Shades of Victorian Fashion: Pretty in 19th Century Pink

Individual Images via Met Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, and MFA Boston.

During the Victorian era, pink was considered a sweet, feminine color, suitable for the gowns of young ladies in their first season.  It was also fashionable for more mature Victorian women, who often wore evening dresses made of fine pink satins and silks.  Most commonly of all, pink was an accent color used for trim and accessories.  Ladies carried pink parasols and pink fans.  They decorated their bonnets with pink ribbons and flowers.  And, in the summer, their light cotton gowns were brightened with pink stripes and pink floral sprigs.  In today’s article, we look at some of the loveliest examples of the color pink in Victorian fashion. Continue reading

Shades of Victorian Fashion: Lilacs, Lavenders, Plums, and Purples

Victorian Purple Collage

Individual Images via Museum at FIT, MFA Boston, and Victorian and Albert Museum.

Purple was one of the most fashionable—and versatile—colors of the Victorian era.  In fabric shades ranging from pale, delicate lilac to rich, deep plum, it was suitable for day dresses, visiting dresses, riding habits, and evening gowns.  It was also an acceptable color for those in half-mourning, with ladies frequently wearing dresses in shades of mauve-grey or lavender.  The 1856 invention of aniline dyes resulted in even more varieties of color.  Gowns and accessories were produced in violets, magentas, and brilliant berry hues.  In today’s article, we look at some of the loveliest examples of purple in Victorian fashion. Continue reading

Boarding Houses for Victorian Cats: Holiday Care for the Family Feline

“It is during the summer months, when house holders leave town for their holidays, that poor pussy is forsaken and forgotten, and no provision being made for her, she is forced to take to the streets, where she seeks in vain to stalk the wily London sparrow or pick up any scraps from the gutter.”  The Book of the Cat, 1903.

Smoke and Orange Persians, Book of the Cat, 1903.

In the late 19th century, Victorian families embarking on their summer holidays often chose to leave their pet cat behind unattended.  This decision—likely motivated by the belief that, when left to their own devices, all cats will hunt for their supper—resulted in a profusion of half-starved cats wandering the streets in search of a handout.  The sight of so many cats in distress compelled some to take drastic action.  One lady in the west of England even went so far as to offer a holiday feline euthanasia service.  As a June 24, 1889 edition of the Gloucester Citizen reports: Continue reading

Fashion and Beauty Essentials for a 19th Century Summer Holiday

Individual Collage Images via MFA Boston and Victoria and Albert Museum.

In women’s magazines today, we often see lists of summer vacation “must haves.”  These lists usually include such hot weather essentials as swimsuits, sunscreen, and a romance novel or two to read at the beach.  But what about ladies in the Victorian era?  By the end of the 19th century, beach holidays were certainly on the rise.  However, our Victorian sisters met the heat without benefit of air conditioning, skimpy clothing, or sun protection.  What did they have instead?  In today’s article, we look at a few fashion, beauty, and novel necessities for a 19th century summer. Continue reading

The Victorian Demagogue: 19th Century Words on a Modern Day Danger

“No organist can manipulate the stops and keys of his instrument with more dexterity than the demagogue exhibits in playing upon the different weaknesses, errors, and absurdities of the untutored mind.”  Kent & Sussex Courier, 1874.

The House of Commons by Sir George Hayter, 1833.

The word demagogue is thrown around quite a bit in politics today, but the term itself is nothing new.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines a demagogue as a “political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob in order to obtain power.”  In the Victorian era, such a man was considered dangerous.  Philosophers, poets, and newspapermen alike sought to warn the public, reasoning that the better one understood the repertoire of a demagogue, the less chance the demagogue would have of success.  Their commentary is incredibly modern and (as in the case of a poem on demagoguery) occasionally quite humorous.  In today’s article, we look at a few of the highlights.

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Victorian Sportswear: Tennis Fashions of the Late 19th Century

“As a nation we ought to welcome the healthy, hearty girl who can beat her brother in managing a tennis ball, in rowing a boat, and very often in managing a frisky horse.”
Ladies Home Journal, 1891.

A Rally by Sir John Lavery, 1885.

A Rally by Sir John Lavery, 1885.

The game of lawn tennis was invented in the 1860s by retired British army officer Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.  He patented the game in 1874 and, within a few short years, lawn tennis had become one of the most popular sports for women in Victorian England.  Ladies played it at society garden parties and at tennis clubs.  By the mid-1880s, they were even competing at Wimbledon, leading the 1891 edition of the Wright & Ditson Officially Adopted Lawn Tennis Guide to declare that:

“Lawn tennis has done more to develop among girls a taste for outdoor sports than have all other exercises combined.” Continue reading

The Dogs’ Toilet Club: Bond Street Luxury for Victorian Canines

“The fact is, mere ordinary folk have not the remotest notion of the extravagant extent to which canine pets are pampered nowadays by their highly-placed mistresses.”
The Strand Magazine, 1896.

Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.

Portrait of a Maltese dog by Anonymous British Painter, 19th Century.

In 1896, an enterprising young lady named Mrs. Nugent opened a fashionable club for dogs at 120 New Bond Street in London.  It was called the Dogs’ Toilet Club and offered many services for the pampered pets of the wealthy and well to do, including grooming, pet sitting, veterinary care, and dentistry.  For those who wished to dress their dogs in the latest fashions, there was even a dogs’ tailoress who worked tirelessly to produce the finest in 19th century canine couture.  Continue reading

A Victorian Fancy Dress Ball: Popular Costumes of the Late 19th Century

The Kiss by Auguste Toulmouche, 1870.

The Kiss by Auguste Toulmouche, 1870.

During the Victorian era, fancy dress balls were one of the grandest and most fashionable ways for a society hostess to make her mark.  These magnificent, costumed affairs were widely reported in 19th century newspapers, with a great deal of attention paid to who was wearing what.  Guests dressed up as historical figures such as Marie Antoinette or Napoleon.  They also wore more creative costumes—many of which were recommended in fancy dress advice manuals and costume books.  In today’s article, we look at a few of these costumes and at some of the more famous Victorian fancy dress balls held at Brighton Pavilion, Warwick Castle, and Devonshire House.

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The Notorious 1880 Police Raid of the Cross-Dressing Ball at Temperance Hall

“…one of the foulest and most disgraceful orgies that ever disgraced any town.”
The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, October 1, 1880.

Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.

Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.

On September 24, 1880, the Manchester City Police received information that a fancy dress ball scheduled to be held that night at the Temperance Hall in York Street, Hulme, was going to be of an improper character.  According to the September 27, 1880 edition of the London Evening Standard, the hall had been engaged a few days prior by the Association of Pawnbrokers’ Assistants.  However, upon investigation, Detective-Sergeant Jerome Caminada discovered that the association knew nothing of the ball and that “the room had been hired under false pretence.” Continue reading

Medieval Hairstyles for Men and Women: Guest Post By Regan Walker

Today, bestselling historical author Regan Walker brings us a guest post on Medieval hairstyles for men and women!

Detail of Illustration form an Italian breviary showing women's figured silk gowns and a saint. Bilbliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1380.

Detail of Illustration form an Italian breviary, Bilbliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1380.

The Medieval Era spanned the 5th to the 15th century.  For my Medieval Warriors series, I did considerable research on the hairstyles of men and women during the Medieval Era, though my particular interest was the 11th century.  For my newest book in the series, Rebel Warrior, I also needed to know how the hairstyles might have differed in Scotland. Continue reading