Your Victorian Female Ancestors in the Summer

With the summer season approaching, what did your female ancestors wear to keep cool and comfortable in warmer weather of the mid-1880s?

Victorian women did not throw out hardly-worn dresses each season unless they were extremely wealthy. Instead, they would use ribbons, lace and embroidery to give their outfits a new look, perhaps by changing the waistbands, sleeve trimmings or necklines, or by adding flowers to a bonnet or hat. This method of refreshing garments was particularly important to those women who had to economize and simply could not afford new dresses.

Fashionable colors included ‘porcelain-blue, clover, a terra-cotta which is red rather than terra-cotta, Havannah brown, and a Quakerish grey’ which were considered ‘the best and most artistic tones.’ Pinks and buttercup-colour, with dark greens and dark browns were preferred for evening wear.

Yet still dressed head to toe, the homes and buildings kept the windows open for any breezes, staying out of the sun (used an umbrella or parasol) and enjoyed cool lemon aid and ice cream.

Popular dresses of the mid-1880s had paniers (side hoops). They were worn drawn away below the waist in front, curtain fashion, while at the back the drapery is arranged to look as bouffant as possible. Going outside in the summer still meant having a hat and gloves on, with dress sleeves long, to the hand and a high neckline. If was looked down on for ladies to wear necklines that bared any of the chest. Such comments were even given to US First Lady Frances Cleveland (young wife of President Grover Cleveland in the mid-1880s).

Those female ancestors living and working on a farm or ranch, worn similar dresses as they would during the winter, just no top coat or jacket was need. The fabric of dresses was cotton.

Photos: Fashions of the mid-1880s and First Lady Frances Cleveland.

Related Blogs:

Tuberculosis and Victorian Fashions

Crinoline Craze

Fun Activities of the 1880s

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