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How to Draw a Victorian Woman

Updated February 21, 2017

You might be assigned a school project to draw some historical characters from the Victorian era, such as Queen Victoria herself, or you might be designing a costume for a play set in the late 1880s. As such, you will need to draw a woman dressed in traditional Victorian clothing. Drawing the image accurately is difficult because the clothing is intricate yet flamboyant in design. Therefore, practice some basic techniques to be able to convey the female form in the dress.

Flick through the history books or magazines to find examples of what women in the Victorian era looked like. Understand the type of clothes they wore, and how their posture was different to modern day women. Owning to their tight corsets, women during the 1800s stood much more upright and rigid.

Draw a stick figure to gauge the proportions of the woman. Allow extra length in the legs, compared to a man, to emphasise the woman's figure.

Sketch the outline of a Victorian dress. Corsets tape in towards the waist of the woman, so show this by drawing lines angled towards the groin. The style of corset varies; however, it elevates the bust, so add detail around the bust line on the torso to illustrate this.

Pencil in the shape of the dress. Victorian dresses were long but protruded outwards from the waist because of the layers of petticoat beneath the skirt. Illustrate this by drawing a large, bell-shaped skirt starting at the base of the corset.

Show folds and creases in the dress to represent the excessive amounts of material used to make the dress. For example, around the base of the skirt draw wiggly lines to symbolise ruffles, or add shaded lines curved down from the waist. Use elongated 'U' shapes along the length of the skirt to add depth.

Complete the drawing by adding a traditional hairstyle. Victorian women have been pictured with pinned hair with curls falling around the base of the neck. Mimic this style on your picture.

Add accessories such as large necklaces, drooping earrings and bangles onto the sketch. Victorian middle classes often showed off their wealth using jewellery, so accessorise wisely to reflect your character.

Things You'll Need

  • History books or magazines
  • Pen or pencil
  • Paper
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About the Author

Based in Bristol, Philippa Jones has been a music journalist and script writer since 2007, working across a range of radio programs in the U.K. and Australia. Her articles have appeared in "Impact Magazine," "The Mic" and in local newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of Nottingham.