Let me just say at the outset that finding good images for the 1840s is a bear. While I’ve located a number of magazines online, color plates are not abundant, and the scan quality of many is less than ideal. And I do wish the women didn’t wear such simpering expressions.
The poor quality may be the fault of the paper used in the magazines. There was a shift from rag paper to paper paper at some point in the Victorian era, and rag doesn’t deteriorate as easily as paper. As to the simpering expressions, I can come up with a couple of explanations: (1) the artists weren’t good with faces or (2) this is the way the ideal woman was supposed to look: sweet and not too intelligent.
In any case, I think this plate will explain why I refer to the early-to-mid Victorian look as droopy. Remember those wild and crazy hairdos of the 1820s and 1830s? Gone.
Hair is now slicked down on top, with the curls and braids and other artistic inventions relegated to the back of the neck. But that’s a sexy place, especially when the lady is wearing evening dress, with shoulders bared and bosom exposed in a way that seems not at all prudishly Victorian.
|1842 Fashion Description|
In any case, I think these dresses are very pretty. Notice that while the skirts are full, they haven’t yet yet attained the room-filling, knocking-over-tables-and-small-children width of the 1860s.
Images from The Magazine of the Beau Monde for May 1842
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