Just really quickly, in case anyone isn’t familiar with the Victorian era, it ‘s defined as the time period between1837-1901, or, during the rein of Queen Victoria. So while most of the inspiration behind my designs come from what was going on England and France during this period, can also translate into what was going on over here as well. Victorian society was preoccupied with the very nature of women. A woman’s role was tightly defined, all in an effort to create the “ideal woman” Create peace so their husbands could take refuge from the difficulties of daily life.
So really, women were 2nd and even 3rd class citizens . But with the “bad” there were things about being a woman in the Victorian era that are quite enviable in today’s society. Manners – a level of civility that is grossly non-existent in our own societies. There is no “polite society”. Femininity – everybody was a girly-girl. A Lady. You were celebrated for being delicate and fragile to an extent. It wasn’t a sign of weakness. Compassionate – women were so compassionate then. They had to be, they were the care givers. Sisterhood – Probably one of the most important things to walk away with, and which was a big part of the inspiration for my designs, was their bond - their sisterhood. Their empathy. They identified with the plight of other women because they themselves were limited and dealt with their own injustices as a gender. But they got along and they had afternoon teas as groups. Unmarried women were each other’s chaperones. There was a united front.
During the (middle of the era????) there was a shift, or a questioning of gender roles that was beginning to take place. And a lot of that questioning showed up in art and literature of the time.
Last summer I was in a mall one day and I saw an 11 or 12 year old girl walking my way, with whom I’m going to assume was her mother. She had on a t-shirt that said “I’m High Maintenance” written across the front of it. I came home and stewed about that t-shirt! I automatically went to the Victorian era, as an English major I loved the literature and the art of the period and thought , and thought about what was missing…. All the manners, civility, femininity. There were no Snookies! There were no real-housewives of orange county! Ladies were ladies! But I wanted girls and women to understand the roles of women then and realize the opportunities they have today that weren’t available. So my mission was to marry femininity with feminism and art…
…And this is what I started with. In Victorian art, the idea of virginity, sexuality, and submission by women was symbolized through the use of bird cages. Basically in a painting if there was a young girl or a young woman, there might often be a bird cage with the bird locked obviously in the cage. It was meant to represent oppression, women as “kept” objects, or their virginity. One good example is Sir John Everett Millais’s “Waking” also known as “Just Awake” from 1865. A young girl is awakened by the singing bird at which she stares in wonderment, questioning . Her awakening was meant to be meaningful, not only to her but to the Victorian viewer as well. So this metaphor of bird cages is where I drew inspiration for my first t-shirt design….
We discussed that In Victorian times, women were not allowed to enjoy sexual satisfaction –it was the belief that women had no need for sexual gratification. In fact, the Victorians believed passion to be deviant behavior and that even thoughts of sexuality would cause insanity in women! Women weren’t allowed to adorn themselves with a lot of make up or perfumes – anything that would suggest passion. In the novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, one of the characters, Rochester, his first wife Bertha is the model of the “crazy lady in the attic’. She is described as sexual, unchaste and rebellious and refuses to conform to codes of feminine behavior and as a result she is locked away, condemned as ‘mad’.
The Victorians placed a great deal of worth in outward appearances. The general creed in polite Victorian society was that women and children should be seen and not heard. In fact, One of the major injustices to women in the Victorian era was that women were denied formal educations. Very few young ladies went to what could be described as a school, although most of them were homeschooled. The basis of their education was religious study and girls learned to play a musical instrument and to sing. In this painting , “The Spinet” (19092), Thomas Wilmer Dewing shows us a young, chaste woman practicing her piano… but notice the mirror above her. Coincidence or not? This idea is the inspiration behind my Beauty and Brains t-shirt. It’s a replica of a Victorian scale – balanced right down the middle with Beauty on one side and Brains on the other. – reminding women they can be both – and all women are pretty – not just externally but pretty smart, pretty caring, and pretty funny,
Meliciously yours designer tees presentation
Creator of Meliciously Yours
ender, Art, and Fashio
Weaving historic femininity from art and
literature with messages of modern day
feminism into fashion
• Create a place of peace within the home
• Have children and tend to the household
• No legal rights, no claim to property
• Denied the privilege of a formal education
• Must be pure, sexually passive, disinterested
• Should “be seen and not heard”
Gender Roles in
Gender Roles in
• Manners and etiquette
Art and Literature
• A Questioning of sexual and social identity
• Pictorial art and literature reflected this
• For the first time, women were major writers
and painters, like the Bronte sisters and Mary
Art and Literature
• The influences behind my designs are a
culmination of the gender roles, the art,
literature, and the sisterhood.