Australia in 1841

Fashion in 1841


Victorian clothes were very different to ours, especially female clothes. Women wore long dresses with very big skirts. Girls clothes were similar, but their skirts didn't reach the floor. Until about the age of five, little boys also wore frilly dresses!


If they had enough money, Victorian women loved to decorate their clothes with lace, ribbons and ruffles. Until sewing machines became available in the 1850s, all these clothes had to be made by hand. Every time a dress was washed, the lace had to be taken off. So Victorians' clothes didn't get washed often.

Underneath their dresses, girls and women wore a lot of underwear. To get dressed, you put on:

  • a shift - like a nightie
  • pantaloons - puffy trousers with a split for going to the toilet
  • a corset - lined with bone and laced up tight so your waist looked slim
  • petticoats - up to six
  • a corded petticoat - with circles of rope sewn in to make your skirt stand out
  • dress
  • stockings
  • shoes or lace-up boots
  • shawl
  • lace cap - if you were married
  • bonnet - for going outside

In England all the layers of clothes helped to keep people warm. But in Australian summers, those undies were very uncomfortable.

Female hairstyles were pretty and complicated. With a bit of work, you can curl your hair Victorian-style too.

Men wore trousers, shirts, coats and hats. Never shorts or bare chests! For Victorian women, even talking publicly about trousers was considered rude - one Australian woman called them 'inexpressibles'! 

Above: Unknown colonial lady, by ex-convict artist Thomas Brock, around 1840.
Left: Victorian sailors. Illustrated London News. See how young the sailor on the right is.


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