I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

woensdag 17 juni 2009

Fashion in the Victoriaanse period

There was a young and innocent Queen soon destined to set the style and trend for the aristocratic world in which she lived. Her name was Queen Victoria, and she ruled the English society for over 60 years. Queen Victoria started her reign at the tender age of eighteen. At this new beginning she started a style that affected not only the aristocratic English woman, but also all woman of the world during her time. She was simple and plain with the unique quality of style and attitude that was all her own. Queen Victoria set the fashion and style for the aristocratic English woman, defining their status and rank within the society.

During the 30 years of the early Victorian Age the style and trend which the women wore transformed from the hour glass figure, to the high waist, gradually leading to the bell shape figure with large sleeves and low cut cleavage style. The main reasons for each change was to try to somehow make comfort for a woman, yet it rarely occurred.

The corset set the tone for the shape of the woman's body. It brought the waist into incredible measurements, a record of 15 inches was reached.
The crinoline was designed to enhance the look of the dress. It allowed the skirts to flare out to great widths, enhancing the value of any woman whom wore the crinoline. The corset was basic to the hour glass look. "The hour glass look was achieved with the corset, a garment made of clothe and wire used to compress the waist to only twelve to fifteen inches, which was highly hazardous the to woman's health yet highly fashionable"(Ruhling 146). Along with the corsets the women wore crinolines, wired hoops that held the dress out, which were often a fire hazard. The crinolines' fullness forced women to have good posture and seat themselves very carefully. Otherwise, women would be considered unladylike. As Cunnington states, "The crinoline was used as a status of wealth, also the wider the hoop, the more fabric had to be used to cover it. Therefore women having enormous widths in their dresses indicated a very wealthy status in life." That was not the end to the additives of what women wore beneath their elaborate dresses. "Many women wore at least four to five petticoats, layers of skirts and cloth, on top of their crinoline to enhance their status of wealth"(Beard 254).

The bell-shaped figure was given its name because of the way the women looked when they walked down the streets of England-like a ringing bell! Changes in fashion came when the corset was readjusted and altered to the waist instead of covering the hips also. With the new altering the corset brought on the high waist figure. "The skirts were actually just raised up to start approximately six inches below the breasts"(Bosse). The skirts still had a narrow top with a broad bottom. The crinoline and petticoats were still worn.

The bell-shaped figure was based on this high-waist shape. Again the corset was worn, yet it gave no appearance of its presence. "The skirts started directly beneath the breasts and immediately began to expand from that point"(Hansen 158). The crinoline and petticoats still worn and gave width and an elaborate look. The sleeves were not attached to the dress itself but were pinned or buttoned on to the dress to give the appearance of very short arms. The sleeves were very wide at the shoulders and gradually narrowed at the wrists. "The cleavage line of the dress was very low, usually to reveal the innocent untouched flesh a young lady may have. This was not taken as an insult or digression from the viewer or the revealer"(Evans 145).

There were fabulous fabrics that were hand woven and designed. Many families had one tailor they went to to make designs for them. The fabrics of these elaborate dresses were delicate and very difficult to manufacture. In fact, some of the cloth made then do not exist now because of the time, effort, and money put into making the fabric. Some of the fabrics used were Levantine foliose (a soft, rich silk with a twilled shot of green and red or blue and gold), sultane (a mixture of silk and mohair, like fine alpaca, with alternate satin or chine stripes), satin flout (described as being as rich as velvet and as supper as muslin), Pekin point (a rich white silk painted with bouquets of flowers or foliage and with a light mixture of gold in the pattern), also Ottoman satin (rich shaded satin embroidered with flowers), and Victorian silk. To sew these rich and delicate fabrics into dresses required tedious labor.

Lace was remarkably fashionable and found on almost every dress. It would cover the entire dress, emboider the design, or trim the hems of the dress.

The bonnet
was highly fashionably because women wanted to shade and protect their fair skin from the sun when they went out.
Lace accompanied almost every style and trend in the early Victorian age. "Lace became a trend and style all its own"(Palmer). Lace was used to indicate style, class and wealth of a woman. The lace was tediously made with precision and distinction to clarify who owned the lace. Although the fabrics of the time were elaborate, lace was emphasized as the only thing that "made" the dress. The majority of day dresses, which survive from the period, were mostly made of heavy cotton. Lace was so popular in Victorian clothing women would hand make their own designs and styles of the lace.

The hairstyles of the time added distinction and sophistication. Women let their hair fall in short ringlets on either sides of their face from a center part, or they combed it over the ears straight down from a center parting. As stated by Wilcox, "The hair of the women in the 1800s was very important to their status"(134). Bonnets were also fashionable headwear. The poke bonnet
had a wide open brim projecting over the face. The jewelry also was very important to women's fashion during the 1800s. Jewelry consisted of gems and artifacts. Other accessories were shoes, shawls, and gloves.

