May 10, 2022

464 Comments




 

 


Early Era Victorian Fashion For Dolls - A Pixie Faire Style Guide

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you make a historically accurate early Victorian period look for your 18-inch and other size dolls!  The Victorian era lasted from the 1830s until 1901 (when the Edwardian era began).  This style guide will cover from the 1830s through the 1860s as styles stayed somewhat similar during this time period (watch for our part two article about the later years of Victorian fashion, coming soon). 

Bonus Giveaway! ENTER TO WIN A $50 Pixie Faire Gift Card! Scroll down to the bottom of the post to get the details and enter the giveaway.

The Victorian era was named after the British Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901.

Fun Fact:  up until 2015 she was the longest reigning British monarch of all time and is still today the tenth longest reigning monarch in all of world history. 

The fashion of the early Victorian period was defined by full skirts, poufy sleeves, and tight corsets all of which were set into style by the Queen herself.  Victoria’s influence on fashion not only stretched across the Commonwealth but also over to the United States as well, especially on the East Coast where America was on the brink of the Civil War. 

 

1830s

The 1830s is the earliest period in Victorian fashion and it diverted quite a bit from the previous several decades.  Since the change of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, women’s dresses became smaller with less volume.  The 1830s reintroduced volume and excess in women’s fashion.  This can be seen through the popularization of the gigot Sleeve, which is a French word referring to the back leg of an animal.  It is an edited version of a leg-o-mutton sleeve where the sleeve is wide and voluminous at the top but narrow at the bottom. 

Skirts of dresses featured many pleats, embellishments starting around the kneeline, and hems that ended at the ankles.  Bodices had off-the-shoulder necklines, were tight, and ended slightly below the waist in a point.  They were nearly always accentuated with sashes, belts, or other ties.  Evening and formal dresses would resemble day dresses in silhouette but would often feature shorter sleeves that were still puffed and more decorations.  To finish the look, the most women would wear their hair parted down the middle and tightly pulled back into a low bun with ringlets surrounding their faces and sometimes falling over their buns.  To try it yourself, you can check out this tutorial.

 

1840s

The 1840s stayed somewhat similar to the 1830s in terms of style and fashion.  One of the main differences was the change in bodice style.  Dress bodices still ended slightly below the waist at a point.  They were now worn with a higher neckline that ended with a collar or sometimes a shallow v-neck that modestly did not show any cleavage.  The armscye was dropped and started lower off of the true shoulder line than before with less dramatic sleeves.  Sleeves were still large and slimmed at the cuffs, but their volume was now distributed more evenly than in the 1830s.  Long sleeves were worn for day dresses and short sleeves were worn for formal wear.  The hems on the skirts of dresses dropped back down to the ground during this decade as well.  It is also important to note that starting in the 1840s skirts became progressively fuller until the 1860s where the plateaued for a bit, then they shrunk back down starting in the 1870s. 

The popular Hairstyle stayed fairly similar to the 1830s except instead of ringlets framing the face, the face was now surrounded by tight braids that looped below the ears (you can try it yourself using this tutorial).  It is also interesting to note how much clothing women wore at once during the 1840s and 1850s specifically.  Women wore up to five layers of clothing daily that consisted of a dozen individual pieces:  a chemise, a corset, bloomers, stockings, petticoats (sometimes multiple petticoats), a crinoline (also known as a hoop skirt), a dress (which could be up to two pieces, see below), sleeves (separate from the sleeves attached to the bodice), a shawl, a bonnet, gloves, and a parasol.

