Saturday, April 5, 2014

Victorian Winter Wear for Ladies

While spring has spring in other parts of the world, the winter has dragged on here into April. In fact today is one of the first days above 0 Celsius, and I am hoping the tide has finally turned for the season. In fact it was confirmed by Environment Canada that it was the coldest winter in Winnipeg since 1898!
This got me thinking about Victorian winter wear and how those that lived here back then survived such harshness without indoor heating, puffy parkas and coffee shops.

First off, they wore a lot more layers then we do now. In fact with all the layers of undergarments, and petticoats plus a wool dress overtop, a women could be wearing over 30 pounds of clothing! Still to survive harsh weather, good outdoor clothing would be needed. There were a few different options for a lady, though I suspect the first two were more suited to less harsh climates.

The Cape
Capes could be anywhere from hip length to just above the hem line. They were sleeveless, and the same length all around. Some were hooded or had slits in the sides so a lady could use her arms if needed (I'm not sure why one would want to be without the use of their arms, but maybe Victorian ladies were not as industrious?). They could be made of lightweight fabric for warmer weather, or made out of heavy wool or fur for the cold.

The Cloak
I'm not entirely sure what the clear difference between a cloak and a cape is, but apparently cloaks were shorter at the front to allow use of ones arms, and to show off the front of your fashionable dress.

The Coat
This obviously is the more sensible choice for extreme winters, and for being able to use ones limbs. Victorian coats tended to be close fitting at top, and wider at the bottom to hug the dress line, and were usually just slightly above the hem in length.

Another common cold weather item was the shawl. Useful for layering and for sitting warming by the fire, but not terribly practical by themselves in January. They were a handy item for cooler summer nights and a stylish accessory.

The Muff
This was the most impractical but fashionable of winter items. A fur muff was a symbol of status and elegance. While it does look cozy, it again makes the assumption that a lady did not need use of her hands. I can see why these went out of style for practical reasons. They look great, but it's hard to hold your morning coffee while wearing one.

I hope spring is in full force in your parts, but for now I will have to wait a little longer, as this was the scene when it snowed again earlier this week.

What Victorian winter fashions are you fond of?

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  1. I like the muff, personally. But the ones I've seen have a cord that goes around the neck so you could take your (gloved) hands out to grab something. You could also put a hand warmer inside the muff to keep your hands even warmer.

  2. I like the muff. The ones I've seen have a cord that went around the neck to allow the wearer to take their (gloved) hands out to do things. You could also put a hand warmer inside the muff for extra warmth.

  3. My hands are very cold so I'm thinking of making myself a muff. It will be used as both a handbag and for warming my hands.