Saturday evening at The Mo saw a feast of fabulous Victorian outfits on parade- and even the chance to see just what a well-dressed lady would wear under her gown. (I’m not talking about the volunteers, as smart as we all looked in our Victorian costumes!). Specialists from the ‘Black Knight Historical’ company put on a fashion show, using the gantry in The Mo’s main gallery as their catwalk. Some of the costumes were on mannequins, and others were worn by ‘real’ models. It really brought the era to life! The team really knew their stuff, commenting on each costume as they went and answering questions from our visitors afterwards. We were all fascinated to get up close to such beautiful clothing. Most of the outfits were reproductions of real clothing found in portraits, photographs and illustrations.
The front view of one of my favourite dresses from Black Knight’s Victorian Collection.
Did you know that a Victorian lady would wear up to 6 petticoats to give the right shape to her dress? And this was obviously along with other underwear such as “combinations”. No wonder upper class ladies needed maids to help them dress.
The back view and bustle.
The timeline of dresses was very effective. We saw how, at the time Victoria was born, regency dresses were in style with their military detailing and high waistlines under the bust. Later, waistlines dropped and gowns became more swishy and voluminous on the bottom half. Examples from the 1870’s (ish!) showed how the skirts then narrowed again but had bustle detailing. I had to ask one of the models, Kindra, just how practical the dresses were to sit down in- I’d always wondered. She kindly demonstrated that the bustles simply collapsed when sitting down, and would pop back up again when standing. (Brilliant Victorian engineering on a small scale!).
Whatever Queen Victoria wore immediately became fashionable (much like with the Middleton sisters today). As she loved Scotland and everything Scottish, Tartan became very “in”. When ladies got married they usually just wore their best frock, but when Queen Victoria wore a new white dress for her wedding she set off a trend that became a tradition. One that’s still around today.
It wasn’t just ladies’ fashions on show though. We saw several very dapper gentleman promenading. I was amused to hear that the phrase “back-hander” is said to have come from when Politicians passed money through the tails of their coats when sitting in Parliament in order to influence people and policy. Shocking!
http://tinyurl.com/bmf2v4y – Black Knight Historical’s Facebook page.