Portraying the Victorian Woman - Image 5

Portraying the Victorian Woman

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Copyright - May not be reproduced without permission from:  Victoria Rumble  

 Image 5

While this woman's dress is trimmed on both the bodice and the skirt the couple's overall appearance is not one of opulence.  It is more likely she has applied the trim to a rather plain dress in order to make it appear more up to date.  The sleeves are more narrow at the top than one would expect for an 1860's style, but the size of the collar, its shape, and the fact it appears to meet in front underneath a broach indicate 1860's style.  The length of the bodice is hidden unerneath the apron, as is the waist treatment of the skirt.  She is obviously not wearing a corset which means she is not strictly fashion conscious.  If one were in the habit of wearing a corset it seems likely she would do so when having an image struck. *  The apron is cut very full (as full as the skirt), and if she were standing appears to be about knee-length.  The apron has the appearance of being functional, not particularly decorative, however, it may have been made of a richer fabric than the dress and worn in an attempt to appear dressier.  The apron may also have been worn to hide the rather ample waistline and the fact she is not wearing a corset.  

Her husband has the appearance of a man used to work, his sack coat is probably his "best" since it has been worn to have his image struck. The trowsers, waistcoat, and sack coat all appear to be of different fabric.  He wears a white shirt and simple dark cravat.    

Their station in life might be judged to be upper lower or lower middle.  They have the appearance of a couple who have known hard work, and who have worked with their hands.  He may be a farmer, farm hand, hired blacksmith, a painter, a harness maker, a carpenter, a mechanic, a millwright, a cheese maker, day laborer, stable keeper, brick mason, stone cutter, sawyer, cooper, a wagoner, cabinet maker, a painter, a butcher, marble cutter, a baker, a well digger, fence maker, rope maker, ferryman, teamster, nurseryman, plasterer, etc.  

The wife does not give the appearance of having had anyone to help her around the house.  She most likely did her own cooking, cleaning, and chores around the house.  During the war she probably was a spinner and weaver, and perhaps helped to outfit sons who were away at war.  She could have been a midwife or followed some other pursuit.  Since she would not likely have had domestic help she may have known about herbs and their medicinal qualities, she may have kept chickens and other farm animals.  She likely would have made butter and cheese, preserved summer's bounty from a kitchen garden, etc.  She would have known all the basic skills that made up the day to day life of a rural woman.  

*  This woman is not corsetted, but she is not wearing Playtex Cross-Your-Heart either.  A period look may be obtained by wearing a corset, work stays, or just a chemise, but a bra is noticeably incorrect for the time period.

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