Online (and other) Suppliers
Mr. Alan Jeffries - Fine Gentlemen's Apparel (Jeffrey Schoenberg) Everything for the man of distinction, from cloaks to cufflinks, shirts to shoes, collars to cravats. A proper bespoke tailor of fine clothing, offering ready-to-wear and custom-made fashions. Tailoring and alterations available by appointment.
Autumn Adamme's Dark Garden bespoke corsetry: https://www.darkgarden.com/
Peruse examples of Dark Garden's quality designs in "The Windows of Dark Garden" at the Dickens Fair, where strangely lifelike mannequins adorned by custom corsetry beguile the eye. Dark Garden corsets are not currently sold at the Fair; you may visit their sumptuous shop in San Francisco's Hayes Valley to order your own bespoke corsetry for next season!
Timeless Stitches http://www.tstitches.com
Women's dresses, corsets and underpinnings; men's vests pants and shirts.
Cumberland River Sutlery http://www.cumberlandriversutlery.com/
The dresses on this site are approvable with caution. They may have to be refit to your body. The prices are reasonable and they have a good selection of sizes. Go with the day dresses, not ball gowns. Feel free to email the owner with questions prior to ordering.
Gentleman's Emporium https://www.historicalemporium.com/victorian.php
Men's stuff is good. The women's line has improved, but please check with me first before you order anything.
Miss Marissas Bonnets https://www.etsy.com/shop/MissMarissasBonnets
Spoon bonnets in 1850s styles.
Pink Depford Design Studios https://pinkdepford.com/
Liz Martin's Pink Depford Designs provides costuming and alteration services to the San Francisco Bay Area from our studio in Martinez, CA. We specialize in historically accurate, actor friendly costume pieces of exceptional quality.
American Duchess: https://www.american-duchess.com/
Barbara Muran [email protected]
Butterfly Frillies http://www.butterflyfrillies.com
Couture Costume & Corsetry http://couturecostume.com
Dark Garden http://www.darkgarden.com
Timeless Trends http://www.timeless-trends.com/CategoryProductList.jsp?cat=Overbust
432 Clement Street (between 5th & 6th Aves.), San Francisco, CA 94118
Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-6:30pm, Sun 10:00am-6:00pm
146 Geary St., San Francisco CA 94108
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am – 6pm
(Listed by publisher. Out-of-print patterns may be available second-hand on sites such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy.)
3727 - Blue plaid jacket and skirt
2895 - Men's frock coat, shirt and vest (vest will need to have bottom squared off)
Discontinued/Out of Print (patterns may still available thru the Simplicity website, or second-hand on Amazon, eBay or Etsy)
2887 - Green dress
9768 - Corset, chemise & drawers
4900 - Winter white jacket & skirt
5726 - Chemise, corset & petticoat
7215 - Chemise and corset
9761 - Grey striped jacket & 3-tiered skirt
9764 - Hoops
3791 - White with black piping
4737 - Girls' dress and drawers
5442 - Women's summer day dress
7212 - Pink plaid dress
3855 - Red plaid jacket & shirt
4400 - Red plaid civil war day dress
4510 - Burgundy day dress with flounced hem
4551 - Yellow day dress
5023 - Men's Shirt and Trouser
5033 - Mid 19th Century Underwear
5035 - 19th Century Shirt and Trousers
5037 - Mid-19th Century Vest, Braces (Suspenders), and Cap
4745 - (men's uniform pattern... not bad....)
Discontinued/Out of Print (patterns should still available thru the McCall's website, or second-hand on Amazon, eBay or Etsy)
5129 - Bonnet
4890 - Men's vest - straight bottomed only
5132 - Jackets & 2-tiered skirt
4698 - Cape
3609 - Camisole, pantaloons, corset, & hoops
5131 - Girls dress & drawers
5265 - Short cape, bonnet, and muff - the skirt is not full enough for our time range.