 

1850s

In the 1850s hems on dresses raised once again back to the ankles or slightly above.  Day dresses were still worn featuring tight bodices and full sleeves, but the sleeves changed shape during this era.  Popular sleeve styles included bell, bishop, and pagoda sleeves.  Each of these sleeve types were different from the previous decades because they did not lose their fullness near the wrist, in fact, they grew larger towards the wrists.  Lace collars on the necklines of dresses were popularized during this time.  A new trend in women’s fashion that appeared were jackets and jacket type bodices.  Jackets at this time usually had pagoda-style sleeves with a v-shape opening in the front to expose the bodice underneath.  They closed near the collar usually with only one fastener which was most likely either a tie, a frog clasp, or a hook-and-eye.  Jackets most often were worn cropped and ended at the waistline on gowns.  Another interesting innovation in the 1850s was the introduction of two-piece dresses.  These were still considered to be dresses although they contained two parts:  a bodice and a skirt.  Most women had two or more bodices per skirt that were all made from the same fabric.  This made it so the same dress could be worn for multiple occasions just by changing the bodice.

 

1860s

The main evolution in womenswear in the 1860s was the introduction of the Garibaldi blouse.  These blouses were looser bodices that had large, loose, low-starting sleeves.  They were usually collarless with buttons running up the front or the back as a closure.  This is one of the first instances where buttons were chosen over laces for a closure. Skirt styles stayed the similar to the previous decade.  In America, the 1860s were dominated by the Civil War, which had a direct influence on fashion, as most world events do.  Women during this period were near-constantly wearing mourning clothes because of the gruesome war (not-so-fun fact:  the Civil War had the most American casualties of any war America has fought in—over 620,000 deaths).  A widow at the time was expected to wear mourning clothes for at least a year.  These clothes consisted of dresses made of black bombazine fabric (which was a durable, twill silk textile that had a matte finish), a widow’s cap, black cuffs on her dress, a black collar, black petticoats, black stockings, and a black parasol.  The next stage of mourning was from the period between twelve to eighteen months after her husband’s death.  During this period, she could wear nicer fabrics, such as silk or wool (instead of bombazine), black jewelry, and black ribbons.  The third and final phase of mourning happened after eighteen months, during which she could begin to wear “half-mourning” colors such as grey, purple, mauve, or lavender, with her black attire.  A daughter in mourning only had to wear all black for the first six months and then half-mourning for the following two.

 

COLORS AND PRINTS

During the period from the 1830s to the 1860s alkaline dyes were invented and often used.  These dyes work by forming chemical reactions between natural fibers in the textiles and the dye molecules using the pH scale.  The dye molecules form a covalent bond with the fabric that makes it nearly impossible to wash out the color if done correctly.  Because of this, beautiful and more vibrant shades like indigo, lavender, yellow, and various shades of blue and red became popular and attainable.  Other popular colors were more natural colors like brown or black.  Popular fabrics during this time were silk, cotton, and wool (or various blends that contained some of each).  These fabrics also came in a variety of prints like small geometric patterns, florals, and large plaids.  Solids, however, were still the most popular choice and were often embellished with lace, embroidery, and/or ribbons.  You can take a look below for some of our suggested fabric choices:

Packed Leaves Cotton from Joann Fabrics

Reverie Ice Pink Polyester Satin from Mood Fabrics

Black Silk and Cotton Dull Satin from Mood Fabrics

Chestnut and White Tartan Plaid Cotton Twill from Mood Fabrics

Red Leaf Texture Cotton Fabric from Joann Fabrics    

 

Pixie Faire offers a wide variety of early Victorian period-inspired patterns, like the Gigot Sleeve Dress by Thimbles and Acorns, pictured above. 

View the Early Victorian Era 1830s-1860s Fashions Collection today!

 

 

We’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment and tell us which decade between 1830s to the 1860s the picture above is from*!

We'd love to see your creations too, so if you make one, please tag us on Instagram @PixieFaire

You can also share pictures in the Pixie Faire Inspritation Gallery right here on the website, either use the #pixiefaire when posting on IG, or just click the little + box to upload your picture right here on the website!

Thanks everyone!

For Pixie Faire, Katie

*You don’t have to have the correct answer to be entered into the giveaway

 

ENTER TO WIN A $50 Pixie Faire Gift Card!

