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Victorian Fashions for Women (Hardback)

Social History Photographic Books Colour Books Women of History Victorian Era Clothing and Fashion

By Fiona Kay, Neil R Storey
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 colour & 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399004169
Published: 13th July 2022

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Victorian Fashions for Women explores the British styles and clothing throughout the long reign of Queen Victoria, from the late 1830s to the first years of the 20th century. Within are a superb overview of the dresses, hats, hair styles, corsetry, undergarments shoes and boots that combined to present the prevailing styles for each decade. From those who had enough money to have day and evening wear and clothes for sports and outdoor activities, to those with limited income and wardrobes or labouring folk with little more than the clothes they stood up in.

All decades are illustrated with original photographs, adverts and contemporary magazine features from the authors' own remarkable collections, accompanied by a knowledgeable and informative text that describes the fashions, their social history context and influences reflected in the clothes of the time. Laid out in a clear and easy-to-follow chronological order, the key features of styles, decoration and accoutrements will help family historians to date family photographs and will provide a useful resource for students and costume historians or for anyone with a love of fashion and style to enjoy.

This was a really interesting and informative book and I learnt a lot through reading it. It’s not my area of expertise, but by the end I felt much more informed.

NetGalley, Ruth Parker

Victorian Fashions for Women by Fiona Kay, Neil Storey is a fascinating book on Victorian fashion. It has 70 photos and those pictures offer a good insight into how fashion evolved. I like that the photos are both spread out in the book and also a few are bunched together. For this kind of book is the best way to include them.

The book covers the period between 1840s to the 1890s, inclusive. Each decade has its own chapter and there are two more chapters dedicated to working women and to mourning. Victorian fashion changed a lot, crinoline cage was introduced and the smaller ones were comfortable, something that is mentioned in the book. Usually historians focus only on the negatives of the crinolines, when in fact they were comfortable to wear. I talk from experience when it comes to crinoline cage. When it got to sizes that were way too large than it was a different situation.

The book is short, but the information is nicely presented and it makes for a fast-pace read. It covers topics such as jewellery and accessories too. I had some assumptions regarding black jewellery for example and it was nice to discover that the situation was much more complex. I would highly recommend this book. You can discover all sorts of details on corsets, about shoes in which a rather strange trend emerged at some point, what women wore for outdoor pursuits, and many more.

5/5 stars

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

An informative look at Victorian fashions. This would be a good book for an historian to add to their collections. As well as genealogist as it would help pinpoint fashion for pictures and paintings.

NetGalley, Carissa Miller

The book is very excellent at giving practical overviews of victorian fashion from each decade, each chapter separated for each 10 year period. Each chapter introduces an overview of foundation layers to outdoor fashion and accessories, noting small changes as time moved on.
The in depth look at working wear and mourning was a great read.

NetGalley, Louise Chase

This is an excellent resource for identifying and understanding Victorian era fashions. The authors are clearly well researched and understand the decades well. In addition, the book does not only discuss high end fashions you see in the ephemera of the time (which were targeted at wealthier women, especially in the early decades) but in all the different levels of fashions (and undergarments, hats, etc.) of the time.

In all, a fabulous read and well worth it for the fashion historian.

NetGalley, Andrea joki

Bringing a cohesive narrative to the trends, influences, & silhouettes of the 19th century, Victorian Fashion for Women is an informative & fascinating read on not only dress history, but the people that created & wore these items as well.

Beginning in the 1840's & ending with the styles of the 1890's, this book, while not a complete comprehensive history, offers an excellent look at fashions for the everyday historian. From Queen Victoria's paramount influence on style, to the working woman, this book gives an intimate look at many details of dress.

Honiton lace, the French inspiration of Romantic era skirts, the incredible yards of fabrics over crinoline that would deflate over the decades to give a slim front & bustled back. The book includes a multitude of pictures, pointing out the historical significance & details one might have otherwise missed, along with some truly enjoyable copies of clothing adds directed at women of the eras. These I found truly fascinating, as over time one could see not just the evolution of clothing, but of women & their places in society as well.

One important point that this book does not blessedly omit, are the undergarments used, as these were essential for giving the shape & structure to the dresses, blouses, & skirts themselves. I also appreciated the addition of common accessories such as hats, jewelry, & shoes. Fabrics & dyes are outlined in a brief overview of the decades at the end of chapters.

A well written & enjoyable book for the curious historian in us all.

NetGalley, Taun M.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very fun and interesting book, loved the reading and it had some really interesting pictures. This is a must have for any fans of Victorian History and or fashion.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

I expected a coffee table book; however, this is a thorough, well researched history of women's dress during the Victorian period. It included vintage photos, advertisements, and other illustrations. The fashions of each decade were presented as individual chapters. The reader could easily focus on a decade of interests. Colors and fabrics popular in each decade are presented with each chapter. Costumes for mourning and mourning rituals were also presented. This book is thoughtfully organized.
This is an excellent resource for students of history and fashion. It is accessible to those who have an interest beyond academics.
Book includes a glossary, index and bibliography.

NetGalley, Claudia Ratay

A great read for anyone interested in clothes and fashion. With a decade for the years 1840 to 1890, the span of Victoria’s reign, the book is comprehensive, detailed and fully illustrated... Really enjoyed it and learnt a lot.

NetGalley, Mandy Jenkinson

This book is perfect for anyone interested in fashion history, especially if you're looking for something that is packed full of information but done through a very concise format! Highly recommend!

