Queen Victoria of England is one of the longest reigning monarchs ever--no wonder she had an era named after her! This tiny but strong-willed woman reigned from 1837-1901, and many styles spanned her long and succesful reign.
Queen Victoria with her hair down, 1847. It was unusual for a respectable grown woman to let her hair down in public, especially for a male painter; it was considered scandalous for a woman to do that most of the time, and to show her ankles too. Propriety ruled back then!
As hoops were not yet invented in the 1840s, and thus corded petticoats, (petticoats with cord stitched in rows towards the hem,) or many starched petticoats were used to keep the skirts full.
The styles of those two decades are so similar, they might as well be blended together!
With the advent of the hoop, skirts grew very wide indeed during the 1850s and 60s, some skirts being so wide that ladies often ran into trouble in carriages, trains and even in the doorways of their own home!
Trimming was very acsessive, and flowers in the hair were a stylish accent. Small lace caps were essential indoors, and floppy sunhats with ribbons or small hats in a variety of deisgns were worn for outside.
Corsets had come back in the 1830s, and were worn to keep in with the stylish sihlouette. (go to Victoria Part II for more on 1800s underclothes.)
Below are many fashion plates (some slightly egxaggerated,) and paintings for your enjoyment.
Gowns from 1852. By this time the hoop had been invented, a frame for the skirt made of light wood or wires. Dresses were more adorned on the skirt, as you can see.
Lola Montez, Spanish dancer, in the early 1850s. The feathered hat and riding crop indicate that the costume in the 2nd picture is a riding ensemble.
1860 gowns. the one on the left is a ball gown; the lady carries the inevitable fan. on the right is a fur-trimmed wrap, most likely covering a evening dress. Flowers were worn in the hair at evening events for most of the 19th century.
1860 wedding gowns. I wonder why there are six brides at once. I've never heard of a um, hexuple? wedding.
Queen Victoria set the trend for white brides when she got married in 1840 to her beloved Prince Albert. The tradition for orange blossoms in the hair at weddings also came from Victoria. Before, brides wore their best dress, which was usually not white.
1861 ball dress (right) and outerwear (left.) The red lady's hat is either a glengarry or a porkpie. The blue and white lady carries a posy of flowers, a popular evening accsesory back then.
The inevitable parasol! The little lacy cap adorning the turquoise-clad miss's head is another accsesory defined with the 1860s. Both of them have full sleeves--yet another 1860s fashion article.
Princess Alice, 3rd child of Queen Victoria, in her wedding gown. She married Grand Duke Ludwig of Hesse, (a German state,) in 1862. Her wedding occured just a few months after her beloved father, Prince Albert's untimely death in December 1861, and it was described as being more like a funeral than a wedding. "...dress with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, a veil of the same and a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle..."
1865 extant wedding dress.
Empress Eugenie of France and her ladies-in-waiting relaxing in a garden. (Winterhalter) Ringlets hanging down the sides of the face was another stylish hairstyle. Big floppy straw hats with a long, wide ribbon of gauze tied about the crown were worn for garden lounging attire and the like. (see far right.) Bows are abundant.
Queen Victoria and her family sometime in the hoopskirt decades. This painting illustrates children's fashion as well as ladies.
Princess Helena, daughter of Queen Victoria, in an engagement photo with her fiance Prince Christian. The dress she is wearing is a very simple 1860s dress, more of a middle class sort of outfit. Her hair is in a snood style.
Empress Eugenie in court gown and cape. Capes of this sort were only worn for court attire; however, short capelets or cloaks were worn for outerwear.
A Monet painting of ladies in a garden in 1867. again, there is a parasol. Hintings of the styles to come in the next decade are seen in the back-protruding striped gown on the left.
Empress Elisabeth of Austria, "Sisi" in a fluffy, starry evening gown with a similar premise as the green-trimmed pinstripe one above. This fairytale gown was deisgned by Charles Worth, a prominent haute courture designer of the Victorian times.