoops to give the dress or skirt its huge shape and volume. The hoops could be made of stiff fabric, whale bone or steel wire. These hoops gave the skirt the shape of a round bird cage. Hoop skirts were totally impractical, with some skirts wider than the woman’s height. They made walking through narrow doorways and sitting down difficult. But hoop skirts were very fashionable during the Victorian era among women of all social classes.

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During the Victorian era, women’s hats were big, and their hoop skirts even bigger.

Compared with the impractical hoop skirt, footwear for both men and women in the Victorian era was relatively more practical. It was at the start of the Victorian era that shoes started to be made for the left and right foot. Previously, shoes could be worn interchangeably on either foot. Footwear that was popular in the Victorian period were leather boots. These could be in the style of lace-up boots or button boots with low heels, which were quite practical. However, just like the hats and hoop skirts, Victorian dress shoes could be over the top as well. Shoes could be made of material such as silk, satin and suede, and they could be embroidered and dyed. Shoe could be decorated with bows, buckles, gemstones, lace and artificial flowers.

These satin shoes date from around 1840

These satin shoes date from around 1840 and belonged to Queen Victoria. They are lined with white kid and have leather soles.

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Close up of Victorian dress shoes, with low heels and lots of embellishments.

A display of Victorian shoes.

A display of Victorian shoes.

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