Etiquette for a Lady in the Victorian Era

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Etiquette for a Lady in the Victorian Era
The curtsy was an acceptable greeting for Victorian women. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

The Victorian era was characterised by refined manners and sophisticated behaviour, and both men and women were expected to behave in a socially acceptable manner. However, the perfectionist mindset prevalent during Victorian times denoted specific etiquette for women; females who adhered to the rules of etiquette were viewed as gentile and elegant.

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In the Presence of Men

During Victorian times, a man was trained to be chivalrous and perform actions like offering a lady his hand when she entered a carriage or descended steps. A woman, in turn, was to exercise acceptable etiquette by not carrying bags or boxes in the presence of a man, or opening her own door when a man was present.

Meal Etiquette

Ladies were not to leave the table during a meal in the Victorian era unless she asked to be excused. And, she was never to sit at the table in her pyjamas. Her hair was always pulled into a chignon, or tied in a bonnet; young girls were exempt from this etiquette rule. It was also proper for women to be well-groomed at the meal table, wearing modest, feminine colours like pastels and jewel tones in jewellery and attire.

Poise Etiquette

Women were expected to sit up straight, walk gracefully and with poise, and refrain from making sharp and abrasive gestures. Proper posture and light, gentle movements were seen as a sign of a woman's beauty, and men looked for women who were especially poised when choosing a wife. Females in the Victorian time period were never to appear flustered or stressed, as this was considered improper.

Personality and Appearance

Victorian women had to master the art of conversation, as this was part of being an acceptable hostess. Social events like afternoon teas, balls, banquets, and visits to or from family members required a woman to know how to entertain her guests by engaging in pleasant discussions and introducing everyone to one another. In terms of appearance, a modern or natural look was acceptable etiquette. Women wore minimal make-up, but appeared polished and refined with rosy cheeks and bright eyes.

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