How Victorian Ladies Survived Winter

Hi, friends. The harshness of the weather may vary depending on your location, but in the southern US, winter has been brutal. Several inches of snow last week gave me a lot of time to read, watch movies, and think (be lazy).

I’m a huge fan of Victorian novels (British, mid to late 1800’s, often bildungsroman). I’ve published a book showing here for Jane Eyre, I’m wrapping up a post about David Copperfield, and I’m currently reading The Portrait of a Lady. [Not to worry if those don’t interest you, as I’ve also read a graphic novel, southern lit, and a dystopian fiction recently. And I’m planning posts unrelated to books.]

When my water was frozen for an entire week earlier this month, and I had to become selective with my toilet flushes, I thought how blessed we are in modern times with our advanced water systems. The heroes and heroines in my favorite books used chamber pots under their beds for toilets, and some poor servant likely emptied it every day. Today, I thought of how I dress in cold weather and pondered how I would’ve dressed as a Victorian lady.

As I researched the dress in the mid to late nineteenth century, I realized that their technique is just like ours today: layering. On a cold day in 2018, I might wear a tank top, a shirt, a sweater, pants, a coat, a scarf, a hat, and gloves. In the 1800’s, even on a normal day, a woman wore a chemise (shapeless garment with drawstring necktie), a corset, an under petticoat (could be multiplied), a hoop skirt, a petticoat, and a dress. Both sexes usually wore hats and gloves in public. Women could layer their under petticoats and add an outer coat during winter.

Modern Ladies vs. Victorian Ladies in Winter



I’m glad I won’t suffer the medical consequences of chronic corset wearing, but being partial to glamour, I slightly envy the luxurious fashions of the past.

Thanks for reading, and stay warm!


8 responses to “How Victorian Ladies Survived Winter”

  1. Growing up in the 60s/70s, girls couldn’t even wear pants to school until I was in fourth grade. A bit rigid, yes, and hence the change. But, I miss the formal standards of dress. People took pride in their appearance and would never even consider leaving their home in something they slept in.

    At least historically, when women (and men) were seen in public they usually looked their best. Now, we have ‘business casual’–which isn’t–and the People of Wal-Mart. 😒😏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your input! I didn’t go into this post thinking that women look way more androgynous now versus then, but I definitely noticed it when I compiled the images for now versus then.
      It sounds like people cared much more about their public appearance just a few decades ago, too. I wonder if modern technology has affected the change. In the past, going out was a bigger event, but now, we can easily hop in the car and run some quick errands.
      I personally feel prettiest in a nice dress!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love Victorian fashion, but yes, the corset was a terrible thing if you made it too tight. I loved the book, “Portrait of a Lady.” I’m sure you will enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen photos of how corsets rearrange your organs–yikes! I’m enjoying the novel so far. Gotta love comparing the American girl to British expectations!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Victorian lit too!! (love Jane Eyre and David Copperfield) I think this was such an interesting post to do!! I do agree that it’s a relief not to have to wear a corset- just the discomfort alone! But I do really love those outfits- they look so glamorous.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I adore The Portrait of a Lady! I’m reading the sequel Mrs Osmond by Bandville. I normally don’t approve of sequels to classics, but this one is pretty good. 🙂 Really interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know there was a sequel! I finished it a couple weeks ago. I was surprised to find the language a little more difficult than other Victorian novels like David Copperfield, but perhaps that’s just Henry James? It was my first book from him. Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: