Interested in what Victorian etiquette used to be?
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:
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
Victorian Etiquette – The Key To A Victorian Woman’s Future
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.
Grooming, Part of Victorian Etiquette
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.
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.