The pressure of conforming to the Victorian era’s fashion standards resulted in women unknowingly belittling themselves and setting themselves back. Women made things a lot harder than they should have been. They forced social acceptance upon themselves. Fashion was very significant during the time, and they felt that they had to fit in. The Victorian Era is when fashion skyrocketed into the mainstream world. Woman became obsessed with it.
Fashion had never been so important, and they became accustomed to a time where what they wore reflected the way they lived. The Victorian Era started a trend of how fashion is viewed even in today’s time. Based on the fact that it was so essential, there were no obstacles faced that could stop a woman from getting what she wanted.
Fashion became a woman’s drive. Women were willing to put themselves through anything, including the most uncomfortable dress imaginable. Because they focused themselves so much on what to wear and how to wear it, not much else mattered. Keeping up with moving fashion trends was not an easy or cheap thing to do. They were so busy with their clothes that instead of trying to find ways to work, they just depended on the men to bring home money to satisfy their needs.
Fashion made them vain and self conscious and the woman had no idea what they were doing to themselves. Fashion in the Victorian Era was vital in their society which is why women thought it was necessary to dedicate their time to it. Women’s clothing and dresses were something that represented status and their household, which was immensely important and had a deep meaning to people. The way we dress has always and will always be significant.
In an article about fashion in the Victorian Era, Inga Bryden says that fashion can only ever be meaningful (Bryden). Social status was an important factor to women and fashion was their way to showcase it. For example, perfect white gloves worn by a woman demonstrated that she was a high class lady (Marzel). Different attire would indicate a different class, and of course, every woman wanted herself to be thought of as someone from a higher class. Even if she was a low class woman, she would use her white gloves as a mask in front of the world because she felt she needed to. The quality of life people lived was based on an underlying structure determined by social class and shaped by traditional ways of life in the country (Mitchell). If you wanted to live a good life, you forcefully had to be of an upper class, therefore, you had to do what you could to advertise that, especially as a woman. You would have to do whatever you had to to fit into fashion.
Woman endured dressing extremely uncomfortable and ignored dangers of doing so with the purpose of staying in style. The clothes being made were absurd as they did not even adhere to the natural body shape of a woman. Clothing became increasingly difficult to work with and made things stressful and time-consuming for women to do. Even if a woman wanted to work, it would be nearly impossible to in such impractical attire. Women would have had to labor under the weight of five or six layers of petticoats underneath their unusual bell-shaped skirts (Ashby).
Not only did they have a hard time working, but they were even laughed at for wearing such useless clothes. By the mid-1850s, the most fashionable skirt of the time was so enormously full that it required support by steel hoops, which provided astounding material for the popular humor magazine Punch (Mitchell). Women were trying so hard to fit into the ideals of fashion and ended up becoming punchlines for jokes. As if there weren’t enough reasons to take a step back from fashion, the clothes were becoming increasingly dangerous as well. The fad would become deadly when women’s giant hoop skirts would brush into the fireplace.
Accidental deaths caused when the fabrics suddenly burst into flame were becoming common (Mitchell). Knowing this, women continued to wear the fashionable trends at the time. People were dying, but the most important thing was keeping up with fashion. It had such a hold on woman, that they became ignorant to what it was doing to them.
Since women were supposed to be housewives, it was hard for them to find jobs and they ended up depending on their partner to be the breadwinner of the family. All of their dresses and skirts were expensive and not easy to afford. They needed money to keep up with fashion, yet fashion was the very thing that was holding them back. “Fashionable” clothing at the time would require a great deal of expense and care from the woman (Mitchell). A woman was not able to buy and spoil herself with what she wanted. They had to get money someway and they weren’t going to get it themselves. Job opportunities for women of this time were scarce .
“For most of the century, the only occupations open to middle class women were teaching and governessing- both low-status, low-income jobs” (Ashby). Women ended up having to turn to men to help them live up to these ideals placed on them by society. The only people who could afford a decent lifestyle during this time, men of higher status or class. Not all men could afford such a luxurious style and be able keep up with it.
The more money her husband earned, the more easily a Victorian wife could fulfill the role of the ideal wife (Swisher). This gave women yet another reason to dress to the nines. They had to attract a wealthy man to back their wants. Everything a woman did always led back to fashion.
They used fashion itself to keep up with fashion. Their heads were so clouded with the thought of looking good and keeping up appearances, that they did not care about anything else. They didn’t think twice about caving into what society wanted.For as long as we can remember, society has always had incredible control over women. Today as much as in the Victorian Era, women care about what people think of them. They care about how they look, what they portray, and how they carry themselves, which could be a good thing to a certain extent. They always focus on how to impress men and how to look better than one another. Fashion is the easiest to use because it’s the most visible thing on a woman.
They’re willing to put themselves in danger just to get their point across, and not just with fashion. Women saw each other as competitors, not for jobs or something that could be used to help themselves in the future, but for the attention of men. They were so busy fighting to keep up with appearances, that they handed over their power on a silver platter to the men. Instead of learning how to support themselves, they fed into their egocentric ways. They could have helped push women forward and instead took a step in the opposite direction, something women will subconsciously keep doing until the end of time.
Fashion in the Victorian Era set off a chain reaction of how women think of themselves and the unattainable standards they apply to one another.