Victorian Farmlife

Victorian Farmlife Blog

Children’s Clothing

Children’s fashions underwent a number of changes during the Victorian period. In the 1850s and 1860s, fashionable little girls wore crinoline petticoats, like their mothers, with the important difference that their skirts were short instead of long. In the 1870s and 1880s, narrow skirts that were much more restrictive became popular. Fauntleroy suits (named after a character in a best-selling novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett) were very fashionable for boys at this time. The suits consisted of a velvet tunic or jacket with matching breeches and a lace collar. In the 1890s, however, it became acceptable for girls to wear loose fitting dresses and separate skirts and blouses. Sailor suits, first seen on Queen Victoria’s eldest son, had become extremely popular for both boys and girls. Although these clothes were an improvement on some of the earlier fashions, they would still have been quite restrictive by modern standards. Perhaps the biggest difference between Victorian and 21st century clothes is in the number of layers worn underneath. A girl would start with a chemise (a loose fitting shift), then drawers (long knickers), stays (a softer version of a corset), stockings and at least two petticoats. For centuries, boys had worn dresses (instead of breeches or trousers) as babies and up until they were around five years old. The most likely theory for this is that it was easier to change babies’ nappies and for little boys to go to the toilet as breeches and trousers often had complicated fastenings. Apart from babies’ and toddlers’ dresses, which were usually white, boys’ dresses were often in darker or brighter colours than girls’ were. They were often also more tailored with metal, rather than fabric covered, buttons. Children from poorer families wore patched and mended clothes that had often been bought second hand, and then passed down through the family. Even children from relatively comfortable backgrounds would have owned very few outfits: perhaps two for weekdays and one for Sunday best. The invention of the domestic sewing machine in 1851 meant that clothes could be made at home quickly and easily. This was a great help to many, but the poorest could not afford them. Some children went barefoot, even in winter, when they would pad their clothes with newspaper to try to keep warm.


Children should be seen and not heard!

In a large nursery, there would be a Nanny in overall charge with a number of more junior nursemaids. Nanny would provide a basic education and instruction in “useful” work such as sewing for the girls. At the age of about ten, some boys would go off to boarding school, whereas girls would often stay at home and be taught by a governess. By the end of Victoria’s reign, girls’ schools had become more widely accepted and so the position of governess began to die out. The nursery itself was usually situated at the top of a large house, with the children’s bedrooms next door (sometimes referred to as the day and the night nurseries). By the end of the 19th century, these were often decorated with especially designed wallpaper, carpets and child size tables and chairs.


Have you ever worked down on the Farm?

Within farm laborers, there was a difference in conditions between those workers who ‘lived in’, ie at the farm they worked, and those who were ‘day laborers’ and had their own cottages. Farm servants who ‘lived in’, were usually hired for six months of the year. They were paid their keep, plus a lump sum agreed when hired, at the end of their term of agreement. Most were young, and the vast majority were unmarried.

Do you think Farm workers lifestyles have changed today?


Lace Making


Lace-making was one of the home-making skills that were a major part of a Victorian girl’s education. Most would have been taught sewing, embroidery and dressmaking.
 Women were expected to devote such time as they had to spare from other domestic duties on dressmaking for themselves and their children, altering and mending clothes, crocheting antimacassars, doilies and table-runners, embroidering table-cloths, napkins and tray-cloths, knitting, and making lace for trimming the collars and cuffs of blouses and night-dresses, or for babies’ christening gowns.


What’s your experience of Farm life?…

Living in rural Lincolnshire offers a special way of life for many.Agriculture is such an important way of life and industry for Lincolnshire and has been for many years.For the Victorians Farm Life was an important way of life.

Whats your experience in rural Lincolnshire.Have you lived on a farm?Are you a farmer?Share your experiences and tales of Farm Life!


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