Fashion designers were in a romantic — and reflective — mood when they unveiled their Spring 2016 collections, many of which contained elements of Victorian fashion-like bustiers, corsets, mutton sleeves and head-to-toe lace (and I mean head-to-toe with not an inch of exposed skin). Suddenly, conservative pieces seem fresh, youthful and hip, unless, of course, you overdo Victorian. Then you’ll just look like a character from Oliver Twist.
There’s a fine line between expressing yourself through dress in order to subtly call back to a bygone era and pay homage to the charming fashions of the Victorian age (which is used to describe the time period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1837 until 1901) and throwing everything Victorian, including the Louis XV sofa and kitchen sink, on your body and hoping you look on point.
With the help of a few fashion experts who know their stuff, here are six tips on how to wear the Victorian clothing trend without looking like you recently arrived here from another century.
1. Choose one Victorian trend and work it in a thoroughly modern way
Stylists Nikoleta and Vicky Lirantonakis of Best Dressed caution against trying on every Victorian trend at once. Instead, zero in on one you absolutely love and pair it with modern pieces for a look that’s all yours. “The traditional ruffle, lace, and floral design of Victorian fashion can be made modern by focusing on one aspect, instead of all three,” Lirantonakis says. “We really love the lace, see-through, high-neck trend with a bold lip. It can be really sexy. Florals are always on trend, especially in the spring. To avoid looking like you time-hopped, keep the look airy and light. The less fabric the better.” (Anthropologie, $420)
2. Express your Victorian style with jewelry
Trendy jewelry and accessories are a commitment-phobe’s dream come true. If you aren’t up for investing in Victorian fashion, Helena Krodel from TrueFacet, an online jewelry retailer, offers five tips on how to make Victorian jewelry work for you:
- Add a cluster of brooches.
- Add one important cameo brooch or necklace. If the cameo looks dated to you, add a black diamond bead necklace to modernize it.
- Layer multitudes of bracelets, beaded and otherwise, in deep dark, sexy colors.
- Try a maroon cocktail ring in blackened sterling silver — it’s a statement piece that is actually very easy to pull off.
- Stick a brooch in your hair. A small sparkly brooch made to look like a hair clip is an unexpected yet special way to update your look this season.
3. Pair a duster coat with slim pants
A duster coat or jacket in a light fabric that flares out at the waist is the perfect Victorian piece to add to your wardrobe this spring because you can, literally, wear it with almost anything you own. “Duster coats can be worn over pants, jeans or dresses,” says BJ Wilson who is owner of BJ Wilson & Company, a wardrobe consulting firm. “Keep pants and jeans slim fitting and narrow at the ankles. Dresses should be short, at or above the knee so as not to compete with the volume of the coat.” (Misguided, $77)
4. Think velvet
A velvet blazer is anything but stuffy. The sexy texture pairs beautifully with a tougher pant, like leather or flared denim — but is also perfectly romantic when thrown on top of a short floral dress. (Misguided, $77)
5. Shoes, shoes and more shoes
The minimalist in you will love the idea of a little black dress or wide black slacks and sweater styled with ornate open heel pumps in a luxe fabric. Bonus: You can get away with wearing the craziest Victorian-style shoes to the office — you can’t say the same for a lace bustier. (Poetic License, $100-$150)
6. A corset and a circle skirt
You may think you can’t wear a corset in public — or in the daytime — but Maria Calautti, master tailor and founder of Le Grand Chic Italia School of Fashion, says otherwise and we’d all be wise to listen. “A daywear corset look is the base that can be paired with a semi-circle or circle skirt (with or without a crinoline), a matching hat and even peplums are a good addition,” Calautti says. The structure of a fitted corset, which cinches the waist, is the ideal piece to complement a full circle skirt — it’s all about playing with proportions and flattering your figure.