Victorian working women wore practical clothing – suitable for working. Learn how a Victorian working woman would’ve dressed.
Dressing The Victorian Working Woman
Chemise, Stockings & Boots
The first layer is a linen or cotton chemise, dark wool stockings and dark, heavy leather ankle boots. I’m wearing my antique linen chemise. The colors of Victorian underwear (chemise & petticoats) were either white (bleached cotton or linen) or cream colored and grayish (unbleached cotton and linen).
Tie a length of ribbon around the stockings to hold them up. Instead of a ribbon, you can also knit Victorian garters.
Fold the stockings over the ribbon so that the stockings hold up better.
The corset of Victorian working women was called stays. Stays were made of dark, sturdy material – such as wool or jean – and unboned or just lightly boned. They were worn for support while working and to evenly distribute the weight of the petticoats. I’m wearing my black wool stays. They’re closed with spiral lacing at the front so that I can easier lace myself in.
Now come the petticoats. Victorian petticoats were made of linen, cotton or wool. Sometimes old, faded and torn skirts were refashioned into petticoats. Add another petticoat if necessary. I’m wearing four unbleached cotton petticoats and one natural-colored linen petticoat.
For working near an open fire – such as cooking – wool skirts were practical and safe because wool fabric is naturally fire retardant. Here I’m wearing a blue cotton skirt. Victorian working women seemed to prefer blue skirts and blue aprons.
Hair & Cap
The hair is worn in a simple bun at the nape of the neck (higher in the 1840s and lower in the 1850s and 1860s).
Related: 1850s Braided Hairstyle Tutorial
To protect your hair from dirt, add a freshly laundered day cap. I’m wearing a plain cotton day cap which is easy to iron.
Wear an apron to protect your skirt.
If you’re going to work outside in the fields, protect your head and dress with a straw hat.
Related: History Of Haymaking
Victorian straw hats usually had a lower crown than the one I’m wearing.
Related: Edwardian Haymaking With The Scythe
Instead of a strawhat you could also wear a sunbonnet. I’m wearing my mint green hand-sewn cotton sunbonnet.
And this is the finished outfit of a lower class Victorian working woman.
Related: Dressing The Victorian Lady