Discontinued/Out of Print (patterns should still available thru the Butterick website, or second-hand on Amazon, eBay or Etsy)
5266 - Red coat with black skirt
4210 - Hats - view A & B
3648 - Double-breasted jacket and pants
4540 - Striped dress with front
3993 - Man's caped coat ala Sherlock Holmes
4825 - Working man's shirt
3721 - Vest and cutaway jacket
TSB-100 - Basic Fitted Bodice
TSB-101 - Basic Gathered Bodice
TSB-103 - Tea Bodice
TSB-108 - Wrap Bodice
SB-109 - Basque Bodice
TSB-105 - Zouave Jacket
TSB-120 - Tucked Body
TSB-132 - Sleeves
TSS-201 - Standard Double Opening Skirt
TSS-207 - Ruffled over skirt
TSO-402 - Pelerine Cloak
TSO-404 - Simple Mantle
TSA-525 - Medici Belt
TSD-301 - Two Tiered Tea Dress
TSA-532 - 19th Century Pinafores
TSD-310 - Girl's Basic Dress
TSD-312 - Girl's Yoked Dress
TSM-727 - Men's Civilian Trousers
https://www.trulyvictorian.net/ (Available locally at Lacis in Berkeley)
TV141 - Cage Crinoline
TV240 - 1860s Ball Gown Skirt
TV243 - 1843 Tablier Skirt
TV244 - 1859 Double skirt
TV246 - 1851 Petal Ballgown skirt
TV440 - 1859 Pagoda Bodice
TV441 - 1861 Garibaldi Blouse
TV443 - 1860-61 dress bodices
TV456 - 1856 Gathered dress
#100 - Ladies' Victorian Underwear - 2 Corsets, chemise, and drawers -
Liz's favorite corset pattern
#111 - Ladies Early 1860s Day Dress
#114 - Ladies' Round Dresses - 1840s-1852
#106 - California Pants
#107 - Men's Victorian & Edwardian Shirt (1845-1920)
#109 - Men's Frock Coats & Two Vests (1850 - 1915)
REVISED: Now Includes Single-Breasted version
Caveat: READ the directions carefully on these patterns. They often give directions to hand-sew the entire garment and use very small seam allowances. Many thanks to Alexandria for the reviews of these patterns. http://www.pastpatterns.com/1850.html
700 - 1850-1862 Fashionable Skirt
701 - 1850-1867 Gathered and Fitted Bodices
Nice - the bodice lines are wonderful for us. Challenge beginner - intermediate skills.
702 - 1850s-1863 Dart Fitted Bodices. Good lines, nice sleeves that are not over the top.
Fit in the shoulder and armscye is key to this looking good.
Works well with skirt 700 or 800.
703 - 1863 Dayton's Skirt Supporting Corset. A good corset pattern.
Advanced intermediate challenge.
705 - Early-to Mid-Nineteenth Century Stays. Can be side boned or corded.
Yes, that is a maternity corset. I wore this pregnant at Dickens and was very happy
with the comfort it provided my belly.
706 - 1850s-1860s Drawers. Good basics, a beginner can make them.
Also a great place to perfect your tucking skills.
707 - Two Chemises 1850-1870. Advanced beginner challenge.
708 - 1840s - 1880s Corset: Good pattern - it takes a bit of fiddling to get the gores to look
pretty. Nice fit especially if you have a lot of hipspring.
Larger bust sizes require extra boning.
709 - 1850s-Late 1860s Garibaldi Shirt: My favorite Garibaldi pattern. Advanced beginner -
intermediate skills. The sleeves are very full.
800 - 1840- 1850 Flounced or Single Skirt
801 - 1840- 1850 Fan Front Bodice. Awesome look - good for those with a short waist
hoping to look a bit more elongated. Intermediate challenge - the gathers are easy,
make sure that the armscye has a good fit. As it closes in the back, either a friend to help
with fittings or a good dress form is essential.
