Updated: May 7, 2020
When I studied for my Level 3 Diploma in Special Effects Make-Up in 2013, my favourite units to complete were those that studied how beauty was defined throughout different periods in history. This post delves into how beauty was defined and catalysed during the Victorian era, the period of Queen Victoria’s reign over the United Kingdom (1837-1901.) Forget Russian lashes and Fake Bake for a second, and explore a simpler time where sensibility and religious values were at an all-time high in British culture.
Victorian Britain: Photo sourced from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
From the moment Queen Victoria took reign over Britain in 1837, the mood had somewhat changed and new kinds of life brought new influences of style for women. The Queen was respected as the perfect female ideal – she radiated the image of an impeccable mother; the highest achievement a woman could reach during this era. There was a remarkable focus on the female role of service – domesticity and motherhood duties of British women were most important during these times, and so overall presentation must reflect these means.
GIF sourced from midevilin.tumblr.com
For the first time in human history, woman’s fashions had started to become more sexualised; the silhouette of a woman’s breasts and hips were now exaggerated through the adornment of clothing. The demand for corsets were on the rise as a result of the newly-favoured hourglass figure. These fashion adaptations symbolised the maternal duties of the wearer and cleverly separated women altogether from the realm of work.
Sexy is the new black: Victorian fashions
The Victorian era was famous for associating a pale complexion with a superior hierarchy of beauty. Lead-based creams were for used to lighten the skin’s surface and the super-rich digested things like arsenic, chalk, slate and tea to maintain a whitish appearance. This familiar oddity of using toxic ingredients to breed beauty, led to fatal consequences.
GIF sourced from allreactions.tumblr.com
Women were advised to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night to maintain healthy skin, to bath in the sun every once in a while and to sit in well-ventilated rooms. There was a derogatory attitude towards the use of makeup during this time; it was often connected with theatre acts and prostitution. However there is numerous evidence that suggests members of higher class often using subtle dusting and rouge on the cheeks to boost their complexions.
Hairstyles breathed elegance and purity, often worn up and using ringlet curls to adorn the face. It was vital during the Victorian era that all hair styled should be neat, without a single strand out of place. Brushing your hair 100 times before bed, was a common saying during this time.
Image sourced from www.vintag.es
A woman’s appearance was as equally important as her education, logical thinking and individuality. The fashion influences that came with the Victorian era, liberated women to show off such uniqueness and bettered the prospects of marriage.
Is it fair to say that some of these ideologies of beauty have remained in our modern-day British culture? Are there any aspects of Victorian fashions and beauty trends you don’t agree with, or simply love? Comment below, and to find out more about beauty trends click here.