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Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger

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Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger

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Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger



"And yet here he was, if one could credit one's senses, about to take part in a fancy-dress ball, a form of entertainment notoriously a testing experience for the toughest. And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you—not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles—this involving, as I need scarcely stress, not only scarlet tights but a pretty frightful false beard."
~ Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
via gravesandghouls tumblr, Victorian costumes c. 1880s (Source: vintagegal)
Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
Fancy Dress, 1874

Fancy dress costumes were very popular in the Victorian era, Fashionable Reader. There were follies, masquerades, fancy dress balls, not to mention a variety of other events that might call for a costume of some kind or another. I feature a fancy dress ball in the Finishing School books and I'm contemplating what might happen if Lord Akeldama decided to throw one. However the Victorian approach to fancy dress was quirky to say the least. Here are a few examples...

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
folly  costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Classic jester costume, also the domino were both, extremely popular in the Victorian era.


Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
  antique-royals-TUMBLR 1860s 

via Bizarre Victorian fact of the day…

A traditional Halloween custom which was practised across Britain (particularly in rural areas) in the Victorian period was for groups of people (of all ages) to don strange costumes and go door-to-door in the hopes of receiving food or gifts, or of causing a bit of mischief. This custom had a huge number of regional variations. On the Shetland Islands the ‘skeklers’ wore tall pointy hats and voluminous costumes made of straw. In Montgomeryshire in Wales men dressed themselves as ‘gwrachod’ (an ancient Welsh hag-like monster) by putting on ragged clothes, sheepskins and masks. They went through their neighbourhood frightening children and being rude to adults. Young people in Glamorgan cross-dressed and went from house to house singing riddles, while ‘guisers’ in Scotland with masked, blackened, or painted faces chanted rhymes like:

    Tramp, tramp, the boys are marching
    We are the guisers at the door,
    If you dinna let us in, we will bash yer windows in,
    And you’ll never see the guisers any more.


Source: victorianfanguide


Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
gardener costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Aristocratic Victorians loved to play the poor, particularly the romanticized country poor. In addition to gardeners, milk maids, peasant girls, shepherds and shepherdesses were quite popular.

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
page costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

There was also and interesting take on cross dressing that occasionally appeared. There's a certain romantic notion and of the beautiful page boy, almost gender neutral and certainly gender bending that made this archetypal character open season for men or women. Maxfield Parrish capitalized on this with some of his work using a female model for many of his pages and princes etc...

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
rose costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr

Objects were also open season. And an idea I kind of love. Above we see a young lady dressed as a rose garden, or rose bouquet. Bellow is one dressed as a... waste basket. I may have to put that into one of my stories.

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
waste basket costume via realhistoricalpatterns tumblr
Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
via eccentric victorian on tumblr
Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
“Scrap Book” 1890 National Gallery Victoria
Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
“The Dirigible” via OMG That Dress tumblr

Other cultures were also popular, as were historical figures. Always keeping in mind the Victorian silhouette. You'll not that while masks were popular grotesque make up was not. Victorians might theme a masquerade to a particular place or time period or even a famous author, Shakespeare characters, for example, might be a theme.

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
Fancy Dress Costume Charles Fredrick Worth, 1870 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
via weirdvintage-tumblr Bird girls of Szegeden, Hungary, 1880s (via Vintage Photo)


Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
via Old Photos & Bacon☣ @photosandbacon


I have a lot of fun imagining how a costume party in my steampunk Victorian era might look. Can you imagine people coming dressed as trains, or dirigibles? Or werewolves or vampires for that matter. I may have to write a short story about this at some point.
Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
White Witch Costume 1885 Kerry Taylor Auctions

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
“Folly” fancy dress costume 1890 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

And something a little more to my personal taste...


Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
Halloween Bombshell Veronica Lake

Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger
Halloween Bombshell, Myrna Loy
Myrna was best known for her role as Nora Charles
in the 1930's The Thin Man movies
Bollywood Steampunk


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Fancy Dress Costumes ~ The Victorian Halloween with Gail Carriger

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