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How to Look Like a Proper Victorian Lady in 11 Easy Steps

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Getty Images

Earlier this month, we showed 21st-century lads how to gentrify their wardrobes Victorian-style. Today, it’s the fairer sex’s turn. So ladies, if you’d like to shake things up with a bit of old-fashioned elegance, here are 11 handy tips.

1. Start “Stocking Up” on Hosiery.

In polite company, bare legs were passionately frowned-upon, so hosiery was non-negotiable.

2. When it Comes to Footwear, Black is Beautiful.

From the 1860s to the 1890s, dark shoes and boots (especially black ones) were the norm. Apart from coloration, however, ladies’ footwear was reasonably diverse. Boots had exceeded shoes in popularity until the late 1860s, when several models of the latter group (pointed-toed, round-toed, etc.) started cropping up.

3. Learn to Speak Glove.

GWTW Scrapbook

Evening gloves weren’t just classy. They also helped women (and men) send nonverbal messages. For example, if a clueless would-be suitor came over to make small talk, tapping your chin said “I love another.” Here’s a delightful crash-course on Victorian gesturing.

4. Get Yourself a Fan Collection.

“The fan’s novel feature,” writes historian Anna Gray Bennett, “was its ability to open and close ‘at a touch,’ thereby providing that essential element of fashion—surprise.” Any self-respecting lady owned several fans; ornate models were broken out at parties and conservative varieties taken to church on Sundays.

5. Dresses Evolved Quite a Bit, So Pick Your Favorite Decade.

Stretching from 1837 to 1901, the Victorian period was a rather lengthy one. Naturally, ladies’ dresses changed significantly during this era. Between the 1830s and 1860s, skirts were predominantly large and bell-like. However, as women began to enjoy more active lives later on, dresses began to exchange extravagance for mobility.

6. Loose Hair Is Kids’ Stuff.

Updos reigned supreme. Additionally, with the rise of hot irons, wavy hair was en vogue, and curls and braids also enjoyed a bit of a renaissance. Straight, flowing hair, on the other hand, was seen as immature and reserved exclusively for children.

7. Nix the Tanning Bed.

Oh, how standards can change! Tan skin might be all the rage now, but in Victorian times, paler complexions signified nobility.

8. Use Cosmetics Sparingly.

Only actresses and prostitutes wore excessive makeup, though not all of them cared for the stuff. “If Satan has ever had any direct agency in inducing woman to spoil or deform her own beauty,” wrote one prominent courtesan, “it must have been in tempting her to use [facial] paints and enameling.” Well-to-do women, meanwhile, lightly powdered their faces for whitening purposes. Rosy cheeks were prized, so pink blushers saw widespread application as well, along with lipstick and eye shadow (in moderation, of course).

9. Going Out? Cover That Head.

Regardless of gender, you didn’t want to be caught outdoors without some form of headgear! Trimmed with such ornaments as ostrich feathers and flowers, outside hats could get quite lavish. Bonnets and indoor hats were popular early on, but became associated with the elderly after the 1870s.

10. Borrow Some of Her Highness’ Jewelry Pointers.

It’s good to be the queen. The public strained to copy Victoria’s every whim in the jewelry department. She almost single-handedly popularized charm bracelets, charm necklaces, and a slew of other adornments throughout the U.K. After Prince Albert passed away in 1861, she mourned his death until the end of her days. During this time, Victoria predominantly wore darker jewels, and her subjects followed suit.

11. Corsets Are Unavoidable, But PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

Corsets can—and did—seriously restrict breathing or even cause rib disfigurement if bound too tightly. “Hourglass figures” were very much in vogue at the time. In keeping with the trend, expectant mothers even began donning special “pregnancy corsets.” More outrageous still was the “wasp waist” look, which involved grown women squeezing their midsections down to a scant 14 inches! But, contrary to popular belief, most Victorian corset-wearers thankfully didn’t take the practice to such frightening extremes.

So, are they safe for modern usage? Well, corsets are seeing a present-day revival of sorts at weddings and formal gatherings. Dr. Sara Gottfried claims that, although there’s (usually) no danger in putting one on periodically, “wearing a corset 24/7… can do a couple [nasty] things to your body. You may want to consult your physician to make sure that your lungs and liver are healthy,” she said, adding, “and ideally, don’t wear a corset until after the age of 21”.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise stated.

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

Pantone Names 'Ultra Violet' 2018's Color of the Year

Time to retire your green apparel inspired by 2017’s color of the year: The color experts at Pantone have chosen a new shade to represent 2018. As The New York Times reports, trend followers can expect to see Ultra Violet popping up on runways in coming months.

The decision was made after Pantone scattered a team around the world to search current street styles, high fashion, art, and popular travel destinations for the up-and-coming “it” color. The brand describes the winner, PANTONE 18-3838, as “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade.”

Fashion plays a large part in the selection of the color of the year, but Pantone also considers the broader socio-political atmosphere. Some may see Ultra Violet as a nod to our stormy political climate, but the company’s announcement cast it in a more optimistic light.

“Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now,” it reads. “The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.”

The color is associated with some of music’s greatest icons, like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright also had a special attachment to the color and wore it when he was in need of creative inspiration. When it’s not sparking artistic thinking, purple is sometimes used to promote mindfulness in mediation spaces. So if you’re feeling stressed about whatever the new year holds, stare at the hue above for a few seconds and see if it doesn’t calm you down.

[h/t The New York Times]


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