Dual Analysis: The Young Victoria – Maggie’s Thoughts | Clothes on Film

Part two of a new Dual Analysis with Maggie from The Costumer’s Guide.

The Young Victoria was a costume flick I’d been looking forward to ever since the first promo pics came out. This is for several reasons – one is that I’d read some great historical fiction about the young Victoria by Jean Plaidy. (She’s got a great reputation as a writer and I think she really captures Victoria and her life. If you’re interested, they are The Captive of Kensington Palace, The Queen and Lord M, The Queen’s Husband, and The Widow of Windsor).

But we’re talking costumes. A second reason I was looking forward to this movie was that Sandy Powell was the costume designer. While I didn’t love The Other Boleyn Girl, I will always adore Shakespeare in Love. I always enjoy seeing what Sandy Powell will do next. Also, my friend Jane Law created some of the costumes for the movie.

The last reason I was looking forward to this movie is that I’d recently become a little more knowledgeable about 1830s and 40s fashion. Some friends and I have attended a Poe event in Baltimore a few times in 1840s outfits:


…and a few of us also did 1830s costumes for SalonCon. So now I know more than I did – and I’ve learned to appreciate this sort of under appreciated/unfamiliar period. Lots of people are familiar with the 1850s/60s/Civil War look – or Jane Austen, or Bustles. But not many know the 1830s or 40s.

The 1830s were great fun – they had exaggerated poofy sleeves and wide shoulders (which I feel like we saw echos of in the 80s, particularly in the form of prom dresses)…and they had really cool hair dos:

My friend’s fabulous 1830s hair and gown:

I prefer the late 1830s look which has less exaggerated shoulders, less poofy upper sleeves:


This is a great transitional look which takes us into the 1840s, and which is an era I actually do quite like. The 1840s saw pointier waists, sloped shoulders, a bell-shaped skirt, and hair-dos that weren’t quite as ‘out there’ – usually braids or curls on the side and a bun in back.

The bottom line is these are periods you don’t often see done in big movies – and to see it done so well, as it was in The Young Victoria, was awesome. The 1830s hair was perfect. Victoria’s mother was always sporting some weird up-do that was terrifically period (check Mom out in the green dress HERE as well as some of the other guests).

To contrast this, when Victoria had 1830s hair, they made it look pretty. In fact, this is one of my favorite looks in the film. Which is saying something because I’m not a huge 1830s fan.) Also I think I had a prom dress that looked like this – in pink:

The other thing that made me really really happy was that they did the underwear right too! Corded petticoats! In the 1830s/40s, they weren’t wearing hoops yet – they wore petticoats that had rows of cording in them to make them stand out and have body to them:

You can see Victoria’s corded petticoat several times. That detail made me really happy. Also, how much do I love the period square toed shoes?

Her real wedding shoes:

Some of the movie gowns are copies of real gowns that Victoria wore. I interviewed Jane Law about the work she and her team did on The Young Victoria and she talked a bit about the movie costumes they copied from the real thing:

“Her ‘Privy Council’ dress…it was black but the original has faded to a tan colour. You don’t see much of the detail on film because it is black! Her wedding dress…sadly, the Honiton lace flounce has been removed from the skirt, Victoria was very frugal and she often used pretty trimmings again. It still remains on the neckline and sleeves, though. The court train, trimmed with apple blossom has been lost but there are paintings. A delicious confection, only glimpsed, in the film! And her velvet and ermine [not real] coronation robes, again, glimpsed!”

Here is the real Coronation dress:

Movie dress:

Real wedding dress:


Movie dress:

Now, onto the actual movie…

The other thing to love about the 1830s are the sometimes slightly garish prints and colors. And Victoria’s mother is always slightly garish looking. She’s often in bright colors, oranges, turquoises, acid greens. Big jewelry. Victoria is in pale blue, delicate, like a doll – and they actually call her that at one point.

