Costume Analysis: Victoria (TV Show)

I discovered the most AWESOME show last night when I watched the premiere of Victoria on PBS! As you can probably guess, it is a show that pretty accurately follows the life of Queen Victoria. Not only did this show have plenty of court drama and fascinating characters, but also the costumes were EPIC. It was such a relief for me to watch this show after seeing Rogue One and its totally lame costumes.

First of all, let me say something about the historical accuracy. I am not an expert in the Victorian era, but I am starting to get my 19th century decades down. I know how to tell apart the 1810s, 1830s, 1860s, and 1890s. This show is set during the first couple of years of Queen Victoria’s reign, so it has the later 1830s (1837 and so on). Here are some historical examples of 1830s fashion.

The 1830s is one of the easiest 19th century decades for me to remember. The silhouette is not too bad for being Victorian. Some later Victorian stuff (1870s through 1890s for example) kind of has an awkward silhouette. It kind of allows your shoulders to slump forward and your gut to stick out because the lower front of the corset is curved outwards. (Sometimes this is achieved through a spoon busk.) Anyway…. it doesn’t look to me like the 1830s corsets do this, the front is pretty straight.

Other things that make the 1830s silhouette recognizable: the relatively high waist, the lovely full skirt, and, of course, those awesome balloon sleeves. You actually have to wear these stuffed undergarments to fill out the sleeves properly.

With all that in mind, check out the costumes of Victoria!

There was a huge variety of costumes just in this one episode, from all of Victoria’s costumes to the noble ladies’ costumes to the servants’ costumes. Total and complete eye candy for me! O_O

Another thing I like about this show is the way that these costumes are treated. Victoria is developed as a strong-willed, free-spirited character, as many modern interpretations of royal characters are. Sometimes that concerns me because I get worried that the character will hate fancy dresses and the like. We’ve all seen stereotypical movies of the rebellious princess crying out in pain as she is laced into a corset and forced to wear a cumbersome hoop skirt, and at her very first chance she will shed the garments and put on something “that she can move around in.” Those bug me. They bug me because they act like this 19th-century royal character is a modern day feminist, and that wearing corsets and hoop skirts and fancy dresses is a symbol of oppression and weakness. (Also, movies like that spread misconceptions that corsets make you unable to breathe and that hoop skirts are unbearably heavy…. both of which are untrue. Wearing a corset and hoop skirt is not as bad as some people think.)

However, in this show, Queen Victoria definitely has a mind of her own but she seems to enjoy wearing her royal dresses. As she should! She does fight against some of the cultural expectations. For example, she follows her own instincts as to which ministers/servants/nobles go into which position, as opposed to everybody telling her how to make these decisions. She wants the independence to exercise her own authority as the queen without being bossed around by all these regent guys. And that’s cool with me, because she is still very feminine in a traditional way, and she seems to be proud to be that way, instead of being all “I wish I was a man” and so on.

I can also relate a lot to this interpretation of Victoria, as portrayed by this particular actress. Apparently the real Queen Victoria was quite short- barely five feet tall- and they make a point of that in the show. They have to make a new throne for her because her feet can’t touch the ground! Yes, I love that! Power to the short people! ^.^ (I’m not even 5’2″.) Also, when this show begins she is eighteen but everyone still thinks of her as a kid. I’m eighteen and people often think of me as a kid. It’s really fun for me to watch a historical TV show about somebody my age, and almost the same height as me, and an independent character but still feminine in a traditional way.

Also… there was nothing morally offensive in this show. No swearing, no sexually explicit scenes. Not yet anyway. It was just exactly what I want to watch. A visually stunning show with amazing costumes about a short girl in the Victorian era. I highly recommend this for any of my fellow history and fashion enthusiasts!


3 thoughts on “Costume Analysis: Victoria (TV Show)

  1. Hi Anakin!
    This is Rey in case you didn’t know. I’m finally commenting on your blog. I wanted to say that I’ve been enjoying Victoria as well. I don’t know much about fashion, now or then, but she does have beautiful dresses. I also love how she makes her own decisions and won’t let all of her advisors boss her around. And I love the overall history in it. Thank you for sharing your opinion of it.

    ~ Rey


    • Hi Rey, great to see you on here! Oh cool, I didn’t know you watch Victoria too! I am absolutely loving it so far. Same here, the show makes me really excited about the 1830s as a fashion era. Les Mis is in the 1830s too! A pretty awesome decade!


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