Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty by Mimi Matthews

book cover
A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty
by Mimi Matthews

ISBN-13: 9781526705044
Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Released: July 2, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
What did a Victorian lady wear for a walk in the park? How did she style her hair for an evening at the theatre? And what products might she have used to soothe a sunburn or treat an unsightly blemish? Mimi Matthews answers these questions and more as she takes readers on a decade-by-decade journey through Victorian fashion and beauty history.

Women's clothing changed dramatically during the course of the Victorian era. Necklines rose, waistlines dropped, and Gothic severity gave way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings. Sleeves ballooned up and skirts billowed out. The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-moulded corsets cinched women's waists ever tighter.

As fashion was evolving, so too were trends in ladies' hair care and cosmetics. An era which began by prizing natural, barefaced beauty ended with women purchasing lip and cheek rouge, false hairpieces and pomades, and fashionable perfumes made with expensive spice oils and animal essences.

Using research from nineteenth century beauty books, fashion magazines, and lady's journals, Mimi Matthews brings the intricacies of a Victorian lady's toilette into modern day focus. In the process, she gives readers a glimpse of the social issues that influenced women's clothing and the societal outrage that was an all too frequent response to those bold females who used fashion and beauty as a means of asserting their individuality and independence.

My Review:
A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty provides an overview of women's fashion in England between 1840 to 1900. The author used information and quotes from 19th century beauty books, fashion magazines, and lady's journals. She also included some fashion plates. I'm not familiar with the fashion terms of the period. I would have enjoyed more illustrations or more detailed descriptions for commonly used words describing parts of the dress or accessories, but I still found the book very interesting and informative.

The first part of the book described the fashionable dress styles (and their underpinnings), hats, shoes, cloaks, gloves, jewelry, and such during each decade and how the fashions changed. The author also talked about how changes in society and technology caused changes in fashions.

Then the author discussed the various dresses that were worn: the morning dress, walking dress, afternoon dress, dinner dress, evening dress or ball gown. She talked about changes in riding habits, seaside holiday dresses, bathing costumes, sports wear (for lawn tennis, golf, and cycling), wedding dresses, maternity dress, and mourning dresses during the Victorian period. She also described beauty advice and attitudes, from soap and cold creams for the face to hair care and hairstyles to cosmetic usage (face powder, cheek rouge, lip rouge, perfumes, etc.).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

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