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Victorian Clothing

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Working clothes for poorer people were often passed down within the family or bought from second hand shops. They were usually made from coarsely woven wool or cotton cloth and they would be mended and patched to make them last a long time. Most people tried to have a better set of clothes for ‘Sunday best’.

Wealthier families could afford smart dresses and clothes made from better quality material. Ladies were interested in fashion and read magazines like The Young Ladies Journal to find out about the latest styles. Early Victorian ladies wore full skirts with as many as six petticoats. In the 1850s crinoline skirts were supported on wire cages and later padded cushions or bustles were tied around the waist under the skirts to make them stick out at the back. Ladies wore tightly laced corsets to give them the narrow waists which were thought to be attractive.

Well off men wore knee length frock coats in silk or velvet, silk waistcoats and shirts with stiffly starched high collars. Underneath they wore vests and long underpants made from woollen cloth. They wore a top hat or perhaps a newly fashionable bowler hat and carried a cane or walking stick. Beards and side whiskers were also fashionable.

Children in wealthy families wore very formal clothes. Girls wore dresses which were as fancy as the grown ups but slightly shorter. Boys wore dresses until they were about five or six and then were dressed in sailor suits or velvet suits with lace collars and cuffs.

Until the sewing machine was invented by Isaac Singer in 1851 all clothes were made by hand. Seamstresses worked long hours for low wages, stitching clothes for wealthy people.

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