803 - Mid Nineteenth Century Everyday Round Dress. Comfortable! Making a muslin is
essential to getting a flattering fit at the waist and bust.
Great for lower class striving character.
808 - Sacque and Petticoat. Yes, this is a great line for the Expecting. Easy intermediate.
812 - A Sheer Muslin Dress Circa 1858-1864. Amazing amount of historical background
included. Nice lines. Fitting required!
006 - 1800-1890s Men's Drawers: Easy and very period for those who want to be comfortable
even in their wool trousers
007 - Two Mid-Nineteenth Century Shirts: Sized up to 50"chest, intermediate skills.
009 - Double-Breasted Summer Paletot:great look - not just for summer. Appropriate with
lighter weight wools and most linens. Extra extra yardage to match plaids.
016 - Men's Winter Trousers with or without Foot Straps: Circa 1843-1856.
Intermediate skills. Test your plaid matching skills.
018 - A Single-Breasted Shawl Collar Summer Waistcoat for Plain or Formal Dress:
Fashionable Circa 1845 to 1858. Not just for summer - pick a lighter weight festive
cloth for our Christmas festivities. A skilled beginner could complete this.
710/713 - Classic Plain-Cut Summer Trousers of the Mid-19th Century 1851-
The first is for most regular sizes, the second big and tall. Great look for Dickens,
intermediate sewing skills.
PF0222 - Vintage Vests - https://www.folkwear.com/products/222-vintage-vests?variant=35454321102
Another resource is the Great pattern Review at the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild: http://www.gbacg.org/great-pattern-review/index.html
for discussions on the level of skill needed to construct the patterns.
Places to buy Patterns, Fabric & Trims
Brick & Mortar Shops
Fabrics-R-Us - San Jose
Stone Mountain & Daughter - Berkeley
Lacis - Berkeley
Thrift Shop Costuming & Children
Thrift stores are excellent for finding clothing for middle or lower class characters that can be adapted to the Victorian silhouette with a small amount of sewing. Please review the general costume guidelines and other sections before you venture out on your shopping trip.
When at all possible, choose natural fabrics, not polyester or nylon. Look in all sections for either gender! Ask a veteran to take you shopping - their experience can be invaluable in identifying things that can be made to work. Don't wait until fall to start looking - spring and summer are great times to find winter clothing. Scarves, shawls, and gloves are often far more plentiful in the warm months than in the fall or winter. Remember that the Dickens Fair takes place on Christmas Eve in London. Our color palette is that of rich, jewel-toned colors. Have fun hunting!
- Shoes - Lace-up boots are the best; however, keep the heels as low as possible. Anything over 1-1/2" is not comfortable for all-day wearing on concrete, and is not period. Mary Janes and ballet flats are also acceptable.
- Check the sleepwear section or summer sleeveless shirts for chemises, drawers, and corset covers.
- Chemises can be made from a nightgown sewn up the front with the buttons removed so they're not digging in under your corset.
- Pajama pants can be shortened and have a little lace sewn to the bottoms to make drawers. You may also want to remove the crotch seam so that it is easier to use the privies in your corset and hoops.
- Plain, white cotton, high-necked, long-sleeved blouses that button up either the front or back are great. They should have either a peter pan collar or be collarless. Sleeves should have fullness to them and narrow cuffs. Stay away from the styles that resemble turn-of-the-century clothing (lots of lace, lace that comes to a V in front, or blouses with lots of fullness where the shoulder seam and sleeve meet). Don't forget to check the men's section for plain white shirts as well.
- A women's suit jacket can be turned into a fashionable Zouave jacket (email Liz Martin for directions).
- Wool hats can be cut and steamed into shape as an acceptable bonnet. Look for knitted or crocheted shawls. Large lace doilies make great day caps to be worn under your bonnet - just add ribbon and some small silk flowers. (Look for flowers other than poinsettias, which scream "American!") And remember your gloves!