NetGalley, Natalie Chiasson

We look back upon Victorian fashions with some bemusement: corsets, bustles and crinolines? Why would anyone want to make life so uncomfortable and difficult for themselves? However, it’s really not that long ago. In 1898, Lady Harberton wasn’t allowed to go into a pub’s coffee room because she was wearing a knickerbocker cycling costume with knee-length breeches – that’s the era of my grandparents. Kew’s first women gardeners were appointed in 1896 – and that was seen as newsworthy across the UK.

The nineteenth century saw the huge expansion of the middle-class. The Industrial revolution created wealth (and yes, a huge amount of poverty and hardship) and a lot of that trickled down through society. The wealthy could afford servants; the railways expanded markets for fresh food and so the increased urban population ate better. Some of that circulating money found its way into the hands of women who spent it upon themselves. Increasing mechanisation also assisted the mass production of items, thus reducing the cost of clothing and accessories and encouraging more purchases rather than mending and re-use of old apparel.

Victorian Fashions for Women by Fiona Kay and Neil R Storey offers precisely what the title states. Each decade from the 1840s to the 1890s is allocated a chapter and we also get two short chapters devoted to Working Women and Mourning. It’s a fairly short book (approx. 175 pages plus index) and is highly readable, although it packs a lot of information into each page.

Each chapter sets the context for the decade before telling us about the ‘look’ of that decade, e.g. changes in the shape of the bodice and sleeves and the changes in hairstyles. We then get sections on foundation garments, accessories, jewellery before the chapter ends with a comprehensive list of fabrics and colours of the decade.

I really enjoyed the book – and I learned a lot. I loved the approach of a chapter per decade. That means that before I read a book by Dickens or Trollope, I can turn to the appropriate chapter in Kay & Storey and get a feel for the ‘look’ for that decade. You might laugh, but someone as incredibly sensitive to female thought and behaviour as Trollope could, in just a sentence or two about Signora Neroni, for example, tell us exactly how she views society – and how it will view her.

This book is definitely a keeper!

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I like books about fashion and the history of fashion as it's also social history. This one is very good and I learned a lot about the fashion of that age.
It's well explained and researched and entertaining.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

As someone who reads historical fiction--mostly romance--I was absolutely in love with this book. This was a very detailed book of Victorian fashion, from sleeve length to mourning clothes rituals. This is definitely the book for someone who wants to learns the ins-and-outs of this type of fashion. I do want to say this: This book is extremely detailed. It would be an excellent read for historians and historical romance authors due to its research-type style. I have a Master's degree in British Literature, and this is something I would definitely use as a source when I do research. It's an insightful read, and I highly recommend it.

NetGalley, Lee Hall

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love the Victorian era and when I saw this book on fashions from that era I was so excited to read it! It’s divided into three different times the beginning the middle and the end and from big bussels to no bussels, to big sleeves to collars that reached their chin it’s all in here and they cover every fashion statement there was from head to toe flappy hats dainty boots etc I love this book and will probably go back and read it again and imagine what it would be like wearing those clothes with the exception of the corset of course. Anyone who loves reading about or dreaming of the Victorian era will love this book. They cover everyone and every accessory it is so so good.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

Beautiful photographs and reproductions of advertisements across much of the century help to enhance the descriptions of changing fashions in this book. The book is broken down by decade with a general synopsis of how women's fashions in general changed (and sometimes what influenced that change, like sewing machines or bicycles) before breaking down to specifics like undergarments, jewelry, hair, etc. The last chapter covered a little bit of what women not in the upper classes would have worn as well as changing rules for mourning etiquette. Interesting for those who are interested in reading about the subject.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love this delightful book of Victorian fashions through history. Perfect book for anyone that’s interested in history and fashion. The pictures are great as well!

NetGalley, Lynn Beck

An interesting journey through the fashions of the Victorian era. Fun to read if you have an interest in fashion history. The illustrations are helpful in giving a visual of how women dressed during those times. Thank goodness times have changed...I don't think I could wear soooo many layers.

NetGalley, Mariama Thorlu-Bangura

About Fiona Kay

Fiona Kay has a lifelong interest in military and social history with a special focus on the roles played by women in both World Wars. She has her own extensive collection of portrait and family photographs, books, magazines and ephemera that record the history of fashion and society from the mid-19th century to the 1950s. She also collects vintage clothing and has participated in historical events and exhibitions all over the UK. Fiona lectures on dating family photographs and was a regular member of family photograph interpretation expert team at the prestigious Who Do You Think You Are? Live! events.


About Neil R Storey

Neil R. Storey is an award winning historian and author of nearly fifty books. A graduate of University of East Anglia, he is an internationally recognised authority and lecturer on British crime history. Known for his ground-breaking research, his remarkable library and archive of original photographs, documents and manuscripts, Neil frequently appears as guest expert on television and radio factual programmes such as Who Do Think You Are? and The Buildings That Fought Hitler .

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Studying dress history teaches us much about the past. In this skilfully-illustrated, accessible and authoritative book, Jayne Shrimpton demonstrates how fashion and clothes represent the everyday experiences of earlier generations, illuminating the world in which they lived. As Britain evolved during the 1800s from a slow-paced agrarian society into an urban-industrial nation, dress was transformed. Traditional rural styles declined and modern city modes, new workwear and holiday gear developed. Women sewed at home, while shopping advanced, novel textiles and mass-produced goods bringing affordable…

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