Create a Victorian Goth Costume Using Clothes You Can Wear Year Round
A Victorian goth costume with a hint of steampunk style
Even though she's a fashion editor at a top London magazine, my friend Caroline absolutely hates dressing up in costumes. Halloween, fancy dress parties, themed evenings ... she simply won't buy ready-made costumes. And she's far too busy to make her own unless she can use clothes she already has. So read on.
Since our days at college together, we've both loved the Victorian look and over the years we've developed it to include goth and steampunk styling - we still enjoy it.
We avoid the 'elegant' Victorian look and lean more towards the Victorian working girl. I don't necessarily mean the Whitechapel street-working girls of the Jack the Ripper days (although they are an influence), but also the Eliza Doolittle flower-seller look.
And Caroline is right - why spend money on unoriginal costumes when you can create your own wearing clothing you can wear all year round?
Images copyright-free from Wikimedia Commons
Starting at the top
The Victorians wore a huge variety of rather splendid hats. The style you see here is a typical example. One of the wonderful aspects of a hat is that it can be decorated in so many different ways creating different looks.
For a jaunty look, the nineteenth century lady would add a couple of feathers. If they were feeling more romantic, flowers and lace can be pinned on temporarily.
A simple and basic hat can be decorated in so many different ways and yet today, the same hat can be used for day to day wear. Ladies from the lower edges of society, which is the look we're emulating, often wore cast-offs.
I'm a little more conservative than Caroline when it comes to headgear. I often think that so much depends on your hair.I have lots so prefer a small, discreet hat. Caroline changes her hair often but it is usually sleek enough to carry off a hat like that above. See my choice below.
When Queen Victoria was widowed and went into mourning, black became THE colour of the later Victorian era. However, they did not give up their beloved lace that was so incredibly popular.
The fashion filtered down from the queen, via the aristocracy, to every woman in the land. Even the poorest working girls would often have lace to wear, even if it was just a scrap to wear around their neck or pin to a hat.
Handmade lace was expensive and the preserve of the moneyed classes but as technology advanced, cheap 'imitation' versions became available to all.
There are hundreds of tops are suitable for your costume that you will still be able to wear regularly thought the year. Choose a t-shirt or blouse that matches other clothes in your wardrobe or, to be sure that it will match, choose that neutral favourite - black.
Caroline isn't as keen as I am on deep necklines so this is her selection. This too can be elegant or casual, depending on what you wear with it and the accessories you choose.
Caroline loves small details and pointed out to me the sleeve loops. She has a fuller figure than me and this looks fabulous on her.
I absolutely adore these, although I appreciate that in Victorian times these were de rigeur and I'm thankful that we don't have to squeeze ourselves into one of these contraptions today.
Modern versions are great fun though and despite adding curves to the body, you can still breathe, eat and behave normally - this wasn't the case with nineteenth century women who often fainted because of their overtight 'stays'.
Caroline, in her fashion editor way, refers to these as 'bustiers' but whatever you call them, they are flattering, fun and perfect for this costume and for parties all year round.
The corset is the essential garment to give your costume an authentic feel. It combines the Victorian ans steampunk looks beautifully and it's surprising how good they look for non-costume wear too. See Caroline's choice below.
The elegant Victorian lady of leisure worn very long skirts. They could do so because they maids and seamstresses to care for their clothes. They travelled in carriages and rarely had to walk in the city streets.
This was impractical for the working girl though as she had to negotiate dirty streets and had no help when it came to looking after her clothes. It was more practical and sensible to avoid skirts that swept the floor.
Often, skirts would be hand-me-downs from relatives or employers and sometimes, as you see in the photograph here, a girl would be lucky enough to wear a feminine petticoat too.
The two skirts you see here can be worn together for your costume - layering the petticoat (see below) under the skirt. It gives a flirty look that is in keeping with our slightly naughty Victorian girl look.
Working as she does in the fashion world, Caroline has much more of an eclectic taste than I do. She'll be severely tailored on day and frilly and flouncy the next. In addition, she goes to far more parties ('all work related' she tells me).
I would only wear this once or twice a year but Caroline has this petticoat (in white though) and wears it regularly.
I can't remember just how many pairs of Victorian-style button boots I've owned over the years. I love them and so does Caroline. We both wore them in the dim and distant days of our long-gone college years.
I don't own a pair now though as they don't suit my current lifestyle but I still love the look. Today, I tend towards the more practical type of footwear, something I can actually walk in.
The working Victorian girl thought the same way. See the footwear Julie Andrews is wearing in the photograph above (a scene from My Fair Lady in the West End) - practical footwear was the order of the day.
This being said, these are Caroline's choice and I must admit, I love them too. And they are more practical than they look - you don't have to struggle with the laces every time you wear them- there's a zipper hidden on the side.
And don't you love the gorgeous shape of the heels? These look great with jeans, skirts ... so many outfits.
Although it can be fun to have boots in a variety of colours, those of who are budget-conscious usually go for black or a natural leather. This way, they can be worn with almost any colour combination.
For as long as I've known her, Caroline has drilled into me the importance of accessories. Here are some that we've selected that will be excellent for your costume, but that you'll be able to wear year round.
This will make all the difference to your costume when worn on your hat (remember Caroline and her 'little details'.)
But you can wear it all year round in your hair, as a brooch or in dozens of other ways. Lots of colours are available but I love the burgundy.
When Caroline and I were at college together we would use 'mood-boards' to collect swatches of fabric, pictures and product images. This was rather like a twentieth century Pinterest. Scroll down to see the type of mood-board we'd use for a collection such as this.
I love the look of this. It's splendid as part of the Victorian steampunk costume. Note that this isn't an umbrella (and therefore gives no protection from the rain) but a UV parasol to protect you from the sun.
I use this SO often here in Florida.
Inexpensive and gorgeous, I use this often and not only as a scarf. It's wonderful worn tied round the waist as a belt or to embellish a hat.
It's large enough to wear as a shawl and is great for costume wear or everyday use.
It's the little details that make such a difference to an outfit, whether it's day-to-day clothes or clothes for a special occasion or for dressing up purposes. Jewellery always adds flair.
How gorgeous are these? They have a wonderful Victorian look (black jet jewelry was very popular in the 'mourning days') but are lovely to wear all year round.
They look terribly sophisticated for so many occasions.
I hope that you've enjoyed out selection of clothes and accessories - we had so much fun choosing them.
This is perfect for so many reasons. It absolutely looks just right with your costume but there's more.
The stone is agate which reputedly protects against any number of ailments and conditions.
This is something that the Victorians firmly believed in so we have a nice historical touch as well as a lovely piece of jewellery.