- Shoes - Round-toed lace up dress shoes are relatively easy to find in thrift stores. Half boots with elastic on the side are period and look very nice with a tapered pant leg.
- Choose baggy, flat fronted pants (go one or 2 sizes up from what you normally wear), taper the legs, press out the center front crease, remove or lower the cuffs, remove the belt loops and replace with suspender buttons. Add a set of braces or suspenders to create the look. For our time period, the waistline was above the navel, so choosing pants a little larger will give you more room in the crotch to wear them higher. Plaids, houndstooth and tweeds add texture to your outfit.
- Buy an old vest and square off the bottom by folding under the points - make sure it is long enough to overlap the top of your pants by a full two inches. Vests and pants do not have to match. You can wear a plaid with a tweed and never fear of hassle by the fashion police.
- Adapt long-sleeved white dress shirts by cutting off the fold-over collar right at the top and finishing off the edge. At this time, the body of the shirt and the cuffs and collar of the shirts were the same color. If you are portraying a tradesman or laborer, consider a plaid shirt in muted colors.
- An old woolen overcoat can become either a sack coat or a frock coat with clever adjustments. Men also wore shawls to keep out the cold. Look in the scarf area for long rectangular pieces for use as neckwear.
Keep in mind that both boys and girls dressed very closely to the way their parents dressed.
- Boys: Women's suit jackets often make excellent jackets for young boys. If it's a full suit (jacket and skirt/pants) see if the pants can be made to fit the young one, or turn the skirt into a vest. Women's blouses can be used for shirts for young men as well.
- Girls: Full-skirted dresses (lots of pleats or gathering at the waist) are great for adapting to skirts or petticoats for girls. Remember that the length of a young girl's skirt is determined by her age - the older the girl, the longer the skirt - from just below the knee for a 4 year old, to ankle length for a 16 year old. Pantaloons/drawers would definitely show below the skirts.
Footwear & Headwear
Although you may “come as you are” or throw on a “Topper” or bonnet and shawl to get in the spirit, performers and shopkeepers at the Dickens Christmas Fair have a strict set of costuming rules given to follow. Adherence to these guidelines is one of the keys to creating the authentic feel of the Fair in producing that perfect period picture we call Dickens’ London. This allows you, merry traveler, to determine a passer-by’s social class by his or her style of clothing. If you wish to become a part of that picture, here are a few more tips on how to approach the ideally-dressed image of a Victorian woman or man.
Women's Shoes & Boots
The Victorian Era is almost mythically known for proper etiquette in behavior and dress. Women’s “lower limbs” were kept completely covered by long skirts and crinolines, and ankle boots came into fashion as a way to avoid glimpses of these off-limits appendages. The tops of boots might be decorated with bows or tassels to be tantalizingly glimpsed under a demurely flouncing skirt. (Interestingly enough, this prudery concerning the lower limbs was often balanced by the revealing necklines of fashionable ball gowns.)
- Footwear Trivia: Interestingly, social pressure to conceal the lower extremities mixed with desire for fashion-consciousness, causing a surge of what is called “shoe and foot related pornography” in London. It was at this time that Baron Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whence we originate the word masochism, penned Venus in Furs, in which he wrote of experiences with his mistress in which he allowed her to whip and walk on him before kissing the shoes that had caused him pain. This notorious book also inspired the tune by the same name by the Velvet Underground.
Trivia aside, a full day’s walk through Victorian London at the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls can be taxing if one chooses to adhere to the female fashion norm in London during this era: narrow-toed boots in the smallest size possible, to give the impression of extremely tiny, dainty, feminine feet.
Small heels were added to boots the late 1840s and 1850s, and to slippers between 1860 and 1865, so it’s perfectly appropriate to walk about the Fair in flats or heels, square toes or round, to suit your comfort level and fashion tastes. Our most valuable suggestion? Wear cushioned insoles!!!