Victoria’s mother really contrasts with her – their colors are completely clashing in palette.

During Victoria and Albert’s first meeting, Albert is very stiff. His costume reflects that – it’s very buttoned up and structured.

As Victoria gets a little older, she’s not in pale blue as much, but she’s still in pale colors. At her grandfather’s birthday dinner, she’s in a sort of pale yellow/green. And it has a layer of net over the skirt which also mutes that yellow color. Again, note the 1830s hair on the guests in this scene – and that they make it look pretty on Victoria:

She does still have a lot of grays in her wardrobe. She rewears this lovely gray/blue dress several times:

After the King’s birthday she wears gray, with a touch of pink:

A lot of her gowns have this pale blue/gray or beige with pink color scheme:

When the King dies, Victoria obviously wears black for mourning. The privy council dress Jane Law referred to is really lovely – it’s too bad some of the detail is lost. The sheer bonnet with ribbons is really lovely too. According to an internet friend who talked to Mela Hoyt-Haden (who has done millinery for various movies); the bonnets in this movie are dead on authentic except for “the black one”, which may be this one to which I am referring:

She wears that black gown for a large portion of the movie before moving on to a gray/purple gown – could that be considered half mourning?

Moving on in the film, we get to her coronation. Victoria washes her dog afterwards – still wearing this gown, which shows an interesting disregard for appearance/fashion.

Her first dance as queen is the first time we see her in a bright color – bright gold with red touches. This is the same color scheme as her coronation gown/robe. After the ball, she is in a red jacket.

…while Victoria’s mother sports a whole lotta feathers in her hair:

Can I make a note about casting here? I really loved it. Emily Blunt is terrific, but I was particularly taken with Albert. He’s so wonderful at keeping that outer reserve while letting you know that things are going on under the surface. He’s very sweet and this moving personality made me love him.

We see him after this (as he waits impatiently for Victoria to write) looking more ruffled, less buttoned-down. He races down the stairs practically disheveled – and not wearing a coat. A great contrast to their first meeting.

Moving on, Victoria is in pinks and grays/beiges again. This wonderful Strawberry dress for example:

And the striped pink/gray. This one I think:

I made a list of scenes wherein she wears this color palette of beiges, pinks, and grays (a threat to the queen, a letter from her mother, Albert visits again, the proposal – for which she wears the Strawberry gown again). The exception is a bright blue dressing gown.

Next is the wedding dress, and a lovely 1840s riding habit:

Trouble within the marriage has Victoria wearing the only dark color she has since mourning for the King – dark green. For her pregnancy announcement, she’s in dark rose – still pinks. And for her confrontation wtih Sir John, dark green again:

For the piano concert, dark purple – still darker hues. She’s older now, more experienced, less of a doll; she’s becoming a stronger queen, and is at odds with Albert. This outfit is much more 1840s – the puffy sleeves are gone and it’s got that dropped waist:

For her argument with Albert, again the richer hues – and her darkest outfit yet – dark green jacket and a dark plaid.

Here I have to interrupt and say that Albert was never shot. There indeed were several assassination attempts, but Albert was never shot. In 1849, Victoria was shot at. And in 1850, she was actually injured when she was assaulted by a crazy person wielding a can, which crushed her bonnet and bruised her. But let me say it again – Albert was never shot. Having said that – making that up did work for the story – but I had a hard time with it because IT NEVER HAPPENED.

Following the assassination attempt, Victoria is in dark green and dark plaids again. After she has her first baby, she’s in red and green, but darker color. She and her mother seem to attempt a reconciliation – and in this scene her mother is more muted and their colors nearly match, or at least compliment each other:

At the end of the movie, Victoria wears this bright blue dress:

Blue is the color she started out in – but this a more mature blue, which shows how far she’s come from the child/doll she was.

Maggie is editor of The Padawan’s Guide and The Costumer’s Guide (where this article is also published). title=

© 2010 – 2012, Maggie Costumers Guide.