There is a new display of Victorian dress at Gunnersbury Park Museum which shows the range of clothes which a fashionable Victorian lady might wear in any one day.
Nowadays it is fashionable to look casual and to wear the same clothes from morning to evening, but in the 19th century a fashionable woman would have changed her clothes several times a day. There was a strict etiquette which ensured that formal outfits were usually made of expensive fabrics, legs must be covered at all times and low necks and short sleeves were only suitable for the evening.
For our Victorian lady, the day starts with a starched white cotton nightdress, beautifully decorated with whitework embroidery, but maintaining the purity and modesty of the wearer. She then puts on underwear, consisting of combinations, corset and bustle, which show just how women created the angular silhouette of the1880s. If she is going out, there is the choice of a cashmere shawl or a beaded mantle. For receiving afternoon visitors, there is a silk dress in a rich purple which must have been dyed with one of William Perkin’s new aniline dyes, then being manufactured just up the road, in Greenford. For a grand reception or dinner there is a magnificent blue satin and plush gown, made by a top quality costumier. If she chooses to go out on her bicycle (all the rage in the 1890s) there is a special woollen suit with a hole in the skirt which fits over the saddle.
Finally, there is a magnificent figured silk wedding dress, smothered in artificial pearls.
All these outfits have been given to the museum over the years and are just a sample of the rich and varied collections at Gunnersbury Park Museum.
This exhibition was put on with help from a team of volunteers from EDFAS (Ealing Decorative and Fine Art Societies). It will be on show until summer 2011.
Entrance is free.