The Southern Census

Ladies' Attire

The clothing in this section is divided into day wear and formal wear, and then sub-divided into single and married women within those categories. The difference between a married woman and a single woman is told through her clothes, an important signal in the Victorian era.

Day Wear

A single woman of the upper class dresses carefully for the day. If she is to recieve visitors, entertain or go out later in the day for shopping or visiting, her attire will reflect this. Her dress will be of silk or muslin, and of delicate colours. For example, an appropriate day dress for a maiden lady going visiting would be a white muslin with china blue flowers printed across it and a sash of china blue at her waist. The style of the gown depends on how fashion foreward a woman is. If she is old fashioned, or simply likes the style, a lady will dress with hoops and crinolines, creating the typical Southern Belle look. If she is fashionable, and rich enough to do so, she will begin to use bustles instead. However, in this rp, it is more a matter of personal preference than anything, and whatever you, as the player, feels most comfortable with. The neckline of a day dress is rarely low, especially if worn for visiting or shopping. For example, in Gone With the Wind, Scarlett donned a white muslin dress with green print for the barbeque at Twelve Oaks. The neckline was daringly low, and Mammy complained that "a lady don' show her busom before three o'clock." This is an accurate statement, and one I hope will be remembered. If a young lady is to attend a function such as a barbeque that begins in the morning, she will have a high neck. If it begins in the mid to late afternoon, more skin may be shown.

To make colour matching easy, here is a list of colours that the Victorians felt worked well together.
Harmonising Colours

  • Blue and white.
  • Blue and straw colour.
  • Blue and gold.
  • Blue and chestnut.
  • Blue and brown.
  • Blue and black.
  • Crimson and drab.
  • Crimson and gold.
  • Crimson and orange.
  • Crimson and maize.
  • Crimson and purple.
  • Green and scarlet.
  • Green and gold.
  • Green and yellow.
  • Lilac and gold.
  • Purple and gold.
  • Red and gold.
  • Red and white.
  • Red and grey.
  • White and scarlet.
  • White and crimson.
  • White and cherry.
  • White and pink.
  • White and gold.

Quite a list. Generally, use your common sense when it comes to matching colours, and when in doubt, white works with anything. When staying at home, the dresses are usually linen or cotton, and rather plain. Sometimes calicos are used, but this is uncommon.

Married women follow the same rules for how richly they dress, but the colours are different. Married women generally wear softer, less vibrant colours, such as lavender, dove grey, cherry blossom pink. This isn't as important in day wear as it is in formal attire. Married women generally wear their hair pinned up, usually rather severely, and their clothing choices are more functional than unmarried ladies.

All women should wear hats or bonnets when outside as well as gloves. Hair is pinned up when a girl debutes, usually around age 15 or 16.

Formal Wear

Women's formal wear is one of my favourite things to describe because with an accomplished mantua maker, a woman could have almost any kind of dress she desires. This is where the distinction between unmarried ladies and married ladies becomes crystal clear.

An unmarried woman will wear vibrant colours in rich fabrics, taffetta, damask, satin, silk and broacades. Her neckline is very low, and the sleeves are often off the shoulder to emphasise her creamy skin. The trim of her gown is often complimentary, and occassionally, jewels or thread of gold or silver is used, if a woman can afford it. The entire purpose of a young lady's dress at a formal event is to attract the attention of a potential suitor. She is a rose, and he, the honeybee. Her vibrant colour serves as a lure.

Married women do not need this bait, as it were. They usually wear subdued colours and higher necks. They fade into the background at all times, for balls are the realm of young ladies. However, this is falling out of fashion around this time, as young brides still wish to wear the vibrant colours of their youth, and often do.

Jewellery is an important indicator of wealth and status. Married women only wear their engagement and wedding rings, and occasionally earbobs. Young women wear the full gamut of jewels if their family can afford it. Diamonds are reserved for only the wealthiest of families. Sapphires, emerald and rubies fall onto the next tier, followed by garnets, pearls, aquamarines, peridot, tourmaline and amethyst. If jewels are to be worn in the hair, they are mounted on combs or tiaras. Flowers are often seen in the hair, moreso than gems. The hair itself is always worn up for dancing, or in ringlets. Pretty much any creation one would wear to Prom now is acceptable.

Wedding Attire

What a bride wears is detirmined by the season of her wedding and where it is to be held. All weddings at this point in time are considered formal affairs, so the fabrics used reflect this. Here are some guidelines:

Indoors/Church: High necks, long, cathedral trains (think Princess Diana's train).
Outdoors: Lower necks, shorter trains.
Spring: Lighweight silk or satin. Lace trim in abundance.
Summer: Lightweight silk. If indoors, satin or silk. Moderate lace trim.
Fall: Heavier silks and satins, damask, taffetta. Minimal lace used for trim.
Winter: Satin, damask. Occasionally lace is used.


Crepe, crepe, crepe. That's pretty much what mourning boils down to. Everything is black for the first 6 months up until the second year, depending on the depth of mourning. Heavy veils of crepe are worn, and all dresses are made of matte fabric of black. The mourning customs of the Victorian era are complicated to navigate, and if someone finds their character in a situation calling for mourning, it is better that you email me so that I may explain the customs as dictated for your character's particular situation.

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