Victorian Clothing

Bernard welcomed Linda Hopwood and her husband who came from Kirkby Stephen to tell us about Victorian Costume. She is at the moment renovating the Old Temperance Hall into a tea room and museum by putting it back to its original state.

Her interest started in her teens with her Grandma who had linen napkins, doily's and lace items. She started collecting Victorian Nightwear soon after. They are warm and are made from many different kinds of cotton. Her husband claims that they are a good form of contraception as they cover you from neck to hands and feet but the stitches are tiny and the Victorians were past masters at stitching. If you look at the machine work it was always straight seams not curved. 

The first sewing machine was in the mid 1800's but they were only used to machine straightforward seams, cuffs and pleats, and were completed by hand as was any decorative work.

The nightshirt Linda could not persuade her husband to model for us. It was re-enforced on the shoulders and at the bottom of the side seams and was possibly worn during the day as well. The man would have got up in the morning and just tucked his shirt into his trousers and gone off to work. Clothes were not washed daily as they are now. Children clothes are hard to find now but Linda had 2 examples to show us ,the rounded collars were for the girls and the square collars for the boys. (Remember boys wore dresses until they had their hair cut and went into short trousers). One was of burgundy silk velvet with cream lace collars and cuffs (like Little Lord Fontaroy). The buttons were marquisette and worth more than the outfit, which was now worn on the shoulders with handling. It was bought in Norfolk in an Antique Shop in Wells-next-to-the-Sea and Linda had to persuade the owner eventually to sell it to her. The Lace was chemical lace and this is where  a design is embroidered onto treated fabric which is then dissolved leaving the lace design .

Victorian housecoat

Victorian Ladies used to wear at least 8 layers but before the task of dressing for the day they would wear a housecoat made from a wool and silk mix. This would have been used in the morning only when she would receive female guests in the morning room.


Victoria ladies spent a fortune enhancing their bottoms and wore a bustle pad which would have been made from horsehair and straw. So under the dresses they wore 2 petticoats, a bustle pad ,and then a corset cover and a corset. Under the corset was the chemise. Ladies would have gone and had ribs broken so that they could get the shape required. This meant that they also had to wear a soft corset at night over their nightdress to help with the pain

They did not at this time wear knickers. They only came into fashion in the 1830's and they had 2 seperate legs. Later trap-door knickers came in where "The trap" buttoned onto the waist band . In the 1890's they started making full bloomers.

Linda has a beautiful collection of Victorian petticoats which are totally hand stitched. Some in cut work and others with inserted crochet lace or drawn lace-work.

A purchase from Tennents Auctioneers started off the collection of Victorian short Capes. Victorian ladies could not wear coats because of their bustles dresses and skirts. Again beautiful needlework and beading with exquisite designs. In the 1850s to 1870s they had inner sleeves that would fit at the wrist and be tied at the elbow. This meant that the inner sleeves were easy to launder.


At this point Linda persuaded ladies from the audience to model for her some of her capes. This one of brocade silk velvet. The ones with longer lappets were for the older lady. They then had bonnets put on their heads to complete the look. A gentleman of the audience was also encouraged to put on a dress coat and a mole skin top hat made by Lock and Co of London which were founded in 1676. Linda has a collection of top hats including an opera hat which could be flattened and sat upon at the opera.

Another of her collections is lace collars which were made by young girls and ladies without the luxury of electricity. Linda has about 36 of these and they were called bertha's.

This dress is from the 1870's and belonged to a lady whose husband was a file maker. The Skirt would have originally been waxed with honey and candle wax, to protect the fabric and made it waterproof.

This is the suffragette dress from 1912 - 1914 and in suffragette colours of purple, white and green with a pocket in the underskirt at calf level for a handkerchief.

The last two items had been left on her doorstep at a previous address. One was a very fine and delicate black Chantilly lace shawl made using at least 200 bobbins and valued at over £1000.00

The other was a black lace coffin cover worth about £800.00

An evening that was enjoyed by the men and ladies of the audience and many took the advantage of inspecting the clothes after the talk.

We all look forward to going to Kirkby Stephen to see the rest of the collection when it is opened later this year.




Close