Etiquette of a Victorian Lady

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Etiquette of a Victorian Lady

In both the upper and middle classes, there were certain expectations, or guiding principles that women had to follow in order to be called a lady. There were numerous etiquette guides and books published in this time period regarding dining, beauty, and social activities, and most of the newspapers and women's magazines included articles on how to be the perfect Victorian Lady. These are some of the most interesting forms of etiquette.

Ballroom Etiquette

A Lady should always have an easy, becoming and graceful movement while engaged in a quadrille or promenade. It is more pleasing to the gentleman.

--from “Etiquette for the Ball Room”

Women were supposed to always be graceful and even something as enjoyable as dancing had to look effortless, and the woman always had to make sure that she appeared elegant and refined. It also has a reference to the fact that when dancing, the goal of the woman's etiquette was to please the man. Another mannerism that Victorian women followed in the ball room was that a lady should not attend a public ball without an escort, or that no lady should ever be left unattended (“Etiquette for the Ball Room”). This is just another example of how a woman needed a man in order for her to fit into society. It was considered rude if a woman were to ever be seen alone at a ball.

Dressing Room Etiquette

The dressing room of a lady was supposed to be her sanctuary, or a place where nobody except for her ever entered. It was a place where women were meant to admire themselves and make themselves look presentable at all times for their husbands. “The husband should always find the wife fresh, beautiful, sweet as a flower” (“The Lady's Dressing Room”). The dressing room was a place where the woman was to be vain and cover up or hide any imperfections that she may have had. The article above also asks, what is life or love without illusions? In order for her husband to be pleased, the woman was to retire to the dressing room and make herself beautiful, even if it included tricks. Above all, it was private. A lady was to look beautiful at all times, but make it look like it didn't take any effort at all. This was also the place in which the specific hairstyles of Victorian Ladies were created. It was proper etiquette to always wear the hair up.

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