A Fashionable Coiffure: Rolls, Plaits, and other Popular Hairstyles of 1863

“The MANNER of DRESSING the HAIR calls for much attention at the present day, and many are the inquiries addressed to us on this important subject.”
Peterson’s Magazine, 1863.

The Reluctant Bride by Auguste Toulmouche 1865.

The Reluctant Bride by Auguste Toulmouche 1865.

Hairstyles of the 1860s are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful of the nineteenth century.  Hair was arranged in enormous rolls or plaited into intricately woven patterns.  Women donned crowns of flowers or bound their hair up into silken nets or velvet hoods.  These were soft, feminine styles, lacking the Gothic severity of the 1830s and 1840s while, at the same time, still far more conservative than the long, draped curls that would come into fashion in the 1870s and 1880s.  These were also the hairstyles that most of us recognize from the American Civil War era (1861-1865).  Popular coiffures changed from year to year, and often from month to month.  Today, we look at a few of the most fashionable styles of 1863. Continue reading

Queen Victoria’s First Visit to the London Theatres as Monarch: Guest Post by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Today, I am very pleased to welcome historians Joanne Major and Sarah Murden with a wonderful guest post on Queen Victoria’s first visits to the London theatres upon her ascension to the throne in 1837!

Queen Victoria ascended the throne in June 1837 upon the death of her uncle, William IV. She was just eighteen years of age and her youth symbolised a new beginning. We wanted to share the details of the first visit to the two main London theatres by the young queen as a reigning monarch, not least because there are some wonderful images of Victoria on those two evenings.

Queen Victoria at Drury Lane Theatre, 15 November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris (1793-1873), drawn 1837. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Queen Victoria at Drury Lane Theatre, 15 November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris (1793-1873), drawn 1837.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

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A Scientific Justification for Spinsters: Old Maids and Cats in the Victorian Era

‘Old maids and cats have long been proverbially associated together, and rightly or wrongly these creatures have been looked upon with a certain degree of suspicion and aversion by a large proportion of the human race.’
Dundee Courier, 5 October 1880.

Portrait of a Lady with a White Cat by Anonymous Artist, 19th Century.

Portrait of a Lady with a White Cat by Anonymous Artist, 19th Century.

Spinsters have long been associated with cats.  This was especially true in the Victorian era when the stereotype of the old maid and her feline dependents was so pervasive that an 1880 edition of the Dundee Courier not only declared that “the old maid would not be typical of her class without the cat,” but that “one cannot exist without the other.”  Like cats (who were generally viewed as being sly and self-serving), old maids faced their fair share of societal persecution.  Doomed to live in a state of “single blessedness,” they were often seen as being eccentric or as having been soured by their “blighted hopes.”  Continue reading

The Dog on the Train: A Victorian Fox Terrier at King’s Cross Station

My Best Friend by Robert Douglas Fry, (1872–1911).

My Best Friend by Robert Douglas Fry, (1872–1911).

An 1879 edition of the Huddersfield Chronicle reports the story of a little fox terrier named Wasp and his owner who, at the time, was a student at a college in London.  Wasp was devoted to his master and would follow him wherever he went—including on the train to school each morning.  While his master attended classes, Wasp would remain in the courtyard of the college, dozing in a patch of sun and “to all appearances asleep.”  Despite appearances, however, Wasp was always watching anxiously for his master’s return and those passing through the courtyard would often observe “one watchful eye unclose gently to spy if his master were soon coming.” Continue reading

Shades of Victorian Fashion: Orange, Pumpkin, and Peach

Individual Collage Images via Met Museum and National Gallery of Victoria.

Individual Collage Images via Met Museum and National Gallery of Victoria.

