About Victorian and Edwardian Traveling Costumes
Traveling costumes are made simple, warm and practical in the Victorian and Edwardian era. Beige colors are worn for travels by coach, while dark dresses which won’t stain are worn on a sea voyage.
1859 traveling dress: ‘Straw hat plainly trimmed with ribbon. Dress of the thinner species of poplin, or any desired material. If preferred, the sleeves may be flowing, being cut to match the design, with gauntlets. The skirt is single.’ Drawing of this traveling dress. Sometimes, beige or natural-colored clothing was recommended for travels by coach which won’t show the dust of streets so much.
A traveling dress in 1852 should be cut like a morning gown with a round waist (without the point in front). The skirt is made with strings underneath so that it may be looped up. The traveling costume also comprises: a corresponding collar and engageantes, a full wool mantle, dark suede gloves (iron grey, maroon, or olive is suitable), and brown, button up, thin leather boots with low heels. The bonnet is made of straw and taffeta with Cambrai lace veil for the face. An elastic traveling corset, the nonchalante, should be worn. (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1852)
In 1909: a ‘Traveling costume should be simple in style and quiet in color, materials that will not show dirt being preferable. A waterproof cloak is a very desirable addition, as it may be at any time suddenly needed. In summer travel a long linen duster, belted at the waist, should be worn over the dress. For the country or sea-side, simple and inexpensive dresses should be provided for ordinary wear.’ (Household Companion: Book Of Etiquette, 1909)
Hints on Crossing the Sea in the 1850s (Miss Leslie’s New Receipts For Cooking, 1852)
‘The most usual voyage made by American ladies is across the Atlantic; and the time chosen for that voyage is generally in the spring or autumn’. A winter passage is usually avoided by ladies. If a lady can afford it, she should pay the additional costs for a whole room for herself so that she has additional space and privacy: ‘No one who has not been at sea can imagine the perpetual and mutual annoyance, of being confined to the small limits of a state-room with a stranger; each incommoding the other all the time, and each feeling herself under the continual surveillance of her companion; both expected to make incessant sacrifices to the convenience of each other, and perhaps only one of them having a disposition to submit to these sacrifices; in which case she that is the most amiable is always the sufferer.’
Pack away all light-colored and white dresses; wear dark dresses which need no washing: ‘As ladies can have no washing done at sea, it will be well to begin with such dresses as can be worn all the passage. French silks are not good sea dresses, (even when black,) for the salt-air shrivels, spots, and turns them rusty. Dark-coloured india silks, or dark mousse-lines de laine, or merinoes, are much better. Dark chintzes, with no white in the figure, are convenient for common wear, at sea as well as on shore.’ Also don’t wear quilled or pleated frills on your muslin or bobbinet collar because they lose the starch in the damp see air. You may substitute your collars with silk neckerchiefs or shawls, white is best. ‘Or you may wear a broad, thick white ribbon, shaped with three diminishing pleats, to fit in closely the back of the neck, and crossed in front.’ Wear simple day caps, lined with silk, with or without a gathered border, and satin ribbons instead of gauze ones. On rough days, it is ‘impossible to arrange the hair nicely’, so the hair should be covered completely.
Take enough warm clothing with you: ‘It is colder at sea than on shore; and even in summer, the atmosphere of the Atlantic is liable to be chilled for several days by the vicinity of floating icebergs, – even when these icebergs are not seen.’ Sometimes, the clothing is the only source of heat to be had. Especially on windy weather and when the sea is rough, a fire can’t be lighted in the cabin. Therefore, flannel underwear, a large woolen shawl, warm gloves, and a wadded coat of India silk, which won’t stain, are important. Your dresses should all fasten in front because a lady has most often to dress herself, and wrappers are now made ‘universially becoming’. Don’t change your clothing during the day, as ‘dressing on ship-board is always more or less troublesome and inconvenient’. Instead of a corset, wear a flannel, lined silk, or jeans bodice without whalebone stiffening. Wear a dark linen, silk, or worsted petticoat, or a wadded silk petticoat. Also pack ‘a pair of slightly-wadded silk inside-sleeves, to be tied in beneath your gown-sleeves in chilly weather. For this purpose, have four tapes sewed to the top of each sleeve, at equal distances, and four corresponding tapes sewed to the inside of each arm-hole of your gowns.’ Stockings should be of unbleached or dark cotton, shoes should be easy to put on – without lacing or button closure – with thin soles, such as moccasins. Better than the usual cork insole are sheep-skin soles ‘coated on the under side with india-rubber varnish’. The bonnet should have a ‘deep, close front’ to screen the complexion from sunrays, and be made with ‘wired-satin piping-cord’ instead of cane or whalebone which is ‘apt to break’ in strong winds.
‘However pleasant you may find it to stay on deck, it is best, as soon as you get on board, to go to your stateroom, and make your arrangements there, lest you should be rendered incapable of doing so by the approach of seasickness’. Take as a preventative or early remedy for seasickness some sugar with brandy. ‘For the first two days you need take no nourishment but chicken-water. Avoid lemonade, oranges, all other acids, and every sort of warm drink. Be careful, while you are sick, not to taste any thing that you may like to eat afterwards, as it will give you a disgust to it during the remainder of the voyage.’ Also don’t use perfume, such as eau de cologne, but you may sprinkle some camphor over your bed. ‘The third day (if not before) you ought to make every possible exertion to go on deck, as you will be losing strength by remaining in bed; and as long as you keep your head in a recumbent posture, you will not become accustomed to the motion of the vessel. Also, on the third day, endeavour to eat a small portion of solid, relishing food’.
Other useful travel accessories are ‘a clay-ball for the removal of grease spots […] as, when the ship is rolling, greasy substances are frequently spilt on dresses; and a life vest ‘ in case of being wrecked in sight of land’. It’s also beneficial to learn to swim before the sea voyage. Because a sea journey can be long and monotonous take plenty of interesting occupation with you: needle work, an amusing book, a journal, or write a ‘diary-letter’ to your family or friends.
About Carpet Bags and Packing (The Workwoman’s Guide, 1840)
‘Carpet bags should be purchased with large gores at the sides, as when thus made, they contain many more articles, and more conveniently than when they are only two plain pieces of carpet. They should also have a brass plate. […] every bag should have two locks […]
Here are instructions for making a travel bag.
When the party sleep several nights on the road, it is advisable to have a large carpet bag containing the night-dress of each individual packed up in night-gown bags, dressing tidies (see Plate 24), marked with the initials of the persons; by this means much trouble is saved. It is a good plan to sew a camphor bag in the night-gown to prevent the attack of fleas and bugs.
In packing observe the following general rules: –
First, divide the light things from the heavy ones; lay drawings, portfolios, books, desks, boxes, shoes, and all hard flat things at the bottom of your trunk, taking great care to fit them together, so as to be perfectly even at the top, putting paper, or any small soft things in the crevices; then put in a packing cloth, and on this lay flannels, linen, &c., &c.: these things should be opened to their full extent and laid quite flat; in the corners, stockings, rolls of ribbon, &c. may be put; silk or any thick dresses, folded […] may be laid at the top, and the whole carefully covered with the packing sheet tightly pinned down, and strong brown paper to prevent the possibility of rain getting in.
Bonnets, caps, muslin, or gauze dresses, and collars, should be put in a box by themselves: tapes may be nailed across the box and the bonnets or caps pinned to them to keep them steady.
In packing a carpet bag, it is well to roll every thing possible in small compact parcels, and to put them in, very close together, especially at the corners and ends, keeping the bag as flat as it can be, and stretched out to its full extent, width-wise at the same time.’