While the Victorian era seems to be long gone, it is important to understand that irrespective of what age we live in, the clothes, accessories and style define , uphold and make a statement about one’s status in the society.
While some of the Victorian fashion trends are making a comeback even today, in this 21st century with some changes, that age of high fashion was eccentric and often too rigid in terms of women’s appearance. The Victorian styling was designed to make a lady appear in her most feminine form, with waists made to appear slimmer than usual, legs and neck longer, feet pointed and hips wider and to do so, the fashion industry went through a massive change introducing corsets, fish-nets, bosom enhancers, laces, feathers and headgears. Ultimately, the point was to accentuate an hour-glass appearance for women.
For men, however, the point was to make them appear gentlemanly and belonging to a high class in the society. Long coats, blazers, different sorts of hats, moustaches and inner vests.
Stylish clothes like gigantic hoop skirts, excessive use of fabrics from silks to linen and laces dictated that these women belonged to a respectable family and were fit to become a wife of some man with good fortune and rank in the society. Head gears, cuffs, detachable collars, finer fabrics and other embellishments all stood for affluence and were determining factors to maintain one’s social standard.
We note, however, that most of these exaggerated fashion styles were uncomfortable to wear and carry out regular household and other tasks. While for men it was comparatively much easier and we can easily say that Victorian dressing truly paved the way for modern dressing, for women it was a blow to body positivity.
In this 21st century, we have borrowed a lot from the Victorian dressing sense but the good thing is, it is much more accessible and gives women the freedom to dress as per their wishes, tight fitting corsets gave way to comfortable body shapers, wired bosom shapers to more trendy bralettes and extra flounces for skirts inspired modern fashion to come up with petticoats Bell shaped ruffles, off shoulder tops are here to stay, albeit with a lot more concern given to the weather conditions outside, the work-place and ease of comfort.
It is indeed a progressive change that in the last 150 years or so, we have moved ahead of undergarments made with whale bone and steel,the tight restriction of body movement and the obsession with tiny waists for the apparently “weaker” sex no longer finds a relevance today. The world of fashion today believes in keeping style and comfort on the same page and ensuring women ( or men for that matter) feel comfortable in their own skin, irrespective of size, colour or height.
Even with all these changes from then to now, there is still a long way to go. The world is still obsessed with deciding the appearance of the “fairer sex”, promoting beach bodies or bikini-bodies as the ‘ideal’. But with correct awareness, self love and body positivity, even the contemporary western culture obsessed with the idea of thinness can be dealt with, as is observed by women in fashion strutting in pant-suits and men ( read Harry Styles) carrying fashion styles with so much elegance.
Content By – Sudeshna Banerjee