For photos of actual ladies footwear from the era, check out this Pinterest page about mid-19th century shoes.
Men's Shoes & Boots
In Victorian times, it was said you could judge the caliber of a man by the boots he wore. Men's footwear at the time was very formal and conservative, and the short ankle boot took prominence in fashion; half-boots (calf-length) or knee-length boots were worn mainly for riding, and generally not for strolling the streets of town.
Quite popular in this era was the Chelsea Boot; Charles Goodyear's development of vulcanized rubber enabled Sparkes-Hall, bootmakers to Queen Victoria, to invent the elastic-gusset boot in 1837 (source: Wikipedia). The advantage of elasticized boots was that they could be easily pulled on and off, which appealed to the busier and more demanding lifestyles of Victorian men and women during the Industrial Revolution. However, in the 1850s, elastic-sided boots were joined in popularity by those with lacing on their inner sides.
Wellington boots (worn for riding or mucking about in the country) were named after the Duke of Wellington. He designed them to be worn in cavalry warfare (the top of the boot originally came over the knee to mitigate knee-wounds in soldiers), but they became quite popular with the sports-and-fashion-minded male set.
Lastly, lace-up ankle-length boots, known as Paddock boots, were worn by fashion-conscious gentlemen who also wished to be known for their equestrian skills. Whether on horseback or in the streets (but never at a formal event!), these were the highbrow boots of choice.
A last note: many of these styles have survived to modern times and may be found in modern form at many a local retailer—do some web research, and then enjoy shopping!
Women's Hats & Bonnets
Woman in Flowered Bonnet
- MET Collection
Large elaborate "great hats," popular prior to Victoria’s time, were replaced during her reign by the smaller and more modest bonnet. Most bonnets were made of straw (light, and easy to shape and color). They were lined and had wide brims to protect delicate faces from the sun. Trimmings were elaborate and were changed every season. Frugal ladies often did their own trimming, adding and subtracting flowers, ribbons and other tasteful ornaments and seasonal frills. Bonnet shapes, however, did not vary tremendously, and might remain in vogue for a decade or more (search on Google to see cottage and round, coal-scuttle, and spoon bonnet shapes).
A key clothing element of the time was the Victorian morning cap, which was worn at home, or a more highly decorated/frilled version which would be worn underneath a bonnet outdoors. Interestingly enough, the term “widow’s peak” came from the customary design of caps worn by women who had lost their husbands. Popularized by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, these were sewn to form a point or “peak” above the center of the forehead.
- Kate Tattersall - Early Victorian Women's Hats Part 1: Concerning bonnets
Men's Hats & Caps
Like other Victorian wear, hats were available in a various styles (https://www.historicalemporium.com/victorian.php). Pictured below are some examples of popular men’s hats of Dickens’ time.
Top hats were a must for parties and formal events, but were also worn as daywear by the turned-out gentleman. These “toppers” grew taller over decades, eventually developing into the true “stovepipe” shape.
A variety of other hat shapes were popular: soft-crowned hats, some with wide brims, were worn for country pursuits. The bowler hat was invented in 1850, but remained primarily a working-class accessory, not worn by “gents” until much later. A variety of other hat styles persisted, including the wide-brimmed “wide-awake” style and the flat-topped “porkpie,” both of which were seen throughout the Victorian period.
|1850s Silk Top Hat:
Image courtesy of Joan L. Severa,
Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900, 1995
|1850s Soft Felt Hat:
Image courtesy of Joan L. Severa
Very tall, straight-sided, cream-colored, soft felt hats such as the one at the right were popular during the early 1850s.
|1850s Casual Sea Cap and Railroad Cap: Image courtesy of Joan L. Severa
Sea caps and railroad caps were popular with men and boys for casual attire.
To top it all off -- have fun with your costume adventure into Victorian dress norms!
