For several seasons, the Neo-Victorian trend has resurfaced with details of lace, cameos, and velvet. Electrifying madness, monsters, and lace, the Neo-Victorian trend pays homage to a prudish time. An era of British history, the style usually refers to the years between 1837 and 1901 when Queen Victoria reigned. Gothic architecture was revived, influencing aesthetics toward dark, intricate towers while, a inspiration for new inventions added mechanical elements to design. Straight-laced morals and conservative garments clashed with a double-standard for men and women. So, prostitution and entertainment became hot topics. This tension translates well into modern designs for home and fashion.
The best Neo-Victorian styles reflect a deterioration of the uptight garments, such as a high-necked gown… unbuttoned or granny boots with a shorter, ruffled skirt. Offshoots, like dark Lolita and Steampunk work better for cosplay than workplace wear. The trick to dressing in Neo-Victorian is understanding the stories behind the style.
Madness and Monsters
As the heyday of Gothic Horror, the Victorian era produced some well-known classic literature. First published in 1818 right before the Victorian Era began, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein creates a great thrill. After seeing the Frankenstein monster in many incarnations, reading the book presented a whole different perspective on the well-known trope.
The monster was unlike any representation I have ever seen. From reading Shelley’s descriptions, I pictured a stronger Gollum from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The character is ethereal and definitely deserves one’s pity. He has un-dead characteristics like hollow eyes and bloodless skin but, he’s also philosophical. The monster is offended because he never asked to be created as an outcast. He doesn’t lumber like a jerky zombie. Instead, his killings are graceful, born out of curiosity.
Shelley explains what it is like to first open your eyes, learn to talk, and try to love… even though most humans have no memories of these early thoughts. The monster is eloquent and rambles for pages about life, completely scolding Dr. Frankenstein for his selfishness in re-creating human life. The monster says, “I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.”
Dr. Frankenstein is the true monster in the book because, he hides his sins and obsession. Most of the story is told from Dr. Frankenstein’s perspective through letters and journals. He creates the monster then hunts it, out of responsibility. When he encounters the monster, the monster recounts his perception of his own birth and newborn experiences with humanity. The plot of the story wasn’t surprising because it has been kept mostly the same in cinema. However, I was shocked to find that the monster was so different from how he has been portrayed.
Handmade and Custom-Fitted
Shortly after the Victorian Era, factory-made, ready-to-wear clothing became vogue. So, anything inspired by Victorian fashion should appear to be handmade and customized to the individual’s frame. First, dresses had wide, puffed sleeves with flowers for trim. Worn with petticoats and corsets underneath, the gowns were large and flowing. Later, petticoats were thinner, and crinoline puffed the dresses. Bodices became more solid and necklines were lowered. A recent example would be Christina Ricci’s Lizzie Borden film and miniseries.
Eventually, these dresses morphed into the familiar flat fronts with the bustle in the back. Then, tea-gowns (worn without corsets) became more popular for day-wear. Slimmer styles without hoop skirts prevailed and skirts were often so tight around the thighs that sitting was difficult. So, wasp waistlines are most often associated with the style.
Faux-flowers and Dark Feathers
Maximal embellishment typified Victorian style because it separated the social classes. Tassels, lace, fake flowers, bric-a-brac and buttons are all used when emulating the old designs. Even dark mourning attire was covered in darling detail, creating an odd and iconic look that carries over into modern interpretations of the style. In fact, dark colors are most often used, even though they weren’t popular for everyday wear.
Dark, detailed jackets in stiff fabrics are a timeless yet, trendy way to update your wardrobe with the victorian trend. Or, you could add some buttons and brass to an old suitcoat.
How are you inspired by the Neo-Victorian trend?