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The British Newspaper Archive

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Victorian casual clothes

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Paul Barton, Special Agent

Paul Barton, Special Agent Report 5 Jun 2013 11:15

I have a lovely picture of a Victorian family in a studio group portrait. What makes it special is that instead of being dressed up in Sunday Best, they are wearing very casual clothes and it makes me realise that almost all the portraits we see from that era are highly posed and not representative of day to day life.

The children in the picture are wearing chunky pullovers and mum is wearing a cardigan. The kids are actually barefoot! This is not about poverty because they are a middle-class family - it's clearly a deliberate intention to create the most natural, intimate image. It's delightful.

It's set me thinking, though. We just don't think of our ancestors in casual gear because almost nobody wanted to be photographed in their day-to day clothes. I have in the past come across similar pictures, but they are rare. On one of the Victorian photo websites I once saw a beautiful young woman from the 1890's wearing a finely woven thin high-knecked jersey with a vey thin belt. She looked more like a 'Sloane' from the 1980's.

I feel sure that woollens of all sorts were widely worn by the middle classes but were not regarded as suitable for portrait photographs.