Monday, 13 January 2014

What Being a 'Neo-Victorian' Means To Me

I use the term Neo-Victorian as a loose descriptor of my interests. Although they do not all fit inside the exact Victorian era, most of them are Historical and my main inspiration in fashion and literature steams from around the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian era. In Wikipedia, Neo-Victorian is described an aesthetic movement which amalgamates Victorian and Edwardian sensibilities with modern technologies, so it fairly closely describes my interests without going into too much detail. of course, terms like this never fully define anyone. Most of all I don't let descriptors define me and feel free to like whatever I like.

Loving the past does not mean I have to like all aspects of the past, like the roles of women or racist attitudes, but it means I can pick all the things I like and make them a part of my modern day life, to make it a little more romantic.

Some of the Things I like from the past:
  •  The clothes
  • 'Paying calls'
  • Calling cards
  • Always being dressed in your best in case people come to call or you meet someone in the street
  • Being polite. I love good manners. Let's face it, most of the time in life, just being nice to people helps make things a little more pleasant. I am glad to say I do still see instances of this around. When someone greets you politely, or holds the door, or gives up their seat, or runs to stop a bus for you, it is always nice to see that chivalry is not dead.
  • Using language more descriptively, instead of the current slang and abbreviations. There is something very beautiful about someone who can express themselves eloquently.
  • The pastimes- picnics, balls, etc. I love events where you can dress up, and really get to talk to people. I actually met a large number of my friends at picnics.
  • The writers- Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Mary Shelley especially.
  • I enjoy subtle humour, instead of the slapstick and gross-out humour that leave me feeling faintly ill. It has often been said that I have a rather old English sense of humour, although I do also have a liking for very dark humour. For example I love the sense of humour in some of Byron's poems, such as the one about youths being encouraged to mumble recitations at school,that still applies nowadays (Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination) and his very cheeky, but still nicely subtle poem about not wanting to meet up with his lover in a garden as it is too cold ('To A Lady Who Presented to the Author a Lock of Hair Braided with his Own, and Appointed a Night in December to Meet Him in the Garden'). I also enjoyed laughing over all the foibles of human nature in Emma, and thinking about how thoroughly they still reflect people of today.
  • Lack of coarse language- I miss the days when damn was a rather rude and cheeky thing to say! I still think it has a nice ring to it. Yes, I do swear when I hurt myself, or when my sewing is going wrong, but I think there is a time and a place. And if you are using f--- every second word, you should probably be trying to find some other words to replace it. 
  • Making your own clothes- it is really hard to learn nowadays, if I didn't have family who sew and some small skills from when I was younger, I would not be doing it now, and I am still not that good, I certainly cannot work without a pattern!
  • Imaginative insults- e.g. coxcomb, Shakespeare had some pretty amazing insults too. Not to mention the charming Victorian slang.
  • The architecture- Gothic Architecture, Queen Anne style houses, Art Deco. I don't know much about architecture, but I love all things that are old and beautifully decorated. I am not a fan of minimalism.
  • Gothic literature- my favourite genre saw its first rush of popularity during the Regency era, an era for which I have more and more love.
I enjoy classical music, piano music, opera, librettos like Gilbert and Sullivan's music, Celtic music, 20s music, some 50s music, The Parlour Trick, Dreamchild, Edith Piaf, Tom Waits, David Bowie, 80s New Wave and Goth and sad ethereal modern Gothic like Nox Arcana, and Black Tape for a Blue Girl, some beautiful surreal music like Agnes Obel, and musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Sweeney Todd.

Obviously Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, faery inspired, Steampunk.

I am working on the concept of a 'modern Victorian' and 'modern Edwardian' wardrobe, which means clothes I can wear in everyday life that emulate the style I love and feel most at home in. This means cottons, and things like ankle length hemlines, no trains, no corsets, etc.

Poe, Keats, Byron, Baudelaire, Algernon Blackwood, Carmilla, Dracula, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, the Brontes, Dickens, Jane Austen, modern Urban Fantasy and Magical Realism such as Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link, all rounders (Science Fiction, Gothic etc) like Ray Bradbury, classic science fiction, fairytales and Russian folk tales to name just a few

I love Art Deco, the Surrealists, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and other Pre-Raphaelite inspired artists, modern surreal/ magical art, Renoir, Monet, Caspar David Friedrich, JMW Turner. The list goes on.

