Westminster Palace and the Lovely Victorians

Now I’m sure you’re thinking: why would “The Stylist” write about old stone palace and archaic fashion? Well, Darling believes that education about architecture and historical eras can broaden our perspective on “style” and “design.” Everything we see has an effect on the way we express our own style, so it’s always beneficial to take in architecture and interior design, past and present trends, colors, shapes, and textures of our world. Plus, learning more about history always makes you a more interesting person! Keeping this in mind, read on and be educated by Kassandra, a stylist who appreciates historical design:

When I think of England a few things come to mind–tea, rainy weather, and Kate Middleton. But two images that stick out most in my mind are Big Ben and the Queen of England–majestic architecture and regal people.

The Palace of Westminster, with the clock tower nicknamed Big Ben, is one of the most famous buildings in England, and also the meeting place of Parliament (the House of Lords and the House of Commons). Consisting of two sections, the Old Palace and the New Palace, it is located on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster.

This historic structure has certainly shown perseverance, surviving many accidents and horrific events throughout its lifetime: fires, bombings, and the collapse of stonework. Most of the Old Palace was burnt down in a tally-stack fire in 1834. Now I know what you are thinking–what on earth are tally-stacks?

Split tallies were wooden tokens used as a form of currency, acting like a 19th century credit card. A stick would be marked distinctively and split in half lengthwise. One piece would than be given to the vendor and one to the debtor, so both individuals would have record of the exchange. The tallies over time lost their function, and thus, were ordered to be burned in the Old Palace. However, the stove fire quickly got out of hand, as you can see depicted below in the painting “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons” (1835) by J.M.W. Turner.

A few years into the planning stages of the re-building of the Palace marked the Victorian Era. This era, ranging from 1837-1901, was named after Queen Victoria and her reign in power. One of the most notable things from this time period was the distinct fashion, often dictated by the Queen herself. Fashion in this era is such a drastic contrast to how we dress today–who doesn’t enjoy wearing a comfy pair of jeans? Yet prior to 1835, women donned great hats. Not long after, these hats went out the window and in came bonnets. Whenever I think of bonnets, I imagine children wearing them, not women. How shocking it would it be if women walked around wearing bonnets in this day and age!

Women’s dresses of the Victorian era were made in two pieces, a bodice and a skirt. The bodice was tight fitting and designed to emphasize small waists. Sleeve styles and lengths were constantly changing; as time went on the bodice turned into a deeper V shape, and the seam lines on sleeves were dropped lower, making it harder for women to move their arms. Crinoline, a beehive shaped support, was introduced during this time to hold up extra petticoats. It is certainly a stretch trying to imagine wearing crinoline or petticoats every day! I believe it would have been a bit of a workout, carrying all that extra weight around. One of the most interesting things to note is that during this era a right and left shoe started to be produced–prior to this time shoes were interchangeable!

Accessories in the Victorian era were certainly fanciful. Parasols were widely popular, and women wore brooches at the collar, small earrings, shawls, gloves and little aprons. How interesting it would have been to live in a time that had specific trends you were required to follow to fit in with society!

It is fascinating to note the history behind the buildings and fashion we have come to love and know today. The gorgeous style of the Palace of Westminster and the Victorian era were rich with excitement and change. So next time you are standing under Big Ben, I hope you recall this history lesson and remember to look for style in more than likely places!

 

Photo Credits:

ishniche.wordpress.com

J.M.W. Turner, “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835)”

vam.ac.uk

betteridge.com

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