Women’s Outfits for Different Occasions in Victorian Britain
Having taken the reins of Britain at a young age, Queen Victoria was madly in love with her husband and immensely happy with her life in general. Her subjects could feel it, too. The country was roaring into the future, full of high hopes and big dreams. Naturally, the fashion of the time reflected that optimism and excitement, with a style that focused on romance and youth. Ladies’ clothing in particular began to take on what we would call a more feminine look.
A Victorian lady’s wardrobe included, as a rule, the following outfits for different occasions:
Home Dresses – Home or morning dresses were simple silhouettes that were designed to be worn around the home during breakfast and other times spent with loved ones. These dresses featured long sleeves, high necklines, muted colors, and minimal or no decorations. They were generally worn throughout the year and did not change with the seasons.
Tea Dresses – Tea dresses or tea gowns were lightly-colored home dresses that first appeared in Europe in the 1870s and became popular in the 1880s. As its name suggests, a lady would wear a tea dress when they had tea with family members and close friends.
Reception Dresses – A reception dress would be worn by the lady of the house when she would meet guests during the morning or afternoon hours. It would be more complex than a home dress or tea dress, but it would still be relatively modest and usually dark in color.
Visiting Dresses – A visiting dress would be worn by a lady who was receiving a more formal visitor in the early afternoon. This dress would be made to conform to the styles of the time, which usually meant open shoulders and a lack of cleavage. They were also typically complemented by hats and gloves.
Strolling Dresses – A strolling dress would be worn whenever a lady took a walk outdoors. These varied greatly in style, and most ladies had several options available to them in their wardrobes. Some of these dresses were more appropriate for warm weather, while others were designed for rainy or cold weather. No matter the season, a proper lady would be expected to wear a hat and gloves at all times when outdoors.
Lunch and Dinner Dresses – Lunch and dinner dresses were slightly more formal than visiting dresses or tea dresses, yet they still wouldn’t be as opulent as formal ballroom or evening dresses. They were always to remain completely closed, and were intended to be worn for meals with guests or family.