Victorian Etiquette

Victorian lady with beautiful comb

Interested in what Victorian etiquette used to be?

Victorian roses

In Victorian times, having manners and etiquette were as important as being educated.

A person’s etiquette and manners were associated with their status and wealth, as much as the car one drives or house one lives in today.

Victorian Etiquette has its differences and do not wholly apply today, however it is fun to explore the its ways, a refined way of living in a romantic era, where chivalry and gentility were never again as prized and honored.

Basic Victorian Etiquette & Manners:

  • Rising to one’s feet when being introduced, or when someone enters the room.
  • Ladies do a little curtsey and men greet with a bow.
  • Never turn your back on someone. When you have to remove yourself from the attention or presence of someone, to answer a door, look out the window etc, you always asked to be excused.
  • Manners were scrutinized by others and often a talking point in conversations and gossip.

  • The wealthiest and most educated of families greatly emphasized the excellence of manners in education and practice of their family members.

  • Emotions were often hid, especially if they were annoyed. It was habit to assume the best in people and situations. They take this etiquette so seriously their words sound empty because it was the opposite of how they felt. Perhaps that is how sarcarsm originated. 🙂

    In Jane Austen’s novel, “Pride and Prejudice”, Mr Darcy was trying to write a letter but was constantly interrupted by Mr Bingley’s sister. She was very annoying with her barrage of opinions on what he should write. He simply said, (paraphrased) “Do allow me to convey your sentiments to my sister another time, I do not have room (in the letter) to do justice to your words.”

    How completely civil is that? I think most of us would probably go, “Shhh, I’m trying to write!”

    Victorian Etiquette Manners To Increase Marriageability

  • People without manners or bad manners were looked down upon. No one wanted to socialize with them.

    Victorian Etiquette – The Key To A Victorian Woman’s Future

  • Before finishing schools were implemented, the task of ensuring the education and training of their young daughters to become accomplished ladies often fell on the mother’s shoulders.

    They were important because that was a civil way to obtain husbands (by charming them with good manners) and to become good future wives. That was the complete future of their daughters – to gain a husband to take care of them for the rest of their lives. If a daughter remains unmarried, it would be the burden of her household to look after her forever.

    Thus, Victorian Etiquette and Manners became one of the pre-occupation of females during victorian times.

  • It has always been ladies first. Men are trained in victorian etiquette to perform chivalry acts such as offering the lady a hand to go up her carriage. Ladies are never seen opening their own doors in the presence of a man, or carrying anything heavy.
  • It was rude to boast, brag or be pretentious. It was considered vulgar. One should always remain humble.

    Grooming, Part of Victorian Etiquette

    Victorian lady with beautiful comb

    Grooming was of high importance.

    No one came down to their breakfast in pajamas.

    A lady’s hair was always tied up in a chignon, in a bonnet unless she is still very young.

    The ladies always dressed modesty, in good taste and in very feminine colors with beads, laces and ribbons.

    It was frowned upon otherwise.

    Victorian Etiquette Regarding Posture & Poise

    Posture and carriage was of utmost importance.

    Ladies were trained to carry themselves well. They studied their movements, working to be graceful from the way they lift their dress as they cross a step etc. Including, of course, how to stand, sit, walk. How to take the arm of a man escorting them to their next place of destination, eat, speak, greet, dance etc.

    They were taught to have poise, to gesture gently and elegantly. To never be in a hurry or seem flustered.

    Good posture and gracefulness were seen as part of a woman’s beauty.

    How To Be A Lady in a Victorian Etiquette

    Etiquette, ‘How to be a lady’ was considered part of an education of a female.

    In Victorian times, the foundation of female loveliness is a natural beauty. That simply means that a woman’s beauty must be natural, with fair and clear skin due to good health, rosy cheeks due to excitement and a zest for life, interesting eyes due to a sharp, educated mind.

    Dress must be modest in feminine styles and colors are much preferred.

    There was a greater distinction in dress between men and women in Victorian times. There was no room for ambiguity.

    Victorian Etiquette – The Art Of Conversation

    With less options of entertainment in Victorian days compared to modern day, the art of conversation was highly regarded. That was because of their way of entertaining and leisure.

    Their social calendar would include, Afternoon teas, balls and dances, traveling to visit friends and family, going on walks, sports, watching someone paint or draw, hearing someone read or playing the piano. They often had company during those leisure activities. That is also who people develop friendships and acquaintances. If you didn’t converse well, you probably would find yourself with less friends or social invitations etc. I suppose that is how they networked as well.

    Their means of elegant entertaining also were in the forms of hosting teas, balls (parties) and dinners.

    Ladies were judged by their manners on their upbringing. Their manners also reflected their class status, family’s wealth and education. Even though, it wasn’t always accurate. Interestingly, fine manners and etiquette was how shrewd ones deceived their way into marriages of wealthy partners, especially when they have a huge debt to repay. That worked both ways, men and women.
    So, the kind of manners a lady had were judged and determined the level of a man they would be entitled to marry.

    If they do not value their education of victorian etiquette, there was a higher chance they might not get married or will not be able to “marry well”.

    Examples of these are echoed in Jane Austen’s novels, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and Sense and Sensibility.

    Thank you for reading ‘Victorian Etiquette’!

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