The Fashion of the Late Victorian Era

Victorian clothing

What To Know Before You Dress Up as a Victorian!

The Victorian period was a time of rapid social change, in part because of the invention of new technologies like the sewing machine and the rise of affordable ready-made clothing. As a result, 19th century fashion was more dynamic than ever before. This upturned trend continued into the 1890s, when the era’s fashions were considered to be a culmination of all that came before it. Women began dressing in long gowns with trailing trains, corsets that lifted their breasts and shortened their waists, and skirts that were draped and capped with bustles.

In this article we will explore the history behind these decadent 1890s fashions.

Understanding Late Victorian Fashion

Victorians were heavily influenced by the Romantic movement. They believed in concepts like chivalry, science, and the transcendence of nature. They believed in the importance of imagination, emotion, and individualism. This didn’t just extend to their art, but to their clothing as well. They were interested in expressing their identity through their clothes, or “costuming”. This was largely because they had more wealth than previous generations, and therefore more leisure time. Women took up gardening and photography, while men collected stamps and fossils.

Victorian clothing was designed to reflect the wearer’s personality and interests and Victorians placed great value on the aesthetics of clothing. They favored slenderizing silhouettes, ornate details like corsets, and rich fabrics like velvet, brocade, and satin. They valued high-quality garments that lasted for years. This is why many 19th century fashions are still seen as iconic today.

Women’s Fashion in the Late 1890s

Women's clothing in the late 1890s was incredibly ornate and opulent. Women’s fashion had evolved from the loose and flowing “Gibson Girl” styles of the 1880s. In the 1890s, women began dressing in long, trailing gowns with corsets that lifted their breasts and shortened their waists. Skirts were draped and capped with bustles, and women topped off their outfits with ornate hats, parasols, and gloves. There was a lot of lace and ruffles, and colors were either black or white.

Women’s fashion in the 1890s was all about opulence and femininity. Victorian culture placed a high value on being “ladylike,” and this was reflected in the clothing that women wore.

Men’s Fashion in the Late 1890s

Traditional manly styles, like three-piece suits and top hats, were still in fashion in the late 1890s. The new trend was length, and men’s outfits were often very long. Late Victorian men’s fashion took some of its cues from the East. In China, Japan, and India, men had worn long robes for centuries. With the increase in trade with Asia, long coats and trousers became popular for men in England.

The long-line style was a new phenomenon in men’s fashion. It meant that men wore long jackets that fell to their knees. They also wore long ties to which they often added decorative pins. Longer coats and trousers meant that men’s clothes were often fitted at the waist and flared out at the hip. The late 1890s saw the advent of the “Gainesborough” jacket, a long coat with exaggerated lapels.

The Rise of the Bustle

The most visible feature of 1890s dress was the bustle, a large fabric pad worn over the back of the skirt. Bustles were often made of layers of fabric that were pleated, taffeta-ed, or fluted. They were sometimes embellished with jewels or feathers.

The rise of the bustle can be attributed to a number of factors. First, it allowed for a larger skirt, which was necessary for wearing the new fashions. Second, it supported the back of the skirt and kept it from dragging on the ground. Finally, the bustle was an attempt to bring some order to the chaos of the new fashionable clothing. In the 1850s and 1860s, women’s clothing had been so voluminous that it had become unmanageable. Bustles were a way to control the excess fabric of women’s outfits.

The bustle was considered a temporary fashion, and it was replete with jokes. At the time, there were many magazines that featured cartoons, and they often made light of the excessive nature of women’s dress during the 1890s.

The Emergence of Ready-Made Clothing

Ready-made clothing was a revelation for the middle and upper classes, who had previously relied on their household servants to make their clothing. Ready-made clothing became increasingly popular in the late 1880s and 1890s, and department stores began selling ready-made clothing to the general public in the 1890s, when it became became increasingly popular. This was largely due to the invention of the sewing machine, which allowed for more efficient garment construction.

Ready-made clothing was available for both men and women, but it was especially popular among the latter. Unfortunately however it was often made of cheaper fabrics like cotton or poor quality wool. Some of this ready-made clothing was imported from other countries, like Japan, where it was popular among the working class.

Ready-made clothing was more affordable than bespoke garments, but it was also less durable but it was especially popular among children. Amongst the wealthier classes their clothing was often made of velvet, silk, and satin, just like adult clothing. They often wore fancy hairstyles, like ponytails or curls, that were held in place with bows.


As the Victorian era came to a close, women’s fashion reached new levels of opulence. This was a continuation of the trends set by previous decades, which included a rise in the use of corsets and the increasing prevalence of ready-made clothing. The 1890s marked the end of an era, as the first decade of the 20th century brought various cultural changes that would greatly affect fashion.

The Victorian era was a time of rapid social change. New technologies like the sewing machine and the rise of affordable ready-made clothing allowed people to access fancy clothing that would have been impossible to make a few decades before. This upturned trend continued into the 1890s, when the era’s fashions were considered to be a culmination of all that came before it. Women’s clothing became so large and decorative that it often required the wearer to turn out their feet while they walked.

Men’s clothing was simpler than it had been in previous decades, and ready-made garments were popular among both genders. The 1890s were also a time of great stylistic innovation, and many of the decade’s fashions remain popular today.