Abigail Shepherd is the 29-year-old author of teen historical fiction novel Victoria’s Victorian Victory. Her other work has most recently been published by The Flash Fiction Press, and Mystery Weekly, and she has a regency romance series, Ask Me No Secrets, on channillo.com. She’s hoping her upcoming novel will encourage teenage girls to think about their futures, set goals for themselves, and insist on being treated with the respect they deserve. Her hobbies include fishing, napping, and drinking exceptionally good wine. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @abiwriting and blogs at bewritingblog.wordpress.com
I first met Abigail Shepherd approximately one year ago on Instagram, which has a thriving book community of authors and readers. During that time we have become friends.
It has been a pleasure to watch Abigail gain confidence and begin to shine. Now she has just released her new book Victoria’s Victorian Victory, a Young Adult historical novel set in the Victorian era.
I’m so pleased to welcome Abigail Shepherd to my blog as a guest author. Abigail has written the article below, which looks at fashion in the Victorian times.
The Victorian era lasted 64 years and saw almost as many changes in fashion as from the equivalent time today. The difference being, for most of that period, clothes were not purchased ready-made on the high street. Victorian women either paid a dressmaker if they could afford it, or made their own clothes. This meant many changes in fashion tended to involve things that could be added or altered on an existing dress. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why a woman’s silhouette received so much attention.
At the start of the era, women wore a crinoline (a stiffly hooped petticoat) under their skirts to make them wider. For the next decade or so these steadily increased in size, until they became a subject for jokes and cartoons like this one:
During 1860’s the crinolette came into fashion. This is what the female characters in my book would have worn, though probably only to church in most cases. The crinolette was narrower at the front and sides, with all the extra fabric being gathered at the back. Therefore, a modern look could be achieved by simply replacing your crinoline with a crinolette, with no need to buy a new dress.
Eventually, the crinolette evolved into the bustle, with extra material bunched at the back and the rest of the shape being extremely slim. A bustle shape could be homemade if necessary, with one maid reportedly making hers by tying on a number of dusters under her skirt! The bustle meant a decrease in popularity of the previously essential shawl, which was difficult to drape properly over it. This could be why at this period we see the bare shoulders give way to high collars, and the enormous puffed sleeves that Anne of Green Gables so longed for. The girls in my novel are yet to discover these joys, but no doubt when they see them they will be thrown into just such incomprehensible raptures. I wonder what they would make of our fashions today?
In the late 1850’s a new type of dye was manufactured, using coal tar, and bright colours became the order of the day. Magenta, emerald, crimson and puce were all popular choices. We would certainly find them rather garish now! But, who knows? Maybe we will all be wearing them again at some point in the future. I can’t see the crinoline, crinolette or bustle making a comeback anytime soon, however I think a strong case could be made for corsets, although not of course with the tight lacing the Victorians were famed for.
If one thing came over to me in my research into what my characters would be wearing, it’s that girls as a whole weren’t far different to what they are now. They wanted to look nice, which they equated with being fashionable. And whether that meant skirts so wide they could barely get through a door, or restricting their breathing by tightly laced corsets, the majority of them would go ahead and do just that. I’ll leave you to decide what the modern day equivalents might be!
Abigail, thank you so much for that wonderful snapshot of Victorian fashion. When we think on it, I’m certain Victorian young women would have been as excited by the latest crinoline or bustle that young women are today of the latest fads.
I’m so pleased you stopped by. I wish you every success with Victoria’s Victorian Victory.