What’s so special about Victorian Shirts?

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Overview

The Victorian era is known for its beautiful architecture and exotic fashion. The Victorian era brought a lot of changes in Britain’s landscape. The Victorian era lasted over six decades. It lasted from 1837 to 1901. Britain’s technology and fashion evolved at a quicker pace than the previous age. The advancement of engineering and technology influenced the design of their clothing. Each era saw significant changes in both men’s and women’s fashion.
During the 1850s, Britain mass-produced the sewing machine. At that time, they also invented synthetic dye. The availability of the sewing machine and synthetic dye changed Victorian fashion forever. These things make their clothing more complex. The women’s dresses become more vibrant. When people think about Victorian clothing, they thought about the lavishing women’s apparel and well-dressed gentleman’s outfit. As a result, the Victorian Shirt often gets neglected by many people today.

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Victorian Shirt

Both Victorian men and women wore a few layers of cloth over their bodies. Men used to wear some kind of coat, a vest, a shirt with a bow or tie. The Shirt was worn under the vest and the coat. As a result, their Shirt got less attention than their coat, vest, hat, and shoe. There is not too much information available for their Shirt compared to other pieces of clothing.
On the other hand, women wore a bodice or chemisette under a corset on their upper body. Women’s clothing had many more layers and bits than men’s clothing. So, the bodice is not visible at all. During the majority of the Victorian era, women did not wear any shirts. The closest thing to the Shirt was the bodice and chemisette. Shirts for women became available at the end of the Victorian era and the Edwardian era. At those times, many women started to wear a blouse like shirts. It is safe to assume that the bodice evolved into a blouse over the flow of time.
As you can see, the shirts and bodice of the Victorian people were hidden behind a few layers of other clothing. This may be the reason why people do not show that much interest in Victorian Shirt. It is not that the Victorian era’s Shirt was hideous or poorly made. But because of other exotic pieces of clothing, the Victorian era’s Shirt does not get the love it deserves.

Victorian Men’s Shirt

Victorian man shirt went through some significant changes from decade to decade. At the beginning of the Victorian era, men wore both linen and cotton shirts. Some men wore frilled shirts with their evening dress. But the frill slowly vanished after a decade. At that time, most of the shirts were white shirts. Shirt’s design changed quite frequently. But most of the time, the opening of their shirts were fastened by buttons. Some shirts had a back fastening and even a side fastening.
The collar of the Shirt also changed quite a few times. Victorian men wore various types of the collar during that era. Some men wore shirts with a low collar. Others wore turn over collar shirts. There were even detachable collars and cuffs in the Victorian era. These detachable collars and cuffs increased the stiffness of the Shirt during the latter half of the 19th century.

1900s men's shirt
Illustration of Victorian men’s Shirt

The shirt colors and pattern did not change that much. Most of the time, men wore white linen or cotton shirt. But after some time, striped cotton shirts became available. Men wore striped cotton shirts for sporting events. But the shirts other than white color took a long time to be accepted as a formal outfit. The colored Shirt became acceptable as formal daywear at the end of the Victorian era.
Victorian men’s shirt design changed because of changes in color, pattern, collar, and other design choices. Here is a brief explanation of men’s shirt changes over the decade.

1840

During this time, shirts were made from cotton and linen. Most of the time, the shirts were low collar shirts. But sometimes, Victorian men wore shirts with turned-down collars. These shirts were worn with wide cravats or a necktie. The shirts remain low throughout this decade.

1850

In the 1850s, men’s Shirts designed changed a little. They started to wear shirts with high upstanding or turnover collars. They wore these shirts with a bow that stuck out like wings. At this time, frilled shirts were popular as an evening dress. These frills were replaced by a front section of vertical pleating. The opening of these shirts was fastened by buttons or studs. The shirts had small ruffles around the buttons and buttonholes. It was considered a decorative feature during the 1850s and 1860s.

1860

During the 1860s, the men’s clothing went through some changes. The frock coat got shorter to the knee length. But the Shirt followed the same design as the 1850s. The shirt design and color choice did not change that much from the previous decade. Men wore these shirts with wide neckties tied in a bow.

1870

In the 1870s, men wore shirts with some unusual designs. The front of the Shirt became a little plain. Some shirt hand decoration in the front and fastening buttons on the rear. Some shirts even had a side fastening. In this decade, low collars came back in daytime shirts. These collars were a single or double folded collar. The individual collars were upright and had a gap in the center front.

1880

During this time, the collar of the men’s Shirt changed again. The collar got higher. Most of the collar turned into a winged collar. The other clothing choice for man remained similar.

1890

In the 1890s, the men had a lot of different color choices for their shirts. At that time, wearing a colored shirt other than white became acceptable. Many men wore a colored shirt during formal events. The collar designed for their Shirt also changes. The collar got even higher than the collars of the 1880s. The collar was two and a half to three inches high.

Victorian Women’s bodice and Shirt like blouses

Victorian women wore a bodice during most of the Victorian era. The bodice is not exactly like a shirt. It was more of an undergarment for Victorian women. Bodice covered the body from the neck to the waist. The bodice design mainly changed with the change in necklines. During the Victorian era, women wore a neckline called bertha. Later, when women started to wear high neckline dresses, bertha was dropped.

Victorian bodice
Illustration of women wearing a bodice

Victorian women’s dress necklines changed a lot during the era. In the beginning, the neckline was low and straight. In the 1840s, the bodice had an elongated V-shape. The neckline was slightly curved. During the 1850s, the neckline dropped even lower. It turned into a V-shape neckline. From the 1860s; the neckline started to go higher. This trend continued during the 1870s and 1880s. All that time, the bodice changed its shape based on the neckline. In the 1890s, women’s dress had high collars like men.

Edwardian Era

The Edwardian Era is not a part of the Victorian era. But Victorian fashion continued to evolve during this era. In this era, many women wore shirts like blouses. The blouses had puffy shoulders and a high collar. Some blouses front were decorated with embroideries. Many people think these blouses are from the Victorian era. But they emerged at the end of the Victorian era and became popular in the Edwardian era.

Edwardian women's shirt
Edwardian Era women’s blouse

Victorian Style Shirt in modern days

You can find an excellent Victorian style shirt in stores and online shops for both men and women. Men’s shirt design follows a lot of features from the Victorian era’s Shirt. Among the men’s Victorian style shirts, the low color shirts are more available. For obvious reasons, most of the shirts have white or lighter colors. There are some Edwardian style shirts which are also advertised as Victorian men’s shirts. But most people cannot tell the differences.

Modern Victorian Shirt
Victorian style Shirt from Online Store

On the other hand, the new Victorian style women’s Shirt or blouses are designed after the Edwardian era’ women’s blouse. As you already know, Victorian women did not wear any shirts. But now, wearing shirts is very common for both men and women. As a result, Edwardian style blouses are sold as Victorian women’s Shirts. People think these as Victorian shirts because of the frills and embroideries.

Modern women's shirt in Victorian style
Women’s Shirt sold as Victorian Women’s Shirt

Conclusion

Victorian era’s clothing is loved by many people of this time. The influences of the Victorian era are visible through some modern literature, fiction, and digital media. Many people liked to dress up like the Victorians when they got the opportunity. Among all the aspects of the Victorian era, Victorian fashion is the most fascinating one. Though Victorian Shirt is not as famous as other Victorian clothing, they are fascinating.