Thursday, 10 November 2011

Victorian clothing: The lower classes

 For my first article, I have decided to write about Victorian fashion, namely that commonly worn by those working class or lower. This is mainly inspired by the Filthy Victorians of 2012, created by Miss K Lovett, which challenges participants to dress in Victorian clothing for a whole year. Though not all historically accurate, I hope to dress in lower class styles, simply for practical reasons; I have school and a job to attend, you know.
For those interested in the F.V. 2012, information can be found here and here.

 Servants often obtained any worn, unfitting or unwanted garments their masters and mistresses discarded. However, these items of clothing would be possibly played down or not matched with appropriate other items, showing that they were still considered well below the upper classes. However, their pay would mean that they were able to edit the garment, be it to make it look like new, appear simpler, or to actually make it fit the new owner.

A group of servants.
Source

 Once the clothing was no longer wearable by the servants' standards, it would be sold. Back then, stuff originally made for the rich was still considered expensive, thus making items such as handkerchiefs valuable for even lower classes. Fagin's band of jolly little thieves are a good example of this, despite never actually singing whilst they picked pockets. Eventually, clothing would keep getting passed down until it became worthless and was worn by the penniless on the streets.

 On the other hand, clothing could be, and was, made for the lower classes, and would usually be a decent price, but would often become worn and ragged quickly, especially by those working in mills and down the pits. Also, there was emphasis on handmade clothing amongst the working class. Cheap fabrics such as wool or felt were used to make shawls, socks, mittens, and many other garments, and some would fix or remake clothing through needlework. Scrap pieces of fabric were used to cover holes in clothes, and if something was too big or long, it would be shortened/re-sized, and the remains either saved or sold.

 There were some defining features to help distinguish the different types of lower class. The homeless' clothing was ill-fitting and on the brink of falling apart completely, prostitutes wore revealing tops and/or had their legs out (they often flashed their ankles at men. How scandalous!), and the fortunate working class owned better-fitting clothing.

Prostitutes with a client
Source

3 comments:

  1. this is just what I've been looking for! ha helped so much for my assessment! Thank you so much!!

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  2. Thank you for this article! It is helping me with a research paper over this topic. I just wish that you could have maybe added some more details concerning children and men too.

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  3. I am interested in anything Victorian. It is very difficult though to find out about working class clothing rather than middle class fashion. Thanks

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