4 Cringe Worthy Victorian Fashion Trends

Oscar Wilde QuoteExcept for a brief period of conformity in my teens, I have never been a jeans and t-shirt girl.

My style has always veered toward the fancy, feminine, and frivolous. I own more dresses than pants, more gloves than sneakers. Family members chuckle at my interpretation of “casual wear” because it involves pearls or a cloche hat. Usually both.

This zeal for fanciness is one of the reasons I love Victorian fashion and endeavor to incorporate elements of 19th century style into my 21st century wardrobe.

However, while there’s much to admire about Victorian fashion, there were also trends which make me shudder. I’m all for dressing up. But I’m also all about comfort. To me, style should not involve pain.

Yet to the Victorians, fashion and pain often went hand and hand.

To illustrate, here are 4 Cringe Worthy Victorian Fashion Trends.

1. Corsets

Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna of Russia, 1887.

Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna of Russia, 1887.

“The fashionable size for a waist in the 1800s was alleged to be eighteen inches. A corset was the device used to attain this width or something close to it. It consisted of two halves, reinforced with whale bone, that got hooked together in the front and then laced up in back. Compressing all that flesh into a small area was not always an easy job. The corset was one reason women needed a lady’s maid—someone to stand behind them to pull the laces tight.”

~ Daniel Pool, from What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew.

19th Century Corset Advertisement

Fashion-Corset Damage

During the Victorian Era, there was a trend of “tight lacing” corsets among a portion of the fashion conscious, upper-class. Figure “B” shows an example of the deformation which could occur with repeated “tight lacing”.

As one who has suffered a rib injury and the resulting chronic pain, the mere thought of lacing on a corset literally makes me cringe. And wince. And clutch my side, uttering “By the very beard of Jules Verne, why?” Why would anyone purposely endure such a device in the name of fashion? To me this makes no sense. I shall stick to highlighting my waist with a stylish belt, thank you.

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