Today’s post comes from Nicole Bucik, Senior Parks Interpreter at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Victorian era?
Walking through Spruce Lane Farm in Bronte Creek Provincial Park, you might think: Have I gone back in time?
Seeing park staff in suits and smocks caring for farm animals may seem strange, but it’s a seasonal feature here in Bronte Creek.
Welcome to the year 1900
Our Spruce Lane farm will transport you back in time. On the heritage estate, the historic farmhouse is furnished just as it was at the turn of the century.
To fully set the atmosphere of the era, Bronte Creek Discovery Program staff and volunteers wear historically accurate clothing. We pride ourselves on always being prim and proper in the Victorian style.
Spruce Lane Farm
Now, you might be thinking that Victorian fashion was simple. The women wore floor-length skirts and long-sleeved blouses, and the men just wore suits, right?
That may be what it looks like from the outside, but there are many more complexities involved in dressing like a Victorian. I’ll take you behind the scenes to see what it’s like for our staff and volunteers to dress up and truly transform into a Victorian.
We take playing dress up very seriously.
First, let’s start with the first thing we all put on in the morning: underwear! In Victorian times, women’s underwear consisted of a shirt, panties, stockings, a corset and a petticoat.
Underwear for staff use.
Additionally, if you were a wealthy woman, you might also wear a crinoline, bustle guards, camisoles, or corset covers.
Fortunately, our staff is only required to wear petticoats from this extensive list of underwear.
What is a petticoat, you ask? A petticoat is a skirt worn under other clothing for warmth and shape.
But the real question is how many petticoats do I wear? The answer is… The limit does not exist!
Although most of us here in summer only wear one because of the heat, a true Victorian would wear up to fifteen layers of petticoats.
Here at Bronte Creek, our costume room is filled with many wonderful pieces that make an outfit really come together. From blouses and skirts to hats and umbrellas, we have it all!
Wealthy Victorians always had different outfits for different occasions. When we dress our staff and volunteers, we always keep in mind the event we are dressing for, just as the Victorians did. Are we doing farm chores or drinking tea? Is it harvest season or Christmas? Will I go by bicycle or carriage today?
When we dress to do housework, we may choose softer colors and lighter fabrics, since we are usually out in the sun caring for our chickens and sheep.
But when we dress up for tea or a big holiday like Christmas, we want to be extravagant. This usually includes big, puffy sleeves, stylish vests, luxurious patterns and fabrics, and a hat to top it all off.
You have to play the role too
Our costumes also require some training in proper Victorian etiquette.
For our staff who wear typical male attire, there are many accessories that must be perfect. With ties, suspenders, sleeve garters, and watch chains, Victorian men always looked dapper.
Luckily for our staff these days, they don’t have to learn how to tie a handkerchief or bow tie. Instead, they can just put on a tie.
Personnel wearing traditional female costume should note that the visible ankles were scandalous to the Victorian eye. Skirts should be long enough to cover our ankles, but this can pose a major tripping hazard, especially with the many stairs in the house.
We always have to remember to hold our skirts when going up and down stairs. And we can’t forget our perfectly tied hair! It is difficult to get our hairstyles clean and fashionable. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of hairpins!
To dress like a Victorian is not just about having the right clothes, but knowing how to wear them correctly and with pride.
Although we don’t wear all the garments a Victorian would wear (fortunately, corsets are a thing of the past), there are still many steps to remember to make our costumes as historically accurate as possible.
At Spruce Lane Farm, we aim to transport you back in time to experience the Victorian era first-hand, and our stylish staff are there to create the Victorian atmosphere.
Come join us!
If this post piqued your interest in Bronte Creek’s Spruce Lane Farm, there are many volunteer opportunities available.
If you like to sew and are interested in creating costumes, Friends of Bronte Creek is looking for volunteers with sewing experience. Projects range from mending tears to creating full Victorian outfits. Contact [email protected] for more information.
Click here for more information about Spruce Lane Farm, as well as a list of park events and heritage programs.