The 1880s in Fashionable Gowns: A Visual Guide to the Decade – Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews is my go-to expert for anything Victorian. She’s a fantastic resource for 19th-century etiquette, fashion, beauty, and more. It is worth subscribing to her newsletter and blog if you wish to learn more about the era. Below is a link to fashionable gowns that will make you want to throw away your jeans and tee-shirts.  Enjoy! “The 1880s ushered in an era of tailored, close-fitting gowns, some of which were almost masculine in appearance.  These gowns exemplified women’s changing roles in society.” Source: The 1880s in Fashionable Gowns: A Visual Guide to the Decade – Mimi Matthews Read More

Feminine Accomplishments (1872 Style)

“An English lady without her piano, or her pencil, or her fancy work, or her favorite French authors and German poets, is an object of wonder, and perhaps of pity.” (The Habits of Good Society: By Unknown Author, originally published 1872. Copyright 2012 Forgotten Books). Chapter VI is another fascinating look into life in 1872 as penned by someone who lived during the time period. In order to be a member of good society, young ladies should possess a skill besides dancing. Women are discouraged from being talkers.  “We are not, we English, a nation of talkers; naturally, our talent is for silence.” (Perhaps that is where the stiff upper lip mentality comes in because one never talks of their misfortunes or petty irritations.) Since the female population should not be prone to excessive conversation, they must compensate through some form of talent to be shared with others. Music, of Read More

The English Victorian Wedding – 1872 Style

I am back to poking around one of my favorite books, “The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen,”  available on Amazon in print form.  Tucked on page 316 is Chapter XV. Marriage.  It begins with this quote: At a time when our feelings are or ought to be most susceptible, when the happiness or misery of a condition in which there is no medium begins, we are surrounded with forms and etiquettes which rise before the unwary like spectres, and which even the most rigid ceremonialists regard with a sort of dread.” Here is how courtship, engagement, and the wedding process is described by the anonymous author of this fascinating peek into 1871 life. First, an offer of marriage must be made, and even in 1871 it is the custom that the lady surrenders to the will of her parents.  They must approve of the match, Read More

Edwardian Era (1900-1914 Life in Manchester/Salford UK)

As most of you know, I am somewhat obsessed with researching my family history.  My maternal ancestors were English, and my grandparents were born in Manchester during the Victorian Era. I have been transporting myself back to 1900-1914 in Salford where they lived before immigrating to Canada, through Roy Bullock’s book that I purchased on Amazon. The book is a compilation of interesting newspaper articles. Reading these accounts helped me glean information about life in the late Victorian times to the early Edwardian era. Some of what I learn, I put in my books. Salford, as a community, appeared to be a group of individuals who often celebrated, came together on social issues, (yet were often divided, too, with references to socialism), and suffered through unemployment, poverty, and smallpox during this era. Articles dated 1909 gave great insight into the economic climate before my grandparents left in 1910. The times Read More

The Ladies Toilet 1872 Style

“Suppose then that this first and vital standing order for the toilet be stringent, and that refreshed, and therefore energetic, buoyant, and conscious of one duty being at least performed, the lady leaves her bed and prepares to dress.” The Habits of Good Society What duty? A good night’s sleep, of course. I suppose you could call it the need for beauty sleep in a rested young lady. I am continuing to read through “The Habits of Good Society,” yawning here in there but also dropping my mouth open at some of the recommendations. Hang onto your Victorian hat, because here comes the next installment of life in 1872 England. The second order of business, after getting out of bed, is the bath, which once again is reiterated upon regarding the healthy type to take to balance circulation and maintain the skin. After the bath, a lady moved onto the Read More

Victorian Cleanliness 1872 Style (Part 2)

“But the man who throws his clothes about the room, a boot in one corner, a cravat in another, and his brushes anywhere, is not a man of good habits. The spirit of order should extend to everything about him.” All quotes are taken from “The Habits of Good Society: A handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen.” If only the writer could see my nails. Broken, uneven, and badly needing my cuticles cut. I exhibit poor habits. Of course, I need to work and am not of the upper crust in England either, so what does it matter that I type all day and break them left and right?  Having clean and long nails was the mark of gentility because it stated you were rich enough that you didn’t have to work. Victorians were told to pay strict attention to the condition of their nails. They should be buffed with soap Read More

Victorian Cleanliness 1872 Style (Part I)

“In the beginning of the present century (19th), it was thought proper for a gentleman to change his undergarment three times a day, and the washing bill of a beau comprised seventy shirts, thirty cravats, and pocket handkerchiefs à discretion.” (The Habits of Good Society 1872) This chapter has been of particular interest to me mostly because of the stories I’ve read about the poor hygiene in centuries past. However, when it came to the Regency and Victorian era, the upper class deemed it important as a sign of good character. Not only cleanliness was a duty for the sake of health and being agreeable to one’s neighbor, but it also went hand-in-hand with obeying the scriptures as a means of exemplifying purity. Poor personal habits by an individual who neglected his body was a sure sign of weak character. The Victorians in 1872, however, thought Beau Brummell’s idea of Read More

1872 – What Constitutes Good Society?

What constitutes good society? Well, in 1872 England the requisites of good society are listed in “The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen.”  They are: Good breeding, which is acquired by being taught by nurses, parents, tutors, school fellows, and friends. Education not from just finishing schools, universities or boarding schools, but education that gives you mental powers and comprehension. Cultivation of taste, referring to the arts and music and being well versed in the subject. Reason so that you are able to reply as well as to attend to the opinions of others. The art of speech, expressing self by the written word and using proper grammar and syntax. A knowledge of English literature deemed important to be well rounded so you can converse expertly on history, politics, and every other subject or current interest. Moral character because without morality society will shun you. “Society itself Read More

Balls in the Victorian Era

“The advantage of the ball in the upper classes is, that it brings young people together for a sensible and innocent recreation, and takes them away from the silly, if not bad ones; that it gives them exercise, and that the general effect of the beauty, elegance, and brilliance of a ball is to elevate rather than deprave the mind.” The quote above comes from my favorite discovery, which is a book entitled, “The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen” by an unknown author, originally published 1872. Frankly, it’s a hoot to read, filled with, “thoughts, hints, and anecdotes concerning social observances, nice points of taste and good manners, and the art of making one’s self agreeable.“ Because of the information about life in Victorian times, I thought that I would occasionally write a post about the tidbits found between its pages.  If you’re interested in Read More

Arsenic & Victorian Lace

How do you commit murder? Well, in the Victorian era arsenic was a good way to do in your rivals, spouses, and enemies. Blythe Court, written under my pen name of Nora Covington, contains arsenic, and you may wonder if my use is accurate. Hopefully, you know by now I do my research, even if it really does sound extremely odd when you read the story. Arsenic, in case you need a quick education, is a chemical element. It occurs in many minerals. During the Victorian era, it was widely used in commercial products. It was also available to purchase in bottle form from a druggist—half an ounce cost a penny, enough to kill 50 people. Unbeknownst to the Victorians, they were slowly poisoning themselves from wallpaper to clothes. The poison caused agonizing deaths until they finally realized the dangers of the chemical and began putting restrictions in place. Here Read More