 

 

To enter this week's contest, simply click the link below and then enter through the giveaway widget at the bottom of the blog post, there are many things you can do to earn multiple entry points!

Contest Details: You enter through the entry form that is embedded on this page and appears just below this paragraph, if you don't see it, be sure to visit the page from your desktop or an alternate browser such as Google Chrome. It may not appear on all mobile devices. The complete rules and entry details appear on the entry form. This is not a comment contest - in other words, leaving a comment on the bottom of this page is not an official entry method. The only required entry method is to leave a comment under this post and then confirm that you did it in the contest widget. One person will receive the Gift Card. You can enter once, or gain multiple entries by completing the other entry methods and increase your chances of winning. Please review all Terms and Conditions on the giveaway page before entering. While we wish we could run this contest everywhere, for legal reasons it is only open to eligible residents of the U.S. and Canada, not including Rhode Island. This contest is exclusively endorsed by Liberty Jane Clothing and Pixie Faire. 

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 (This post and giveaway are not endorsed or affiliated with American Girl®, no endorsement implied.) 

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and tell us which decade between 1830s to the 1860s the picture above is from. (1830, 1840, 1850, or 1860)


100 Comments

Rebecca
Rebecca

May 18, 2022

1840s?

designdreamer
designdreamer

May 18, 2022

Looks like the 1840s

Angela
Angela

May 18, 2022

Looks like the 1840s! I really enjoy the wide range of the Victorian era, so thanks for the history!

Barbara
Barbara

May 18, 2022

1840s. Your history of clothing styles is wonderful!!

Barb
Barb

May 18, 2022

Most likely the 1840’s.

Cynthia P
Cynthia P

May 17, 2022

I am guessing the 1840’s.

Georgia
Georgia

May 16, 2022

1840s

Monica
Monica

May 15, 2022

1840s

Bobbi
Bobbi

May 14, 2022

1840’s

Marj
Marj

May 14, 2022

1840s

Maureen
Maureen

May 14, 2022

1840’s Love you giving us the history behind these fashions! Wonderful

Carol
Carol

May 14, 2022

Love this!

Elizabeth Purcell
Elizabeth Purcell

May 14, 2022

I believe it is the 1840s!

Sandy
Sandy

May 14, 2022

I always love and appreciate the history of period clothing. Thank you for sharing. The answer: 1840s.

Misty Chapman
Misty Chapman

May 14, 2022

Based on the lowered armscye, pointed waist and ground length hem, I’d say 1840s.

Brenda Simoni
Brenda Simoni

May 14, 2022

The dress was styled in the 1840’s, all the different decades had such beautiful garments.Thank you for the history lesson!! Well done.

Nancy
Nancy

May 14, 2022

Of course B. I love the time of umpire dresses and white gloves, the hats with the big bows. I think it’s because I’m such a Jane Austin fan!

Leslie
Leslie

May 14, 2022

Oh dear! Do I have to choose? I’m picking 1840’s because everyone else did!

Here’s a question: I’m pretty darn sure that most of my daughter’s dolls would be interested in the women‘s dress reform movement. Do we have/can an awesome designer make some patterns?

Thank you!

Martha R.
Martha R.

May 14, 2022

Most likely 1840s.

Dawn
Dawn

May 14, 2022

B. 1840’s

Janice
Janice

May 14, 2022

The dress is from the 1840’s. I like Victorian styles. I just wouldn’t like to wear them.

Sharon
Sharon

May 13, 2022

B. the 1840’s.

Carol
Carol

May 13, 2022

the dress is from the 1840s. The tutorial on how the styles changed in the Victorian period was very helpful. Now I will be able to look at very old family portraits and know the period when the photo was taken. And then I can made doll clothes to help teach my grandchildren about history and our family.

Sophie
Sophie

May 13, 2022

I think 1840! Thank you for the information!

