Free Victorian Art Designs: Fashion Plates from 1850-1899
The nostalgia and Victorian designs craze was just coming in when I was a child. Before that, old stuff was just considered old. But in the early 1970s someone decided that what was old was new and exciting again, so the nostalgia craze was born. And it hasn't really stopped. Even though all the Victorian fashion plates on this page hail from the Victorian era (June 1837 to January 1901, when Queen Victoria ruled England), I amassed this collection only within the last year.
(To see and download the Victorian fashion designs, please scroll down. Make sure to read the instructions to get the best versions of the images.)
I was 11 years old in 1970 and nowhere were nostalgia and Victoriana more present than in our house in the then-bedroom community of Van Nuys, California. Those familiar with that area these days might be more inclined to equate it with a smaller room in the home that features an appliance that flushes. But in those days Van Nuys (and the small incorporated area within it called Panorama City that I lived in) was quite nice and was labeled either middle-class or upper-middle-class, depending on who was doing the labeling.
Instructions for Downloading the Victorian Designs Below
Choose a small version of any of the Victorian designs above the large images below. When you click on one of the images, it will appear larger. Once you've chosen an image and see it larger, double-click on the larger image, which will make the best version of the art appear. Then, if you have a PC, just right-click and save the final version of the artwork to your hard drive. Right-click if you have a Mac.
Victorian Designs: Fashion Plates from 1850-1859Click thumbnail to view full-size
Victorian Designs: Fashion Plates from 1860-1869Click thumbnail to view full-size
Victorian Designs: Fashion Plates from 1870-1879Click thumbnail to view full-size
Victorian Designs: Fashion Plates from 1880-1899Click thumbnail to view full-size
Victorian Fashion Clip Art
How I Came to Love Everything Victorian
My father made stained glass lamps at night in our garage after working all day at his job as a safe and bank vault salesman at the Southern California Safe Company. The safe company's showroom was inconveniently located in the area of Downtown Los Angeles called Skid Row. It was right next door to the Midnight Mission, which dispensed religion, hot food and a place to sleep at night for people too drunk to function. Going to visit my dad in that unusual setting was my first experience with seeing homeless people, which we used to call winos and bums. I absolutely cringe when I think of how callous we were.
I'm sure my father used working on his Victorian lamps to help him shake off the somewhat sad way he spent his days. He also never missed an opportunity to visit any place that had stained glass lamps. Since they were all the rage, it was easy to find them. And as Daddy's Little Girl, I usually went along with him. This was good fortune for me, because some pretty good restaurants had lamps he wanted to see.
The Lure of Pastrami Sandwiches and Pigging Out at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor
My favorite of these was Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. (Farrell's still exists, although not in the same locations. Click here to see archival photos on their Web site.) Not only did the Farrell's near us on Van Nuys Boulevard have stained glass lamps hanging over many of the tables; it was sugar heaven for kids in general and my personal pastrami sandwich restaurant of choice. As I write this, a vivid memory of that warm and just-greasy-enough-to-be-delicious pastrami is flooding through me.
For my friends and I, the dessert that reigned supreme above all the other ice cream sundaes in their large collection was called The Pig's Trough and had what seemed to us like 100 scoops of ice cream. It also came with an "I made a pig of myself at Farrell's" ribbon that was awarded to anyone who actually finished one. If I recall, there was also a loud fuss that accompanied the delivery of the ribbon to the table, which included a siren, various banging noises and singing. As you can imagine, that made the ribbon a much-coveted prize for kids.
I don't think I ever finished a trough by myself, but I did spend many an hour eating pastrami sandwiches and ice cream sundaes, and browsing in the adjacent old fashioned candy shop. The wise owners of Farrell's put the cash register right in the middle of the candy store, so unless parents managed to act as a team and have one of them get the kids out to the car while the other one paid, they were forced to listen "PLEASE!" over and over until they relented and bought their kids some candy. It's a wonder that the kids who grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s had any cavity-free teeth left, when you take into account all the jaw breakers, licorice whips and huge all-day suckers we talked our parents into buying us.
The Victorian Sears Catalog Reproduction
But Farrell's wasn't the only reason I have such a bent toward Victoriana. My father's predisposition toward all things Victorian and stained glass must have rubbed off on me, because I loved all the antiques he collected and had scattered around the house.
As a grown-up, I can appreciate the good taste and keen collector's eye he must have had to amass such a great assortment of vintage goodies: We had an old wooden pit boss chair that came from a Las Vegas casino and an ornate golden throne with red velvet upholstery that came from Corriganville, which was the rustic theme park of old-time movie actor Crash Corrigan. We also had a totally cool golden-colored slot machine that worked until I stuck things in it other than coins; an antique cash register; two Victrolas; a miniature black safe that had to weigh at least one-ton and many other aging treasures.
We also had a new item, which probably reinforced my love of vintage and Victorian art more than anything else: a reproduction of the Sears catalog from the 19th century. I don't have it any more, but I remember it vividly. It was the size of a small phone book, had a black, orange and yellow cover and the inside pages were black and white.
Many of the items were illustrated with detailed Victorian drawings, very much like those found on this page, although they were in black and white. I can't even imagine the hours it must have taken to illustrate all those products and then hand-set the type. But it was probably worth it for Sears, because not everyone had a store nearby like most of us have today. The catalog made a world of diverse goods available to farmers and other country folk, as well as many others.
I poured over this catalog off and on for literally years as I was growing up. Almost through osmosis, the images burned their way into my subconscious. So much so that years later when I started blogging, it was second nature to surround myself with similar images and share them with others. I enjoyed collecting these images and preparing them to share with you. I hope you find them useful!
© 2008 Carla Chadwick