Once upon a time, it was the Victorian age. The Victorians had a penchant for dark stories, vampires, Dickensian poverty, tight corsets and big skirts. The Victorians also inspired a whole century’s worth of Witches, Goths, alternative folks, Steampunkers, cosplayers and costumiers in terms of their fashion. Also, literally every lesbian or women-attracted-woman has seen Tipping the Velvet at some point so that’s why we’ve gone for full TTV reference here, okay? It’s iconic. So here, today, I shall lay out the ways in which we can incorporate Victoriana into our day-to-day lives.
From the ground up, we have the knickers. Well, more specifically, the corsetry. I am no expert on corsets but I certainly do love wearing them. They make your waist teeny tiny, boobs look like you walked off a Victoria’s Secret catwalk but can also be worn by anyone of any gender or sex, which is fantastic. These days, the corset is a mainstay (see what I did there) of #WitchyVibes. Since I’m no expert, I asked my best friend and actual, literal Victorian corsetry expert, Lindsey Holmes, aka Costumier-Saurus, who is writing a PhD on…Victorian corsets.
“The Victorian era was the peak of corsetry invention, as new technology overlapped with fashions for neat, structured waistlines resulting in beautiful, intricate garments which have endlessly fascinated and inspired the following generations of designers and wearers.”Lindsey Holmes, Costumier-Saurus.
So basically, the Victorian era was THE era for corset innovation, and therefore, I will say, with undue certainty, that it was the most important.
These days we take our corsetry with a grain of innovation, ourselves. For example, in leather for Steampunk events (or just for fun), or for sexy-times, or for making ballgowns look f*cking amazing. I mean, basically anyone looks good in a corset, it’s a fact of life, everybody. Get one now.
Pop over to Costumier-Saurus’ Etsy shop to have a look (she has some excellent Suffragette merchandise…)
TWO: Off the Shoulder Situations
The Victorians bloody loved an off-the-shoulder gown situation. These, couple with the massive tit-boost provided by aforementioned corsetry, also meant that they had to occasionally add in a shawl or a fichou which basically covered their modesty, but TBH, there was a lot of cleavage happening.
These days we still love an off-shoulder situation, in modern fashion and also in our cos-play.
But to get that glorious Victorian-era off-shoulder elegance, opt for opulent fabrics and a fair helping of lace…
THREE: STATEMENT SLEEVES
Oh, boy, do I love a statement sleeve. In fact, I have had to be weaned off shoulder pads, puffed sleeves and so forth BUT I have since realised that I can wear whatever the f*ck I want, so bring on the sleeves, I say.
These sleeves can be short, long, or not even there, but if they’re not there, I’ll tell you what is: dangly sh*t. And it is statement as f*ck. Many a wedding dress has been inspired by this sleeve, and let me tell you right now: the 80s would not have been what they were without the puffed sleeve, care of the trusty Victorians.
This sleeve actions works on dresses and coats alike, and I shall leave you with this glorious depiction of Dakota Fanning in The Alienist, wearing this rather breathtaking suited sitch:
FOUR: All Buttoned Up
Now, I had a thyroid problem in my early twenties so, much as I love this look, I cannot wear it without feeling like I’m being choked to death. However, we have seen a lot of Victorian-inspired fashion lately that includes the glorious buttoned-up-to-the-mouth (nearly) collars, and I felt I had to share that glory.
The great thing about the Victorians is that, at the same time, they’re like TITS OUT, but also, TITS RIGHT IN, let’s cover that sh*t up. But sometimes they do, and they’re trussed up like herb bundles, and other times, they’re choked in lace but you can still see everything. More lately, I felt we should pay homage again to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Weird Sisters, led by Tati Gabrielle, who do a mighty fine job of modernising the Victorian lace collar.
FIVE: F*ck Gender
Finally, my favourite thing about the Victorians – they wore a lot of whatever the f*ck they wanted. Top hats, once the domain of men, became totally acceptable for women to wear. Then there were the Gentleman Jacks of the period, who were like, f*ck this, I’m wearing sensible boots and a long coat and a top hat because PRACTICAL. And, again, let’s just reference the beautiful gender-intermixing dressing in Tipping the Velvet, because I don’t know a single woman who didn’t want to wear a full Victorian suit and top hat after that show came out, me included. As well as wearing whatever the f*ck they wanted, the auld Victorians were a dab-hand at crossing sexual boundaries, and I feel like that’s a blog post for another day.
Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed today’s shallow dive into Victorian clothing. I know I have. And now I really must get back to my PhD, which is definitely not about Victorian corsets.