Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty

Historical Nonfiction

About the Book

What did a Victorian lady wear for a walk in the park? How did she style her hair for an evening at the theatre? And what products might she have used to soothe a sunburn or treat an unsightly blemish? Mimi Matthews answers these questions and more as she takes readers on a decade-by-decade journey through Victorian fashion and beauty history.

Women’s clothing changed dramatically during the course of the Victorian era. Necklines rose, waistlines dropped, and Gothic severity gave way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings. Sleeves ballooned up and skirts billowed out. The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-moulded corsets cinched women’s waists ever tighter.

As fashion was evolving, so too were trends in ladies’ hair care and cosmetics. An era which began by prizing natural, barefaced beauty ended with women purchasing lip and cheek rouge, false hairpieces and pomades, and fashionable perfumes made with expensive spice oils and animal essences.

Using research from nineteenth century beauty books, fashion magazines, and ladies’ journals, Mimi Matthews brings the intricacies of a Victorian lady’s toilette into modern day focus. In the process, she gives readers a glimpse of the social issues that influenced women’s clothing and the societal outrage that was an all too frequent response to those bold females who used fashion and beauty as a means of asserting their individuality and independence.

Buy the Book


“It is extremely difficult to walk the tightrope between a book for the casual reader and a detailed reference for writers, but Mimi Matthews has done it! Illustrated with period fashion plates and broken down into chapters covering decades, specialty clothes, cosmetics, and hairdressing, A VICTORIAN LADY’S GUIDE TO FASHION AND BEAUTY is an elegant resource that I will be reaching for again and again.”

– Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

“Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, Mimi Matthews’ A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty is indispensable to anyone interested in the era. Whether you’re curious about scandalous cosmetics, intricate hair styles, or the countless challenges posed by enormous crinolines, this book will give you intriguing insight into the perils–and delights–these women faced in their quest to be fashionable.”

– Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author

“Very nicely illustrated throughout, ‘A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty’ is arguably Mimi Matthew’s best historical treatise/history to date and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library English Victorian History & Culture collections and supplemental studies reading lists.”

– Midwest Book Review

“This is a lovely book, absolutely filled with details: split between the decades, it’s a must-buy for anyone who has an interest in the history of fashion. It also gives an insight on the lives of women and how the pressure to look a certain way is no different to what we put up with now…Easy to dip in and out of and packed with fascinating research, this is an essential for all Victorian women and twenty-first century readers.”

– The Kissed Mouth

“There is no doubt that Victorian fashions are among the most elegant and fascinating of all the various periods in British history. Mimi’s book lays bare the secrets of how well-heeled Victorian ladies prepared themselves for social gatherings and engagements. Full of beautiful illustrations and a very readable text. Superb.”

– Books Monthly

“For all those who are interested in the evolution of Victorian women’s fashion and the often secret beauty rituals of the age, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book…those rich descriptions of what people wear in nineteenth century romance novels have come alive for me after reading Matthews work, and I can start to appreciate historical period dramas on a whole new level. This book has really enriched my experience of nineteenth century culture.”

– My Inner Victorian

“Beautifully illustrated and well researched, Mimi Matthews book, A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, will tell you everything you wanted to know about fashions of this time period.”

–  he Geeky Bibliophile

“An incredibly approachable reference book…This will be a bible not only for lay enthusiasts but for professionals like historical recreationists, as well as film and theater costume consultants.”

– Royalty B., NetGalley

“Instructive and enchanting together: the incredible variety of fashions and styles of the Victorian period are clearly explained, and the wonderful fashion illustrations enrich an already splendid volume in itself.”

– Sara, NetGalley (translated from Italian)

“A thorough study of the world of fashion and beauty in the higher classes of Victorian society…Not only does Matthews describe the fashion and beauty trends (hairstyles and cosmetics) of the decade, but she also explains the reasons for changes and what was going on in history at the time. Yet she manages to keep the whole thing entertaining and light despite basically bombarding you with interesting information…This is definitely a book I will eventually purchase so I can keep a hard copy at home.”

– Camille, NetGalley

The Details

Published: July 30, 2018
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Formats: EbookPaperback
ISBN-10: 1526705044 ISBN-13: 978-1526705044 ASIN: B07FLQWZZV
Genres & Tropes
Nonfiction, Historical Nonfiction, Fashion, Beauty, Victorian Era

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