Dressing up like it’s 1900!

Today’s post comes from Nicole Bucik, a Senior Park Interpreter at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Victorian era?

When walking around Spruce Lane Farm at Bronte Creek Provincial Park, you might think to yourself: have I stepped back in time?

Seeing park staff in suits and gowns tending to farm animals might seem odd, but it’s a seasonal feature here at Bronte Creek.

Welcome to the year 1900

Our Spruce Lane Farm will transport you back in time. At the heritage farm, the historical farmhouse is furnished as it would have been at the turn of the century.

To fully set the atmosphere of the time, Bronte Creek’s Discovery Program staff and volunteers wear historically accurate attire. We pride ourselves on always being prim and proper in Victorian style.

View from the pathway leading to the farmhouse.
Spruce Lane farmhouse

Now, you may be thinking that Victorian fashion was simple. Women wore floor length skirts and long sleeve blouses, and the men just dressed in suits, right?

That may be what you see from the outside, but there are many more intricacies 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 get into costume 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 mornings: underwear!  Back in the Victorian Era, women’s underwear consisted of a chemise, knickers, stockings, a corset, and petticoats.

Undergarments that the staff wear laying on the floor.
Undergarments for the staff to wear.

In addition, if you were a wealthy woman, you might also be wearing a crinoline, bustle pads, camisoles, or corset covers.

Luckily, our staff are only required to wear petticoats from this extensive list of undergarments.

What is a petticoat, you ask? A petticoat is a skirt worn underneath other garments to give 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 the summer only wear one due to the heat, a true Victorian would wear up to fifteen layers of petticoats.

Staff member in uniform on the left and in costume on the right.

Here at Bronte Creek, our costume room is full of many wonderful pieces that make an outfit really come together. From blouses and skirts, to hats and parasols, we have it all!

Wealthy Victorians always had different outfits for different occasions. When we dress our staff and volunteers, we always take into consideration the event we are dressing for, just like the Victorians did. Are we doing farm chores or having tea? Is it harvest season or Christmas? Will I ride a bike today or take the carriage?

When we get dressed for doing chores, we might choose more subdued colours and lighter fabrics, as we’re usually out in the hot sun tending to our chickens and sheep.

Staff members tending to the crops in the fields.

But when we get dressed for tea or for a big holiday like Christmas, we want to be extravagant.  This usually includes big puffy sleeves, fancy vests, lavish patterns and fabrics, and a hat to top it all off.

You have to play the part too

Staff member dressed fulling in suit.

Our costumes do require some training in proper Victorian etiquette as well.

For our staff who wear the typical men’s outfit, there are many accessories that need to be just right. With ties, suspenders, sleeve garters, and watch chains, Victorian men were always looking sharp.

Lucky for our staff today, they don’t have to learn how to tie an ascot or a bow tie. They can just clip on a tie instead.

For staff who wear the typical women’s outfit, they have to keep in mind that visible ankles were scandalous to the Victorian eye. The skirts must be long enough to cover our ankles, but this can be quite the tripping hazard, especially with the many stairs in the house.

Staff member dressed more formally serving food.

We always have to remember to hold our skirts up when walking up and down stairs. And we can’t forget our perfectly pulled back hair! It’s tricky to get our hairdos neat and fashionable. It takes lots of practice and lots of bobby pins!

To dress like a Victorian it isn’t just about having the right garments, it’s about knowing how to wear it properly, and with pride.

Although we don’t wear every piece of clothing a Victorian would (thankfully corsets are a thing of the past), there are still many steps to remember in order to make our costumes as historically accurate as possible.

At Spruce Lane Farm, our goal is to transport you back in time to experience the Victorian Era firsthand, 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 enjoy sewing and are interested in creating costumes, the Friends of Bronte Creek are looking for volunteers with sewing experience. Projects range from mending tears to creating entire Victorian outfits.  Contact bcppfriends@gmail.com for more information.

Click here for more information about Spruce Lane Farm, as well as a list of park events and heritage programs.