Style

Victorian Style

Like doll clothes, but better.

We all carry within us remnants of our childhood psyches, and engaging with those parts can be incredibly freeing. Dressing like a kid can be fun! Children’s clothes have been getting the better end of the deal ever since the 1850s or so, and Victorian children’s fashions still pop up in our 21st-century style via niche EGL (elegant gothic Lolita) groups.

There’s something about the clothes of the Victorian period that draws me in. It’s partially because I tend to romanticize that era, but there’s also the sheer aesthetic beauty of clothes from a time when there was no fast fashion because mass production of clothing had not yet taken over—everything was literally haute couture, produced to suit an individual’s body and desires, either DIY style or by seamstresses. Of course there’s a dark side to all those gorgeous garments, in the form of a vast history of women’s and working-class oppression, and it’s sad that the hidden ethics of fashion production haven’t really changed that much, as most of the world’s clothing now is made in sweatshops. But it’s still easy to be fascinated by Victorian fashion—they display a level of detail and craftsmanship that is rarely seen today.

Most of the clothes from the era are marked by severe attention to detail, but the children’s fashion is far more accessible to our contemporary tastes and needs. Victorian women had bustles, picture hats, and notorious tight-lacing, while men wore frock coats and toppers, but children had it great, with their smocks, pinnies, caped coats, knickerbocker suits, cloth caps, and muffs. Most Victorian girls would wear a chemise, drawers, stays (looser, less restrictive corsets), and two layers of petticoats (usually in flannel) under her dress. Fashion then, as now, was greatly influenced by what celebrities wore, although Victorian celebrities were the royals rather than entertainers.

We might have to do away with some authenticity when replicating Victorian styles these days, but we can easily incorporate the wonderful lace collars, caped collars, velvet, sailor motifs, metal- and cloth-covered buttons, short suits, muffs, smock dresses, pinafores, berets, granny boots, boaters, and vertical stripes of the say. In the end, it’s about capturing the look and feel. Pictured below are some Victorian/Edwardian illustrations from children’s books that capture the richness and beauty of these clothes, and a few modern equivalents that could work. Some of them are expensive, but I believe in saving up for a few well-made items rather than spring for lots of cheaper stuff made through sketchy labor practices.

Left column, top to bottom: Arthur Rackham's Alice in Wonderland; velvet burgundy angel dress, The Whitepepper, $50-$100; 3/4 sleeve sailor dress, The Whitepepper, $88. Middle column, top to bottom: Poppium silk blousson dress, $455; Arthur Rackham's Alice in Wonderland; picture papers print, Jessie Willcox Smith, $50. Right column, top to bottom: Poppium 60s Pocket Pini in Black, House of Hackney, $407; cotton shirt dress, $188.50, Lowie; vintage terracotta dress, $58, The Loved One.

Left column, top to bottom: Arthur Rackham’s Alice in Wonderland; velvet burgundy angel dress, $50-$100, The Whitepepper; 3/4 sleeve sailor dress, $88, The Whitepepper. Middle column, top to bottom: Poppium silk blouson dress, $455, House of Hackney; Arthur Rackham’s Alice in Wonderland; Picture Papers print by Jessie Willcox-Smith, $50, Art.com. Right column, top to bottom: Poppium ’60s Pocket Pini in Black, $407, House of Hackney; cotton shirt dress, $188.50, Lowie; vintage terracotta dress, $58, The Loved One.

Top row, left to right: The Five Children and It, H.R. Millar; long-sleeved cotton dress, $130, Gloomth. Middle image: Little Songs of Long Ago: More Old Nursery Rhymes, Alfred Moffat. Bottom image: Victorian boots lace up high heels in Nepal, Etsy.com.

Top row, left to right: “The Five Children and It” illustrated by H.R. Millar; long-sleeved cotton dress, $130, Gloomth. Middle image: “Little Songs of Long Ago: More Old Nursery Rhymes,” Alfred Moffat. Bottom image: Victorian boots lace up high heels in Nepal, $196, Etsy.

Left column, top to bottom: Nautical dress, $119, Gloomth; Timeout corduroy blazer, $90, SimplyBe; History of Haute style coat, $200, ModCloth. Right column, top to bottom: ‘Voor we slapen gaan’ illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith; Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens illustrated by Arthur Rackham; ankle boots in crazy green floral print, $196.50, Etsy.

