Dressing The Victorian Working Woman

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Linen Chemise

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).

Related: My Victorian Underwear: Chemise, Drawers And Petticoats

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Knitted Garter


Tie a length of ribbon around the stockings to hold them up. Instead of a ribbon, you can also knit Victorian garters.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Garter

Fold the stockings over the ribbon so that the stockings hold up better.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Working Woman Black Wool Stays


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.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Petticoats


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.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Linen Petticoat

The Skirt

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.

-> My Pinterest Board: Victorian & Edwardian Working Class Clothes

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Hairstyle And Cap

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.

Related: How To Sew An Authentic Victorian Day Cap – Tutorial

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Apron


Wear an apron to protect your skirt.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Straw Hat

Straw Hat

If you’re going to work outside in the fields, protect your head and dress with a straw hat.

Related: History Of Haymaking

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman

Victorian straw hats usually had a lower crown than the one I’m wearing like on this 1857 painting, or this antique 1850s straw hat at the LACMA museum, or the straw hat on this antique photograph of Victorian working women.

Related: Edwardian Haymaking With The Scythe

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman Victorian Sunbonnet


Instead of a strawhat you could also wear a sunbonnet. I’m wearing my mint green hand-sewn cotton sunbonnet.

Dressing The Victorian Working Woman

And this is the finished outfit of a lower class Victorian working woman.

Related: Dressing The Victorian Lady

23 thoughts on “Dressing The Victorian Working Woman

  1. Fascinating reading Lina. I love layering my cloths but I must admit I’m so glad we don’t have to dress in so many anymore. It would take me forever to get dressed

  2. What a very interesting post!!!! I am so thankful we don’t dress like that now… so much work and it would be cumbersome and hot to wear all of that… but there certainly is a charm to it. Thank you for sharing this…. especially as you showed the different layers. I will be sharing this! 🙂 I am now following you on Pinterest.

  3. I can’t imagine how they got anything done in the summertime. Everything looks so warm. For the middle of winter this would be doable but they had so many layers. Interesting read.

  4. Oh I just love it all! Stepping back in time has always been such a delight for me! Thanks for sharing it with SYC.

  5. I love the idea of historical clothing. As we travel around the US in our RV, my favorites stops are “living” museums where folks are dressed in period clothing.

  6. How interesting, a lot of layers on the bottom half and not so much up top.
    I’m assuming a lot of it was to do with having layer so not everything needed washing so often.
    So different from what we wear today.

  7. Do you find the wool stays supports the weight of the skirts enough? Trying to decide between this route, corded, or boned for my stays. Thanks!

    1. Yes, I find (unboned or lightly boned) wool stays support the weight of the skirts enough. And I personally don’t find corded corsets comfortable. 😉 But it’s probably best if you make a mock-up to find out what you like best. 🙂

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