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On the Victorian Cat-Walk






Having built a Victorian train, I now have to think about providing some passengers. Since I know far less about 19th-century styles of dress than I did about 19th-century railways, when I started, I decided it was time for some reading.


As I pointed out in a previous post, I have found the Internet Archive ( http://archive.org/ ) to be a very useful resource. Old 'out of copyright' books can either be read on-line or downloaded in formats such as PDF. In my current search, I found 'Godey's Lady's Book' for 1880 and 'Dame Fashion- Paris-London (1786-1912)' by Julius M.Price. Both books have copious illustrations so, with the help of these, I am well on the way to becoming an 'instant expert'.






Dame Fashion 1889


It has become clear that the late-Victorian period saw great changes in social behaviour. Whereas, to our eyes, it seems to have been as stuffily formal as before, they saw things rather differently. The view from the 1890s was that "The type of the woman of fashion has altered beyond recognition during the past twenty-four years. She has emancipated herself from all the silly narrow mindedness which was the life burden of her grandmother when a girl. Class prejudice still exists, but it is becoming yearly less noticeable."


Two factors are worth mentioning:


1.Before 1887 London fashionable life was the life one led at home but the opening of the Savoy Hotel in 1887 may be said to have commenced a new era when ladies could now go out and mix in wider company.


2. The rage for bicycling, which was the feature of the London season of 1896 and included all the ladies of smart society in England, was epoch-making in the history of feminine fashion.


There was no place for the crinoline of the 1860s in this new world and even the bustle had to give way to practicality.



Dame Fashion 1892-1893


I have some Langley "Vic/Edw. Upper Class figures". As my photo shows, these will need a fair bit of cleaning up but I shall now have to start practising with a small paint-brush. The porter with the trolley seems to have suffered some head injury but not enough to keep him off work 🙂


Langley Vic/Edw 00-scale Figures



Edited by MikeOxon
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Interesting post Mike. When talking about the upper-middle and upper classes colours were another key; the dark heavy colours of the middle decades of the century giving way to pastels, especially shades of green, though the older generations continued to wear the darker shades. Top hats shrunk in height too, but again the older generation tended to continue wearing the taller hats. Of course at any given time there were always a percentage of ladies in mourning dress. Lower classes were obviously less flamboyant with dark colours prevailing.

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Thank you, Buckjumper.  The whole subject of colour in the 19th century is fascinating, especially after the aniline dyes were synthesised - the most famous example being 'mauve'.


Unless I start making my own figures, I'm not going to be able to do much other than choosing colours, so your advice is very welcome.



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If you ever happen to be in Bath, a visit to the fashion museum there would be very useful for seeing lots of costumes like the ones above first hand - there is even an opportunity to try on a corset but I will not be posting the evidence! It does not make a big thing of it but if you are a National Trust member you can get in free as well.

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A great example of how an interest in model railways can lead to the search for knowledge in seemingly unconnected areas :)

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I'll pass on the corset, KH1 :)


In one of the books I've been reading, I read this account: ""I was placed, at the age of fifteen, at a fashionable school in London, and there it was the custom for the waists of the pupils to be reduced one inch per month. When I left school at seventeen my waist measured only thirteen inches, it having been formerly twenty three inches.".  Although the medical profession had been pointing out the dangers since early in the century, the fashion persisted until the 20th-century.


Indeed, Bedders, one thing leads to another.  In my case, the interest in 19th-century railways arose from some ancestry research, which revealed several engine drivers amongst my forebears, including one who even had an interview with Mr G J Churchward, following some misdemeanor!

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Interesting post Mike. When talking about the upper-middle and upper classes colours were another key; the dark heavy colours of the middle decades of the century giving way to pastels, especially shades of green....


I guess this may be (at least in part) due to the development of artificial dyes in the mid part of the 19th century. 

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Thanks for the tips on the books, Mike, the "Dame fashion" sounds like it includes Edwardian times so just the thing for me (your setting is 1880s-1890s if I remember right?).


This site is also useful for Victorian and Edwardian fashion: http://www.tudorlinks.com/treasury/articles/index.html


I was intrigued by your quote saying "altered beyond recognition during the past twenty-four years". I wonder why 24 years exactly, was there some main event, or just the last time something was published on the topic? In extension of that, your mention of the Savoy is fascinating - as is the cycling: I had no idea women were cycling at that time. No doubt some eyebrows will have been raised among  senior gentlemen!

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Thank you for the 'Tudorlink' reference, Mikkel.  It is very useful as it gives an overview of the changes that took place in each decade.  On thinking further, I suspect that the '24 years' may refer back to the opening of the Savoy restaurant, from the end of the period of the Dame Fashion book (1912).  Possibly 'two dozen' seemed a more natural number, then, than the '25' we would tend to use.


I've not really fixed my setting yet and, like most model railways, it will probably be somewhat flexible, depending on the whims of what I want to build!  Since I have a Dean 4-2-2, this pushes me forward to1895 at least


Stylistically, I like the Dean locomotives and coaches, immediately before the Churchward revolution, with its 'indecent' display of undergear and coarse angularity.  Even the straight-framed 4-4-0s seem a little inelegant :)

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