Left column, top to bottom: Nautical dress, $119, Gloomth; Timeout corduroy blazer, $90, SimplyBe; History of Haute style coat, $200, ModCloth. Right column, top to bottom: “Voor We Slapen Gaan” illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith; “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” illustrated by Arthur Rackham; green floral ankle boots, $196.50, Etsy.

22 Comments

  • dylonlee October 9th, 2013 11:03 PM

    I am OBSESSED with historical fashion! I find Victorian era clothing especially mysterious and beautiful. I love these ideas to incorporate it into my everyday wardrobe! xx

  • Ana October 9th, 2013 11:26 PM

    Love this so much!!

  • spudzine October 10th, 2013 12:05 AM

    Rookie should write a post about lolita fashion. I would TOTALLY read it!!!

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

    • FlaG October 10th, 2013 11:15 AM

      Co-signed!

    • thebrownette October 10th, 2013 4:25 PM

      YES. I wrote a paper on Lolita fashion in middle school…one of my friends and I are co-conspiring to go to Japan one day.

    • Kaede October 13th, 2013 9:25 PM

      YES PLEASE do a piece about Lolita! I wear it and it makes me feel so pretty and happy :)

  • I W October 10th, 2013 2:13 AM

    Oh my goodness I am in love with this. I just need a wardrobe full of Victorian clothes. There are some gorgeous pieces on Etsy, but they’re super expensive

    youtube.com/user/doxography

  • nicole_huanggg October 10th, 2013 6:14 AM

    Aww this is like Japanese Lolita but with a softer and more delicate feel to it. Wuv<3 <3

  • Graciexx October 10th, 2013 6:52 AM

    love the boots!

  • Saana V October 10th, 2013 10:00 AM

    REALLY love the sailor dress from the whitepepper + gosh all these clothes really speak to me

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica October 10th, 2013 1:02 PM

    I am head over heels in love with Victorian style. It is my favorite. And the architecture is amazing too – like you know those giant big chunky decorated mansions? Like this kind of thing: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_zSBPZsnwo0/US1Tx3JiJ0I/AAAAAAAACQg/g2r6JY0Npas/s1600/victorian.jpg ugh, so gorgeous. <3

  • elliecp October 10th, 2013 1:45 PM

    I love these! I’m really into Valentino style Wednesday Addams dresses at the moment <3

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • chilimuffin October 10th, 2013 3:49 PM

    I used to care what people thought about my clothes, and I also used to believe that girly things didn’t suit me. Luckily I’ve grown up and care less nowadays, so I have to buy that nautical dress!!! (tailored, because my waist is straighter/my boobs are smaller than regular sizes, but whatever) :D

  • Ting October 10th, 2013 5:28 PM

    I always love all of Ragini’s style articles. They’re always a little bit out there and fun, as well as ideas to expand my already crazy wardrobe!
    http://www.meadowinferno.blogspot.com

  • whyamidreamingwhenimstillawake October 10th, 2013 8:27 PM

    DEM BOOTS.

  • ghostgrrl October 10th, 2013 8:59 PM

    These clothes are so pretty! Super expensive, though. But I think any dress over $25 is expensive because I’m broke as hell. I’ll have to hit the thrift shops asap because I’m dying for new dresses!

    ghostgrrlfriend.tumblr.com

  • Bliss October 11th, 2013 11:31 AM

    I just bought the terracotta dress from The Loved One! So excited!

  • lexilikes October 11th, 2013 1:10 PM

    Feeling so inspired now. I need a petticoat in my life.

    http://www.lexilikes.com

  • dessertstealer October 14th, 2013 6:36 PM

    Cool clothes!

    rafwillyolivier.blogspot.com

  • -andie- October 19th, 2013 9:00 PM

    I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian era ever since I was a child. Daydreaming about wearing those haute couture dresses is a fancy. I guess I’m an old soul.

  • b_majestic09 November 11th, 2013 1:27 AM

    I just love the victorian era fashion. Its an infatuation of mine.

  • loopdeshor January 14th, 2014 3:20 PM

    I love this! I’ve always been fascinated with the victorian style and fashion

    http://delightfuldreaming.blogspot.com