LizT
LizT

May 13, 2022

My guess is 1840s. Thanks for the article with great pictures. I love sewing and dressing my dolls in Victorian fashions.

Sharon
Sharon

May 13, 2022

The style is in the 1840’s. Victorian Era clothing certainly was time consuming for ladies to get dressed !

Constance
Constance

May 13, 2022

Late 1840s to maybe early 1850s. I like all the 1800s

Christine M. Guzorek
Christine M. Guzorek

May 13, 2022

1840’s All the designs are so lovely and would be so fun to stitch

Patti Brinnon
Patti Brinnon

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Jessica
Jessica

May 13, 2022

I like the 1840s.

Shirley
Shirley

May 13, 2022

The dress is from the 1840’s. I like looking at the 1800 era clothing. I would not like wearing them though. Than you for the history.

Diana
Diana

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Lynett
Lynett

May 13, 2022

1840 I’m glad we don;t wear this style any more.

Lynett
Lynett

May 13, 2022

1840 I’m glad we don;t wear this style any more.

Nancy
Nancy

May 13, 2022

I think it’s 1840.

Carol
Carol

May 13, 2022

I thought it was 1850s because of the neckline. I like the sleeves. I enjoy making period dresses.

Marilee
Marilee

May 13, 2022

1840’s. Very nice article. Thank you.

Diana V
Diana V

May 13, 2022

Yes, I agree w most others on 1840s. Thank you for such an amazing & detailed article on early Victorian fashion. The Victorian era is my absolute favorite but I honestly know more about late Victorian furnishings than fashion (although I do have a nice collection of mid-late fashion plates from magazines.)

Kathleen
Kathleen

May 13, 2022

1840s

Rita Rogers
Rita Rogers

May 13, 2022

1940’s

HELEN
HELEN

May 13, 2022

I think it’s 1850’s

Liana
Liana

May 13, 2022

1840s

Diane
Diane

May 13, 2022

1840s for sure and love the pattern and lots of color. Very fashionable the lady who owned it was!

Kathy
Kathy

May 13, 2022

1840’s from looks of fullness of skirt

Sheila
Sheila

May 13, 2022

I say the dress is 1840s. My favorite doll to dress is Addy, from the 1860s, so she fits in with this lesson. :)

Pamela W
Pamela W

May 13, 2022

I agree with many other comments that this would be 1840s. Thank you so much for working up historical garment changes in the 1800s. While I understand well the late 1700s to 1810s and then the 1900s, I’ve always had a bit of a knowledge gap to clarify the early and later Victorian styles, with the exception of the styles common to the years around the American Civil War. This has wonderful detail and illustration.

Connie M
Connie M

May 13, 2022

This article is absolutely marvelous!!! Thanks so much for sharing. 1840.

Kristina
Kristina

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Jess
Jess

May 13, 2022

1840s

Tove Edens
Tove Edens

May 13, 2022

Great article, I’d say this would be 1840-1850ish
Great patterns too

Sara
Sara

May 13, 2022

Love the 1840s examples you showed as they are the most simple dresses.

Linda
Linda

May 13, 2022

1840’s because of the sleeves and the pointed waist

Kim
Kim

May 13, 2022

1840’s based on all the indicators.

Natalie
Natalie

May 13, 2022

1840s! Beautiful!

Kate El
Kate El

May 13, 2022

I believe this style dress was popular in the 1840s. The longer dresses of that era still had style and modesty as was the fashion for women and girls to wear. I’m most excited about the outfits from the 1800’s because of their elegance and gentler times of living.
Thanks!

Christie
Christie

May 13, 2022

1840s :) My favourite style elements from this general era are the pointed waistlines, full skirts, and pagoda sleeves. Gigot seeves are fun too. And of course bombazine for mourning would not be true for poorer people.

Sharon B.
Sharon B.

