The era of the Victorian women spanned 64 years and concluded several changes in attitudes. The common thinking about women in the Victorian era was that a woman? s position was limited to domestic work and the care for her children. The stereotype of the distribution of roles was women staying by the hearth with their needles whilst men wielded their swords. Women had to bear a large family and to maintain a smooth family atmosphere whereby men did not need to bother himself about domestic matters.
A gentlewoman ensured that the home was a place of comfort for her husband and family from the stresses of Industrial Britain. Victorian dresses show typical excessive style elements such as V-waists, layering of trims and bell sleeves. The Victorian head of household dressed his woman to show off family wealth. Additionally, there were great differences between members of society by the end of the Queen Victoria? s reign but the most instantly apparent difference was through the garments worn.
Not only the dress code symbolized the status of a Victorian woman but also the circumstances she lived in. A wealthy wife was supposed to spend her time reading, sewing, receiving guests, going visiting, letter writing, seeing to the servants and dressing for the part as her husband’s social representative. In contrast, for the very poor of Britain society it was common to wear fifth hand clothes and to eat the pickings left over in a rich household.
Whether married or single all Victorian women were expected to be weak and helpless so that they looked like “fragile delicate flowers incapable of making decisions”. Besides, if a woman took a lover it was not made public because if that became the case she would be cut by society. Instead, men could amble along to one of their gentlemen? s clubs and always find a “warm welcome”. Relationships in 1887 were quite artificial. A married woman could not own property and became a chattel of the man. A divorced woman had indeed no chance of acceptance in society again.
At the end of Victorian times things changed and many women adopted the tailor made garment that showed their more serious concern to be recognized as thinking beings with much to offer society beyond being a social asset for a husband. New inventions such as sewing machine or railway and the capability to use those led to new thinking and women of all classes felt the dynamic atmosphere of change as much as men. Many women joined the Fabian Society, a group of non revolutionary thinking socialists and others sought reform for more practical dress, better education, the right to take up paid work and better employment prospects.