Women after 1850

Essay by poisonous_acid March 2006

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About women's clothes

The subject of fashion may seem frivolous to some until we realize that women's

dress has always reflected the dynamic changes in society; the exclusive handmade dresses-in a period where animal and human muscles were the only source of power -- gradually gave way to the popularity of "tailor made" clothes as textile factories dotted the landscape of early 19th century northern England. Victorian sartorial elegance in its various modes depicted England's prosperity as the world's economic power. By the 1850s England was undoubtedly the greatest power in Europe; her breakthrough in steam power in 1790 and the subsequent mechanized production of goods made England the envy of the world. While Europe and the rest of the world were still relying on an agrarian economy, Victorian England was experiencing a whole new lifestyle which largely revolved around machines.

The Industrial Revolution in England spawned a prosperous middle-class, numerous and important enough to direct and set the political and socio-economic standard in Victorian England.The power of machines, however, both fascinated and alarmed Victorians; the socio-economic structure of 19th century England was swiftly changing;middle-class families became highly hierarchical as only the husbands went out to work; this gave them more power because they were now sole "breadwinners." Wives remained at home and became ladies of the house in every sense of the word;Victorian upper class women were now idealized (but it was spiritual worship that confined women in the home), and most of them portrayed the Victorian ideal of womanhood: chaste, ornamental women who were society's moral guardians, but still dependent on the goodwill of their devoted male worshippers. Victorian middle-class women and men like everything else they did-took their roles as "ornamental" ladies of the house and chivalrous providers very seriously. Their high-minded seriousness were in part...