I love anything with a classic Gothic feel like Bram Stoker's Dracula and Kenneth Branaugh's Frankenstein, although spooky things scare me as I have a strong imagination. I also love magical movies like Inkspell, Stardust, Coraline and Hogfather. I love movies based on Historical Literary characters, like Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin. I also enjoy foreign films, especially strange surreal ones. Musicals like Sweeney Todd and  BBC costume dramas. I have an annoying habit of pausing DVDs to take screenshots and photos of outfits.


  1. That's a lovely post about you, dear! :)

  2. Art Deco. Absolutely yes.
    This way of thought suits you very naturally, at least I couldn't really picture you in a completely modern 'up-to-date' state of being. ('Modern' is an abomination and all about illusions if you ask me. Mankind has walked a road far too long away from our true essence. And if something can be called a sin, surely it is to deny yourself the pleasure - the virtue - the bliss of being who you are, your true self just to fit in a hologram projection they cast upon you... Surely, it would be a crime to the world to deny the true form from the world. Hrm. So much of Pathos!)

  3. Hmmm, I like a lot of those things as well, but I hadn't realized so many came from the Victorian/Regency/Edwardian periods. That does make sense, though.

    Do you really pay calls, with calling cards??? I've always wanted to do that, but don't have anyone to go with me or to call on, as most of my friends and family live too far away. :-( I am sorely tempted to order cards, anyway, though, just in case!

    1. Unfortunately I haven't ever really paid calls with calling cards, nowadays we don't really want people to turn up without warning, when our houses are messy etc. which is one of the reasons, I think, that I like the idea of this tradition. I loved in Cranford how the ladies had a time of day they waited for people to pay calls. Or in Little Women (or was it Good Wives?), Jo paying calls with Amy and telling embarrassing stories about her. I would love to have some calling cards, perhaps little ones like business cards but with a pretty border and design. Apparently some artists use them now and have all different designs, like swap cards. So my artist friends tell me.

    2. It was "Little Women", wonderful book! :-)

      Victorian Trading Co. has lovely calling cards, and silver-plated card cases, too, I believe! I've been considering ordering some and using them as "personal" business cards, since I believe they are the same size. But I think the smallest amount you can order at a time is 500, which I think is a bit much!

  4. A wonderful explanation of what Neo-Victorian means to you. I think infusing what you like about the present with the best from the past is a lovely idea.

    I don't like gross-out humour either. It makes me cringe. I definitely prefer the clever and witty over clumsy, often mean-spirited, shock comedy. I also like that sort of silly, "innocent" humour of the sixties Addams Family... lots of puns and whatnot, but always done with a certain elegance and style. :)

  5. Lovely way to live, my dear!! You look awesome too ;)

  6. Wonderful to read your philosophy, so well put.
    I am often troubled by the view an outfit (and hence, an individual) is 'Steampunk' after simply slapping on goggles and a raygun. Sure those elements are fun, but they have become caricatures rather than being items necessary to a way of life.

  7. I loved reading all these things about you Laura, and when you were talking about how you'd like to dress it made me think of these two patterns. Which you probably already know about but in case you don't... :o)

    1. Thank you, I don't think I do know that site! The Artistic Tea Gowns are wonderful! I love the Pre-Raphaelites, so one of them would be a great project in the future, when I get a bit better at sewing.... well, maybe a lot better! :P

  8. Love it all. Every time I watch Little Women, I clean my house. Laughing. But I really love the romanticism of the period. That's why I read Gothics! Wonderful post.

  9. Very good and interesting points, some of them are the same as why I love larping, feels like travelling back to medieval times! I wish I had a timemachine and could go back and live the Victorian era, imagine to get to see all the clothing and how people communicated for real <3 LOVE victorian movies!

  10. I'm pretty sure we like all the same things :) :P

  11. I really liked this post.
    And sigh, indeed, so many lovely things that we lack today..

  12. Gross out humour is awful. The worst thing about it is that people often confuse it with dark humour.

    Really lovely post. :) I think that you are the best kind of Neo-Victorian: you're knowledgeable about it, but never elitist. :)