Victorian Era was a period filled with wars, cultural development, strict social norms, huge epidemics, and truly bizarre fashion choices that reflected all of the above. It seems that the world was so crazy to live in back then that the outfits just had to be equally quirky and unusual, otherwise it made no sense to wear them. From super tight corsets and bug dresses to arsenic dye and gigantic skirts, I present you 7 bizarre Victorian fashion trends we’re glad are gone now.
Boys and girls wore dresses
This happened only till the age of four, yet both boys and girls were dressed in lacy garments – the fuller, the better! It was a sort of way to show off family’s wealth, so it didn’t really matter whether the child was male or female. Keep it in mind that we’re talking about the era when men wore heels and used cosmetics, so that doesn’t really come as a huge surprise.
Corsets deformed women’s bodies
What corsets did to a woman’s body was truly extreme. Not only did they alter the shape of her chest and waist, causing atrophy to the muscles that didn’t get any movement, but they also rearranged the organs, which was far from healthy as you might have guessed by now. Nowadays researchers believe those corsets weren’t as deadly (a little fainting here and there, what’s the harm, right?) but I doubt any woman in her right mind would like to do this to herself in the modern world.
Insects used as decoration
Who’s up for a dress decorated with some pretty, sparkly beetle wings? No? That’s a shame because they look quite pretty and cost close to nothing – that’s exactly why beetle wings were such a huge trend at one point in time back in the Victorian Era. Beetles used to gather in large quantities, mate, and then die peacefully, leaving lots of material for ‘wing harvesters’, who later used the wings to create gorgeous patterns. A bit gruesome, but quite beautiful!
Deadly arsenic dye
The gorgeous Paris Green colour that made green dresses look so stunning during the Victorian times contained one of the most poisonous chemicals – arsenic. It wasn’t a secret that working with arsenic was hazardous to one’s health, yet it somehow escaped the Victorian fashionistas that wearing dresses dyed with arsenic dye would cause health problems. Or was it the risk they were willing to take? And not only that, it was also used to produce paint for walls!
Stuffed birds on hats
Nowadays the fashion to wear feathers on hats seems kind of lovely, but back in the day the demand for feathers (and stuffed birds even!) grew so much that the population of birds started to decline. This caused a huge concern and started a protective movement by the Audubon society that shamed women for their feathery tastes and worked hard to protect the bird’s population. It was started by women appalled by what was happening in the name of fashion.
The horrendous mourning fashion
Yep, mourning was a thing during the bizarre Victorian days. So many wars and epidemics were happening non-stop that people rarely lived past 45 years and during that time they experienced death of their friends and relatives more than once or twice. Sometimes they had to be in mourning for a few years in a row! That’s why a whole mourning fashion was designed – clothing of the mourning person had to be all black, even the jewellery had to match. If a woman didn’t have a black dress she’d simply colour the one she already owned. She would have to wear black even during her wedding if it happened in the mourning period! So strict were the rules.
Huge crinoline skirts
Something went terribly wrong and the slim silhouette of Jane Austen-like dresses started slowly turning into the wide-skirted outfits that Victorian Era is so popular for. The hunger for wide skirts grew so big that dozens of layers of fabric couldn’t satiate it – that’s when crinoline came on the fashion stage. This cage made of steel and rope could turn a normal-sized woman into a creature that could hardly fit into a door or even move around. Although, I think we can all admit that it looked quite spectacular.