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Ruth
Ruth

May 13, 2022

1840, thanks for the information

sheila
sheila

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Christine Brennan
Christine Brennan

May 13, 2022

1840’s :D

Sandra L.
Sandra L.

May 13, 2022

The gown is from the 1840’s and my sister who shot me if I got this incorrect. She has the largest collection of women’s and children’s clothing from 1840 up to the late 1870’s. Her collection is complete with everything including all undergarments, dresses, outerwear and jewelry. My favorite is a Chocolate Brown wedding dress worn by one of the Presidents daughter. The women’s clothing is so small that my daughter, who was slender and age 12 couldn’t fit into an adults women’s ball gown.

sheila
sheila

May 13, 2022

I believe the dress would be from the 1850’s (higher neckline; pagoda sleeves)

Karla Stiverson
Karla Stiverson

May 13, 2022

1840

Stella
Stella

May 13, 2022

I would love to know where you got your research that indicated hemlines were raised in the 1850’s. It was considered highly inappropriate for a woman to show her ankles. Hence fainting couches were very popular because women often swooned due to restricted breathing from corsets. The lack of one armrest on a fainting couch prevented the ankles from being seen. And yes, the dress is from the 1840’s.

Pamela Kay
Pamela Kay

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Barb Brockett
Barb Brockett

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Kelly
Kelly

May 13, 2022

1840’s. Thanks so much for the tip sheet. It will be very useful. :)

Laury
Laury

May 13, 2022

1860’s is my guess. This article was so interesting. Thank you for the information.

BevM
BevM

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Darlene
Darlene

May 13, 2022

C 1850s

Karen W
Karen W

May 13, 2022

1840s. By the way, I really enjoyed the history lesson with pictures. Most of that was new to me. I had actually been wondering about the difference of the 1800 gowns in USA vs. England. Thank you!.

Dallie
Dallie

May 13, 2022

1840’s

Kathi
Kathi

May 13, 2022

1849’s

ES
ES

May 13, 2022

I believe 1840s

Karen Carroll
Karen Carroll

May 13, 2022

I’m guessing the 1840’s.

T
T

May 13, 2022

Oh, so much weight and fabric in those clothes. 1940s.

Pauline Hardy
Pauline Hardy

May 13, 2022

1840

Taylor
Taylor

May 13, 2022

I’m gonna say, 1840’s

Julie
Julie

May 13, 2022

1840s

susan
susan

May 12, 2022

I believe this dress is from the 1840s. I love making historical clothing, especially finding appropriate fabrics to work with. Thanks for all the great patterns.

Sandra
Sandra

May 12, 2022

1830’s

Jane
Jane

May 12, 2022

1840s I love the Victorian era and the fashions but I don’t think I could wear all those clothes.

Jane
Jane

May 12, 2022

1840s I love the Victorian era and the fashions but I don’t think I could wear all those clothes.

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

May 12, 2022

I believe the 1840’s

Sam
Sam

May 12, 2022

I think it matches the 1840’s styles

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Jackie
Jackie

May 12, 2022

40’s the waist .

Lynne Govers
Lynne Govers

May 12, 2022

I’ll go with the flow and say 1840’s. I am just starting sewing historical clothing for my grandaughters. Sew much fun.

Michele
Michele

May 12, 2022

My best guess for the era of the gown would be the 1840s because of: lowered armscye, longer hem, v-shaped bodice at the waist, and decreased sleeve volume.

Nanette S
Nanette S

May 12, 2022

1840’s.

LM
LM

May 12, 2022

1840s

Grace
Grace

May 12, 2022

1840s!

Cath
Cath

May 12, 2022

My guess was 1840’s. Thanks for the opportunities. If you like embroidery, check out the fashions of Guo Pei on You Tube. Gorgeous, the stuff of dreams. I can’t wait to do some Guo Pei inspired doll clothes. Happy Stitching

Cora
Cora

May 12, 2022

1840’s

Rachel
Rachel

May 12, 2022

1840s

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