Victorian costumes for kids

Updated April 17, 2017

Children are sometimes asked to dress in Victorian costume for World Book Day or a special school project. Often you can create an authentic costume by using and adapting clothes found at home or bought inexpensively from a charity shop. Get inspiration by looking at historical photographs of Victorian schoolchildren online.


Queen Victoria ruled Britain from 1837 until her death in 1901. At that time, there was a deep divide between the rich and poor, which was reflected in the clothes people wore. The wealthy dressed in tailored clothes that they passed to their servants, who then sold them on to the poor. By 1870, all children between 5 and 13 had to attend school and wore clothing that was simple and practical.

Girl's costume

Victorian schoolgirls wore knee-length, dark-coloured dresses with white cotton aprons over the top to keep their dresses clean. To create this look, use a dark dress or skirt and top as a base. Sew a simple apron from two rectangles of white cotton -- old bed sheets can be used for this -- with a smaller rectangle at the top and a larger one at the bottom. Add ribbon ties at the neck and waist and possibly frills or lace at the sides. Make a mob cap from a large circle of white cotton edged with lace and gathered with elastic thread, sewn 5 cm in from the edge.

Boy's costume

Victorian schoolboys' trousers and coats had often been passed down and were too big for them. Raid the closets of parents or older brothers for coats or vests. Long trousers can be tucked in to long grey or dark socks to look like breeches. A white cotton shirt, preferably without a collar, should be worn under a coat or vest. Complete the look with a flat cap and a scarf or large handkerchief tied at the neck.

Finishing touches

Victorian girls wore their hair long and often tied back the top section with white ribbons. Add long black tights or even knee-length white cotton bloomers for an authentic finish. A crocheted shawl could be worn for warmth. For boys, a few light smears of charcoal or black body paint on the face complete the look of a Victorian ragamuffin.

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About the Author

Based in East Sussex, Caroline Repchuk has been writing and editing children's books and art and craft features since 1990. Her classic Christmas book, "The Snow Tree," is published by Dutton and her features have appeared in "Art Attack" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine art from Leeds University.