How to Dress Your Children in Victorian Style

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Whether you have an affection for the flounces of days gone by or are simply looking for ideas for authentic Victorian children’s costumes, it can be difficult to find information on Victorian-style clothes for modern children. The truth of the matter is that the mental image you have of traditional Victorian children’s dress may not actually be very accurate. The flounces and intricate clothing that normally comes to mind at the mention of Victorian fashion was reserved for well-to-do children from wealthy homes. Children of the Victorian era who were less fortunate certainly did not have the means of dressing so fancily.

Victorian Girls

Though infants and toddlers of both genders wore gowns and pantalettes, little girls began to wear shorter versions of the same clothing fashionable for Victorian women around the age of four. The length of girls’ skirts grew as they aged, ending about two inches above the ankle by age 16. Hoops and pantalettes were common for girls from ages four and up, with young girls wearing pinafores over their dresses throughout the day to keep them clean. Though it may be difficult to imagine, even little girls of the Victorian era were known to wear large bustles and stiff skirts.

Victorian Boys

For very small children, fashion differed little between the sexes. Young boys might wear long hair and dresses, just as their sisters did. As they got older, however, well-to-do boys of the Victorian era wore coats and trousers fashioned after those of adult men past the age of four. During the Victorian period, Knickerbockers and Knickerbockers suits became popular for little boys.

Dressing Today’s Kids in Victorian Fashion

The most reliable sources of modern reproductions of Victorian clothing today come from costuming specialists. Victorian influences may find their way into mainstream clothing, but they tend to be far less formal and restrictive than the clothing actually worn by wealthier Victorian children of the era.

Aside from purchasing costuming components from specialty designers and tailors, your best bet for securing Victorian-era fashions for your little ones is to learn how to sew yourself. Most of the more popular pattern houses offer some variation on traditional Victorian children’s clothing, which you can purchase online or from craft and hobby supply stores in your area. Sewing your own Victorian clothes for your child will not only allow you to customize the fit and style to suit your tastes, but also to utilize fabrics that are more breathable and less itchy than those traditionally used in days gone by.

To make sure that your child’s Victorian-era costuming is as accurate as possible, you should spend some time researching the fashions of the time and looking at illustrations and portraiture. Depending upon the class that your child’s costume needs to represent, the clothing may not be as intricate or complex as you imagine. Portraying a child of the lower classes, for instance, requires little more than ragged, ill-fitting clothing items that are clearly hand-me-downs. Less fortunate children of the Victorian era rarely wore shoes, with little girls sporting aprons, mob caps and shawls if they could be obtained.

To portray middle-class schoolchildren, you will need little more than a full-skirted, dark-colored dress that hits at the knee, with the iconic white apron or pinafore for little girls. Boys’ school uniforms were typically comprised of dark breeches, white collar-less shirts and a dark-hued coat or vest. To complete the look, pop on a flat cap and a scarf. Don’t forget to top off your little girls’ hair with a white ribbon and black tights.

The biggest challenge of costuming one of today’s children in traditional, historically-accurate Victorian garb is to dissuade them from mutiny when you produce yards of stuffy, scratchy fabric and clothing that restricts their movement far beyond what they’re accustomed to. It may be wise to pack a change of clothes along with you so that your child is able to shuck her bustles and hoop skirts the moment her event ends. With a bit of luck and plenty of bargaining, you should be able to get through the day without any serious rebellions or tantrums in reaction to the stifling clothes.

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