To get dressed, you will need these essentials:
- Waistcoat (vest - long enough to cover the waistband of the pants by 1-2")
- Trousers (high-waisted, no cuffs, no pleats, no belt loops) worn with suspenders, not a belt
- A hat (top hat or bowler)
- A good pair of boots/shoes that are period and comfortable enough to stand on cement all day
- Dark socks
- A coat
Additionally, you may wish to add a pocket watch with a chain, a handkerchief, a walking stick, and a second shirt.
Trousers can be well-fitted (straight legged), thick corduroy or wool, plain in color or in checks and plaids. Waistcoats (vests) should overlap your pants at the waist and be squared off at the bottom. There are three basic coat styles that work well for the Dickens Fair: the morning coat, frock coat, and sack coat.
Shirts can be white, colored, or striped. Collars were smaller than those of today and sometimes turned up. Cravats (neck ties) were colorful, and could be tied many different ways. Aprons and shawls (yes, men wore them too) go far to cover up costume sins and are perfect for tradesmen, clerks, and vendors.
Top hats, snap brims, walking sticks, and pocket watches with chains will complete your ensemble.
The men's basic shirt is similar in almost all respects to the modern white dress shirt. The collar was part of the shirt and was worn turned up, with the cravat tied over it and the collar points sometimes turned down at the corners over the cravat.
Trouser styles vary depending on the decade, though throughout our period the waistlines were high, typically above the navel. In the 1840s they were narrow and tapered inward down to the instep with a strap going under the foot.
In the 1850s the strap disappeared and trousers became a little looser, though still snug to the leg. In the 1860s the "peg-top" trousers, wide at the top and tapering to the ankles, became fashionable. Formal evening trousers were always black, though for formal day wear they were usually a color that contrasted with the coat with white, fawn, and pale gray being the favored colors. For more casual wear (and for the more flamboyant), striped, check, and plaid fabrics were used.
DO NOT wear trousers that are flared, bell-bottomed, cuffed, or have visible pockets in the back.
Waistcoats (today called vests) were often the most colorful or lavishly trimmed part of a gentleman's attire. In the 1840s it was most often single-breasted; the double-breasted style became more popular in the 1850s and 60s.
The waistcoat was cut straight across the bottom and came a little below the natural waistline. It had at least two pockets, sometimes three or four. The collar and lapel were sometimes cut as one, sometimes separate with the usual notch between.
Waistcoats were made of wool (both tweed and plaid), satin, brocade (embroidered or plain), or velvet (often the cut or figured type).
Styles included the frock coat, sack coat, morning coat, and tail coat.
The tail coat was most popular exclusively for evening wear so should be avoided for Dickens Fair, and the sack coat was considered suitable only for informal wear.
Capes & Outer Coats
All men wore overcoats and capes at night and in inclement weather. Short capes were worn for traveling or country wear. Modern overcoats are very similar to the Victorian model.
Hair & Facial Hair
Men wore their hair shorter in the mid-century than they had previously. The clean-shaven look of the Regency was out, and moustaches, mutton-chop sideburns, Piccadilly Weepers, full beards, and Van Dykes were the order of the day. Remember that all modern hairstyles and colors must be covered. Consider wearing your hair in a different style or manner. You will be surprised how much it can help you assume your character!
Men usually wore some kind of head covering when out-of-doors. The top hat was the style favored by gentlemen; the derby hat or cloth cap was favored by the lower classes.
- Men's shoes were most often ankle boots. Gentlemen's stockings were knee length and almost universally black.
- Gloves were worn by gentlemen and were wrist-length, buttoned at the wrist, and made of kid or other soft leather.
- Gentlemen carried pocket watches on a chain in a watch pocket in the waistcoat.
- Cravats were worn over a gentlemen's turned-up collar.
- Other accessories included umbrellas, canes, walking sticks, mufflers, aprons, sleeve protectors, and handkerchiefs.
Pictures/text from Victorian Costuming, Volume I: 1840 to 1865, © Other Times Productions.