How to Dress 1860s

by Holly Hess



Victorian chemise

To know how to dress Victorian you must first learn what is worn under the Victorian dress. The first Victorian fashion garment put on by the lady of the 1860s is the chemise, an unshaped undergarment which reaches just below the knees and has a drawstring neckline. Beneath the chemise are drawers with a back button closure and open legged for convenience. The drawers are calf length with scalloped, embroidered hems.

Victorian corset

The next item worn under the Victorian dress is the corset which, with its back lacing, has a front busk closure. This style of Victorian corsets were first introduced in the late l840s. Knowing how to lace a corset was necessary to achieve the correct look in Victorian fashion.

Corset and Corset cover

Over the Corset and Corset cover is the Under Petticoat, usually quite plain and worn as many as six at a time, depending on the season. Often a petticoat of this stiffened fabric was worn with up to six starched petticoats in an attempt to achieve the big skirt effect; these tangling petticoats were heavy, bulky and generally uncomfortable.

Hoop Petticoat

Next is the hoop skirt or crinoline, hailed as a liberator from the need for the excessive layers of under petticoats. Only a single under-petticoat was required with the hoop. The Victorian crinoline developed various appearances over its Victorian fashion lifetime as a result of new designs and methods of manufacture and made it much easier to learn how to dress Victorian as the decade progressed.


The final undergarments in how to dress Victorian is the Over Petticoat, often, with an elaborately embroidered hem. It is worn over the layered under petticoats or, in the early l860s, the hoop petticoat.

Victorian Dress

Finally, the lady dons her Victorian dress, pictured here in with a "fan front" bodice with capped close-fitting long sleeves and a cartridge pleated, three flounced skirt. The properly attired Victorian lady is never seen in public without bonnet and gloves. [Illustrations By Holly Hess]