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Victorian Fashion for Women: New Rococo and Bustle Periods

As we previously mentioned in “Victorian Era Fashion: Ladies’ Beautiful Clothing of Romanticism,” Victorian fashion has five phases. Following the romantic era we have introduced came the “New Rococo period” (1850-1870) and the “Bustle period” (1870-1890).

Feature Victorian Fashion Women New Rococo & Bustle

New Rococo Period of Victorian Fashion

Maria Alexandrovna by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1857
Maria Alexandrovna by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1857

The New Rococo period was a reflection of the artistic, literary, and cultural movement that began in Western Europe in the 18th century and was influenced by the Industrial Revolution of the 1790s. The ideal upper-class woman was delicate, slightly cynical, fair-skinned, petite, graceful, and charming, considered a “doll” for male admiration. That returned the focus of women’s fashion to the Rococo aesthetic, thus earning its name, “New Rococo period.” Also, it was referred to as the Crinoline era because of the widespread use of crinoline in women’s fashion.


The advent of the crinoline marked a pivotal moment in Victorian fashion during the late romantic period and the early New Rococo period. With the increase in the size of skirts, women found it cumbersome to wear several layers of petticoats. The crinoline, lighter than the multi-layered petticoats of the past, made movement easier and gave women a more slender waistline. The resurgence of the crinoline also led to an increase in decorative elements on skirts.

Victorian Fashion: History of Crinoline

Initially, a crinoline was made of cane or whalebone and supported a flat cloth petticoat. By 1850, the crinoline was slightly elongated, birdcage-shaped, and connected by straps. Around 1860, it featured a slanted pyramid shape with the wheel removed, and only the hem remained. Finally, it transformed into a bustle in the next era.


During the New Rococo period, the characteristics of dresses were mainly on the necklines, sleeves, and skirt embellishments.

Necklines included both high and low necklines. High necklines featured embroidery patterns, front-open collars, and one or two rows of buttons. The use of buttons to secure clothing in Victorian fashion started during this era, moving closer to men’s attire. Low necklines were either square or V-shaped, with lace trim as the border embellishment.

High-Collar Victorian Dress
Etsy: High-Collar Victorian Dress
Victorian Dress with Square Low Neckline & Pagoda sleeves
Etsy: Victorian Dress with Square Low Neckline & Pagoda sleeves

The highly inflated sleeves near the armpit completely disappeared in Victorian fashion from this era. Popular styles included the mutton leg sleeves and the Pagoda sleeve, a type of sleeve shaped like a tower.

With the resurgence of the skirt hoop, the skirt volume increased, and so did the embellishments. These embellishments were typically contrasting colors and included pleats, scallops, tassels, and satin ribbon decoration.


Victorian Cloth Boots
Victorian Cloth Boots
Victorian Creamy Silk Shoes
Etsy: Victorian Creamy Silk Shoes

Just like in the previous period, New Rococo shoes’ basic styles were divided into slippers and cloth boots.

The materials of the slippers were silk and crepe, and their colors matched the skirt attire. Compared with heels in the romanticism period, their heels were higher.

With adjustable designs on the side, women generally wear cloth boots for outdoor streetwear. Again, the heels are higher than during the romanticism period.


During the New Rococo period, two popular styles of false hair were Scalpettes and Frizzettes. At times, ladies would also wrap their hair in silk.

Scalpettes ad on the newspaper
Scalpettes ad on the newspaper

Bustle Period of Victorian Fashion

The 1870 Franco-Prussian War resulted in the establishment of the Third Republic and a shift towards a more practical lifestyle. As a result, the large crinolines disappeared. At the same time, the popularity of bustles returned, influenced by the gorgeous buttocks of Hottentot women in Africa.


Bustle Dress

The bustle dress features two notable characteristics: a back-flounced and a trailing hemline. The bustle formed a 90-degree angle with the back, and the trailing hemline design was common to see in evening gowns and dancewear.

Women's Tailored Suit

Bodice designed by John Redfern & Son, 1880
Bodice designed by John Redfern & Son, 1880

In 1881, John Redfern, one of the first designers designing women’s suits, opened his couture houses in London and Paris. His initial designs, such as the sailing sportswear, were similar to riding outfits, with wide-brimmed skirts that dragged on the ground.

Later, the designs evolved to be more refined and practical. The skirts lifted off the ground. Redfern drew inspiration from men’s clothing to create women’s daywear of equal functionality. His focus on creating suits specifically for women made his brand a leading name in Victorian fashion among high-profile ladies.


In conclusion, the New Rococo and the Bustle period have unique features and styles.

Curvaceous silhouettes, intricate embellishments, elegant shoes, and a revival of Baroque-inspired motifs characterized the New Rococo period.

On the other hand, the Bustle period was defined by its dramatic bustles and women’s tailored suits, offering women stylish and practical options.

The evolution of Victorian fashion was not only a mirror of our improving culture but also a testament to the creativity and resilience of the human spirit.

In the following article, we will introduce the “S” shape body period and the hobble skirt period in Victorian fashion. If you want to learn more about the inheritor of Victorian fashion, the American Gilded Age fashion, here is the dish. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas about fashion ~ We are always here to exchange brilliant thoughts!

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