Flat shoes with no heels were worn with lacing up the lower part of the leg. As stated by Wilcox, "Women wore the black leather shoe for everyday dress, but slippers with the Louis heel were to be had of colorful kid, thin morocco and many fabrics such as velvet, satin, brocade, and damask"(227 The Mode). Stockings were made of thick material used to keep women legs warm. They were usually fashionable and were never seen.

The shawl draped over the upper body of the woman. Usually the shawl would be large enough to cover the head, neck, shoulders, back, chest, and arms of the woman.

The shawl was almost the equivalent of a scarf today. The shawl was used with dresses, enclosing the neck and also spread over the shoulders over the wide collars. As Ruhling states in her book, "The Kashmir shawl with its oriental palm or pine design made the shawl an extremely appealing and exotic piece of apparel from the early 1800's up to about 1870"(156). Hand woven in India from the soft wool of the Tibetan goat, the shawls were terribly expensive, even by today's standards they would be expensive costing usually five hundred to five thousand dollars. They were such a status symbol some women preferred them above diamonds. Gorsline states that, "A loom woven version of the coveted and more costly Kashmir shawl was the Paisley shawl, made in Scotland. It got a real royal boost when none other than Queen Victorian draped one over her stately shoulders"(144).

The gloves were usually too small but the women all wanted the image of small delicate hands.

Fashion indicated that women should wear gloves. They were to wear tight fitting kidskin gloves that were fastened by up to one hundred tiny buttons. Much advice was given not only on buying gloves, but putting them on also. Women were advised to allow at least one half hour to squeeze each hand into the binding leather. The process was vast and intense. Women had to use great forces of pushing and pulling the hand in the glove. There was a special hook used to fasten the buttons on the gloves. Knitted gloves were worn in the morning and black silk mittens were put on the back with gloves of white silk net or white kid for dinner parties.

False hair, make-up, jewels, and fans were used to make the appearance beautiful and appealing. Jewelry was also used to show mourning and happiness. Bentley states that, "Mourning jewelry was a very important and fashionable, of gold and black enamel, dull jet, often with a coil of the hair of the 'beloved departed' cleverly inserted in the ring, brooch, or locket"(178). Queen Victoria for instance could not be parted from her bracelet that held a portrait of her beloved Albert with a lock of his hair. Human hair was not only for mourning jewelry, but also given to daughters from their mothers. Engagement rings, were usually a diamond symbolizing innocence, it was what every bride wanted to wear on their finger. Each stone of an engagement ring was represented by a meaning such as sapphires which meant immortal life, rubies represented affection, emeralds brought success in life, and pearls and opals were avoided because they were considered hard brings of ill luck.

The fan was highly recommended and requested to use. Many women used the signals and codes for communicating with gentlemen.

Make-up was used to a maximum. During this period, women wanted to cover things up. It was commonly known for women to pile the make-up on the cover all the flaws in their skin. Women wanted to achieve the look of fair white skin with colored lips. Every one could not afford make-up; therefore, the woman did not wear it or she substituted with various creams and chemicals. "Fans were more than a decorative accessory, they wore a device for reviving the more than occasional swooning bathroom dancer"(Boucher 89). Fans were considered as a flirting device. Although it is questionable how much of this flirting was actually done there were complex rules about the meaning of the position of the fan when held in the hand of a young women. If a woman fanned fast, she was conveying her independence, if she fanned slowly she was already engaged. A fan with the right hand in front of her face encouraged advances, while when done with the left it recommended retreat. An open fan meant love, while a closed one meant hate, and a half-opened fan signaled friendship. A fan that was open and shut meant, "Oh kiss me, please."

As Queen Victoria's reign reached its peak, like any other, it came to an end. She became known for her simple sense of fashion and grace. She took her turn at the spotlight then let the throne have another ruler. While she stood in the light, she let it be known that she set the fashions and style for the aristocratic English women in her society. This motivated the status and rank of these women to be known by all. The clothing may have been a little bit uncomfortable with the crinoline and layers of petticoats, and the fabrics were pretty complicated, but some are still around now like cotton and silk. Women in that period were very conscience of their figure and they all went after the feminine look of a thin waist and broad lower body. The basic observance of this period was that it dealt with a lot deception. Women had to wear certain things to make it seem to all they were frail and fragile with a petite well shaped body. Women also caked on make-up to hide blemishes. The style of the period was very distinguished, yet it started from the Queen and trickled down to all women. The dress was very elaborate, while the accessories were compliments to the women who wore them.

