How to Make an Easy Victorian Costume

Written by karen frisch
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How to Make an Easy Victorian Costume
Victorian dress was feminine. (Woman in Victorian dress image by Steve Thompson from Fotolia.com)

The Victorian style is so distinctive it's easy to reproduce in a costume. The Victorian look for women was delicate and feminine, with an abundance of ruffles and lace both on the dress and in the hair. For men, the look was formal, usually with a dark coat and trousers, white shirt and waistcoat that was sometimes colourful. Capture these looks by starting with combinations of clothing you might have at home. You can find many pieces in thrift shops, or you can alter items you already own.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Square dancing crinoline
  • Poet shirt
  • Shirt with cap sleeves or short sleeves
  • Man's black raincoat
  • Black trousers
  • White dress shirt
  • Man's brocade vest
  • White gloves (for men and women)
  • Velvet bows
  • Piece of black velvet
  • Fake side-whiskers
  • Women's slipper-shoes or dress boots
  • Men's black boots
  • Cane
  • Black top hat
  • Parasol

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Start with a long full skirt for the woman's costume, or take a rectangular piece of fabric or thin blanket. Sew up the sides. Make a waistband by turning over one end and running elastic through it. Gather the bottom by running a thread about a foot from the floor to create a ruffled hem. Stitch a piece of lace around the gathering on the skirt. Wear a square dancing crinoline underneath. This gives the outfit the fullness of the Victorian skirt, allowing it to fall from the knees down.

  2. 2

    Women can wear a thin poet shirt for the first layer with long full sleeves gathered at the cuffs, or wear a similar loosefitting shirt and run an elastic through the cuffs. Over that wear a top with cap sleeves. It can be a knitted pullover or shirt that buttons, but the look should be slightly formal with the sleeves short and loose and the shirt tucked in at the waist. Add an eyelet ruffle at the neck and cuffs, and pin a velvet bow in a contrasting colour to the neck.

  3. 3

    Make a cutaway frock coat for men from an inexpensive black raincoat. Cut away the sides, leaving a rounded coat bottom behind the knees. Cover the top points of the collar with black velvet. Wear long straight black trousers and a white shirt, turning the collar points up for a Victorian look. Top it off with a brocade vest as a waistcoat to add a formal touch.

  4. 4

    Part women's hair in the centre. Wear it in a bun at the nape of the neck, or let it hang loose in banana curls caught up with velvet bows over each ear. Part men's hair in the centre or slightly to one side. Wear pretend side-whiskers using stage adhesive.

  5. 5

    Wear Mary Jane-type slippers or dainty feminine boots for the Victorian female look. Men can wear shiny black shoes or boots with pointed toes.

  6. 6

    Wear white gloves and carry a parasol, preferably one with a ruffled edge, as women's accessories. Men might wear a black top hat and white gloves and carry a cane.

Tips and warnings

  • Almost any ruffled blouse or top with lace detailing can be substituted for the woman's top. Turn a thin blanket into a cape by pinning it at the neck with a piece of jewellery.

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