Types of Fabric Used in the Late Victorian Era

Updated November 21, 2016

The Victorian Era, so named for England's Queen Victoria, encompasses a brief but interesting period in fashion history. Many distinct styles, from the bell skirt to the bustle, were popular during the late Victorian era. To make authentic-looking period clothing, create costumes from the types of fabric used in the late Victorian era. Using the right fabrics will make Victorian-style clothing look much more realistic.


Undergarments were particularly important in late Victorian dress, particularly for women. Several layers of petticoats made with cotton, flannel or wool were put under each and every gown worn by women. The petticoats were used to make skirts look wider, creating the "bell" look that was popular in the first part of the late Victorian era. Until the lightweight cage frame was invented in 1856, women would wear up to 6.35 Kilogram of fabric under their gowns. Lace-bedecked muslin drawers and smooth muslin petticoats appeared once the cage frame became more popular. In the latest part of the Victorian era, wide skirts were pushed backward and all that extra material was used to create large bustles.

Silks and Dyes

Bold dye colours became available in the late 1850s, and soon fashion followed suit. Bright blues, vivid purples and other striking shades were used on silk fabrics that picked up the vibrancy of the colours well. The bright dyes were not used as much on cotton, linen and muslin, as they often looked too brash and harsh.

High Fashion

Gowns designed for wealthy, well-dressed young women of the late Victorian era were made with the most delicate of fabrics. Gauze dresses made with tulle and silks were deeply embellished, made to be worn only once or twice before being cast aside. The delicate, highly-embellished dresses were worn by young, unmarried women. Settled, married women dressed more practically in heavy satins and velvets, though there gowns would carry no less decoration.

Men's Fashion

Men of the late Victorian era wore waistcoats and vests, whether dressing for a morning meeting or an evening party. The waistcoat or vest was an important piece of the ensemble, and men would own many of them to go with only a handful of dark suits. Silk vests and waistcoats were highly popular, as silk was a relatively new material of the day, but wool and cotton were also used.

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About the Author

K. C. Morgan is a professional freelance writer, with articles and blog posts appearing on dozens of sites. During her years of writing professionally, K. C. has covered a wide range of topics. She has interviewed experts in several fields, including celebrated psychoanalyst Frances Cohen Praver, PhD; television personality and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig; and entrepreneur Todd Reed.