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The Parlour

The Parlour



Charlotte Bronte

Presently the door opened, and in came a superannuated mastiff, followed by an old gentleman very like Miss Bronte, who shook hands with us, and then went to call his daughter. A long interval, during which we coaxed the old dog, and looked at a picture of Miss Bronte, by Richmond, the solitary ornament of the room, looking strangely out of place on the bare walls, and at the books on the little shelves, most of them evidently the gift of the authors since Miss Bronte's celebrity. Presently she came in, and welcomed us very kindly, and took me upstairs to take off my bonnet, and herself brought me water and towels. The uncarpeted stone stairs and floors, the old drawers propped on wood, were all scrupulously clean and neat. When we went into the parlour again, we began talking very comfortably, when the door opened and Mr. Bronte looked in; seeing his daughter there, I suppose he thought it was all right, and he retreated to his study on the opposite side of the passage; presently emerging again to bring W---- a country newspaper. This was his last appearance till we went. Miss Bronte spoke with the greatest warmth of Miss Martineau, and of the good she had gained from her. Well! we talked about various things; the character of the people, - about her solitude, etc., till she left the room to help about dinner, I suppose, for she did not return for an age. The old dog had vanished; a fat curly-haired dog honoured us with his company for some time, but finally manifested a wish to get out, so we were left alone. At last she returned, followed by the maid and dinner, which made us all more comfortable; and we had some very pleasant conversation, in the midst of which time passed quicker than we supposed, for at last W---- found that it was half-past three, and we had fourteen or fifteen miles before us. So we hurried off, having obtained from her a promise to pay us a visit in the spring... ------------------- "She cannot see well, and does little beside knitting. The way she weakened her eyesight was this: When she was sixteen or seventeen, she wanted much to draw; and she copied nimini-pimini copper-plate engravings out of annuals, ('stippling,' don't the artists call it?) every little point put in, till at the end of six months she had produced an exquisitely faithful copy of the engraving. She wanted to learn to express her ideas by drawing. After she had tried to draw stories, and not succeeded, she took the better mode of writing; but in so small a hand, that it is almost impossible to decipher what she wrote at this time.

I asked her whether she had ever taken opium, as the description given of its effects in Villette was so exactly like what I had experienced, - vivid and exaggerated presence of objects, of which the outlines were indistinct, or lost in golden mist, etc. She replied, that she had never, to her knowledge, taken a grain of it in any shape, but that she had followed the process she always adopted when she had to describe anything which had not fallen within her own experience; she had thought intently on it for many and many a night before falling to sleep, - wondering what it was like, or how it would be, - till at length, sometimes after the progress of her story had been arrested at this one point for weeks, she wakened up in the morning with all clear before her, as if she had in reality gone through the experience, and then could describe it, word for word, as it had happened. I cannot account for this psychologically; I only am sure that it was so, because she said it. ----------------------She thought much of her duty, and had loftier and clearer notions of it than most people, and held fast to them with more success. It was done, it seems to me, with much more difficulty than people have of stronger nerves, and better fortunes. All her life was but labour and pain; and she never threw down the burden for the sake of present pleasure. I don't know what use you can make of all I have said. I have written it with the strong desire to obtain appreciation for her. Yet, what does it matter? She herself appealed to the world's judgement for her use of some of the faculties she had, - not the best, - but still the only ones she could turn to strangers' benefit. They heartily, greedily enjoyed the fruits of her labours, and then found out she was much to be blamed for possessing such faculties. Why ask for a judgement on her from such a world?" elizabeth gaskell/charlotte bronte

Poem: No coward soul is mine

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life -- that in me has rest,
As I -- Undying Life -- have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou -- Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Family tree

The Bronte Family

Grandparents - paternal
Hugh Brunty was born 1755 and died circa 1808. He married Eleanor McClory, known as Alice in 1776.

Grandparents - maternal
Thomas Branwell (born 1746 died 5th April 1808) was married in 1768 to Anne Carne (baptised 27th April 1744 and died 19th December 1809).

Father was Patrick Bronte, the eldest of 10 children born to Hugh Brunty and Eleanor (Alice) McClory. He was born 17th March 1777 and died on 7th June 1861. Mother was Maria Branwell, who was born on 15th April 1783 and died on 15th September 1821.

Maria had a sister, Elizabeth who was known as Aunt Branwell. She was born in 1776 and died on 29th October 1842.

Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell on 29th December 1812.

The Bronte Children
Patrick and Maria Bronte had six children.
The first child was Maria, who was born in 1814 and died on 6th June 1825.
The second daughter, Elizabeth was born on 8th February 1815 and died shortly after Maria on 15th June 1825. Charlotte was the third daughter, born on 21st April 1816.

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls (born 1818) on 29th June 1854. Charlotte died on 31st March 1855. Arthur lived until 2nd December 1906.

The first and only son born to Patrick and Maria was Patrick Branwell, who was born on 26th June 1817 and died on 24th September 1848.

Emily Jane, the fourth daughter was born on 30th July 1818 and died on 19th December 1848.

The sixth and last child was Anne, born on 17th January 1820 who died on 28th May 1849.

Top Withens in the snow.

Top Withens in the snow.



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