Unlike popular autumnal shades, such as golds, browns, and burnished reds, the Victorians generally regarded the color orange with disfavor.  Fashion magazines of the day advised against wearing orange dresses, calling the color ugly and claiming that it was unflattering to every complexion.  Even worse, as fashion historian C. Willett Cunnington reports, some believed that the color orange implied “a degree of animal passion which the pure ought not to possess.”  I had not intended to give orange an article of its own, but it’s Halloween today and I can think of no better occasion to showcase a selection of this much maligned—but nonetheless striking—shade of Victorian fashion.  Continue reading

The “Dash It Alls” on Romance, Writing, and the Influence of Georgette Heyer

The Recital by Vittorio Reggianini, (l1858-1938).

The Recital by Vittorio Reggianini, (1858-1938).

As some of you may remember, during the RWA Beau Monde’s 2015 celebration of the eightieth anniversary of the Regency romance novel, I wrote a weekly Georgette Heyer poll here on my site as my way of contributing to the festivities.  These polls were quite popular at the time and a great way for Heyer lovers to connect over favourite characters, favourite scenes, and best loved phrases.  It was during this time that romance authors Avril Tremayne and Jane Godman, editor Ali Williams, and I formed our own little Heyer group which Ali affectionately named the “Dash it Alls” in honour of Freddy Standen from Heyer’s 1953 novel CotillionContinue reading

Kissed Against Her Will: A Victorian Case of Assault and Abuse of Power

“His Lordship said it was perfectly clear from the evidence that an assault was committed.  If any man kissed a woman against her will it was an assault.”
Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 22 February 1888.

Persuasion by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 19th Century.

Persuasion by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 1914

In February of 1888, Sheffield confectioner Ralph Williamson was charged with the attempted shooting of blacksmith George Bridges, the father of a girl that Williamson had assaulted days earlier.  The girl, named Bertha Bridges, was only fifteen years old.  She worked in Williamson’s confectionery shop in High Street.  It was there that one night, while Miss Bridges remained late to fetch his dinner, Williamson hemmed her into a corner and forcibly kissed her. Continue reading

Emblems of the Soul: Butterflies in Victorian Fashion and Folklore

Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things by Sophie Gengembre Anderson, (1823-1903)

Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things
by Sophie Gengembre Anderson, (1823-1903).

Victorians had a fascination with natural history.  This manifested itself in various ways, not the least of which was in fashionable clothing and décor.  A Victorian parlour, for example, might feature a scientific display of pinned butterflies.  While insects, such as butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, and grasshoppers, were often depicted in Victorian jewellery, with some insect brooches and hairpins set en tremblant (on a spring) so that the jewelled insect would tremble and shake as if it were actually alive. Continue reading

James Tissot’s Fashion Plates (1864-1878):  A Guest Post by Lucy Paquette

Today, I am very pleased to welcome art historian and author Lucy Paquette  with a fascinating guest post on fashion in the paintings of Victorian era artist James Tissot!

In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 by 20 1/8 in. (38.4 by 51.1 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot.
Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 by 20 1/8 in. (38.4 by 51.1 cm). Private Collection.
(Photo: Wikiart.org)

No one captured the rapidly-changing fashion trends of the 1860s and 1870s like French painter James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 – 1902).  Tissot was more than merely a painter of fashionable women.  His mother and her sister were partners in a successful millinery company.  Tissot’s father established a booming business as a wholesale linen draper – a trader in fabrics and dress trimmings to retailers and exporters.  At 19, Tissot moved to Paris to study painting, and he gained the technical skills to record the fashionable female form of this period – tall, slim figures heightened by high chignons, hats, and heels, with silhouettes changing every few years. Continue reading

A Century of Sartorial Style: A Visual Guide to 19th Century Menswear

Individual Collage Images Courtesy of LACMA, Met Museum, and the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Individual Collage Images Courtesy of LACMA, Met Museum, and the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Men’s fashion changed very little during the nineteenth century, especially when compared to women’s fashion of the same period. For this reason, I thought it better to provide a general overview of the century, looking at changes decade-by-decade as opposed to year-by-year. In this manner, you can see the slow evolution of nineteenth century menswear, from the Regency dandyism of Beau Brummell to the matched three-piece suits of the late Victorian era. Changes were subtle, but significant, each of them moving men’s fashion one step closer to the elegant silhouettes still evidenced in fashionable menswear of today. Continue reading