8-73A Victorian personal objects
General This collection of Victorian personal objects includes decorative and functional items which would have belonged to ladies or gentlemen. Ostrich feather fan Fans had a very practical function, as an aid to cooling in crowded rooms. They were also an important fashion accessory. This fan is likely to date from the 1880s or 1890s, when larger fans were in fashion and ostrich feather fans with tortoiseshell sticks were particularly popular. Jet decoration Jet jewellery became the height of fashion when worn by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert. A decoration such as this would have been sewn on to a dress as a trimming during the long period of mourning. Beaded drawstring bag (drawstring missing) Beaded bags were popular from the early nineteenth century. This one probably dates from the 1850s. Sometimes bags of this type were hung from the waist. Leather purse and stocking purse A great variety of purses were used in the Victorian period. They were made in every kind of material including leather, knitted yarn, cloth, chain-mail, glass beads and shells. This leather purse was designed to carry just a few coins, perhaps for a church collection. Notice the compartment for gold coins. The stocking purse was sometimes known as a miser's purse. Such purses were knitted or crocheted and often decorated with beads. They are unusual in design, with two rings which can be slid along to hold the coins in each end away from the central slit. Pince-nez Nose-pinching spectacles came back into popularity in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Magnifier At the end of the eighteenth century magnifiers were becoming more common. The integral case gave protection when the magnifier was carried in a pocket. Cases were often made of a decorative material such as horn, shell or mother of pearl.
Museum Education Service
Button hook In Victorian times women had buttons on boots, bodices of dresses and gloves. Different sized hooks were designed for the variety of buttons sizes, with the smallest hooks being used to fasten as many as 15 buttons on long gloves. Skirt lifter Two cushioned discs are missing from the points on this skirt lifter. Long skirts needed to be lifted clear of the ground, especially where drainage was poor and rubbish had collected in streets. The lifter would be operated by a cord suspended from the waist. The edge of the skirt hem was placed between the discs, the lifter was locked tight, and when the cord was pulled the skirt was lifted up. Rouge pot A Victorian lady would usually have a number of small boxes and pots made of different materials on her dressing table. They were used to contain a variety of things; cachous to sweeten the breath, patches to accentuate beauty spots or conceal blemishes, and creams or rouge to improve the complexion. With its curved interior, it is likely that this pot held rouge. Notice the owner's name on the lid. Chatelaine pencil From Georgian times onwards, ornamental chains were hung from the waist with items attached. This ivory pencil in the shape of a croquet mallet would have been a chatelaine attachment in Victorian times. Lady's watch Small silver watches were hung from chatelaines between 1880 and 1890 before the introduction of wrist watches. Watch chain Chains with watches attached were a popular accessory for men in Victorian times. The bar was used to anchor the chain in a buttonhole. Prince Albert wore his chain horizontally from pocket to pocket on his waistcoat. Subsequently chains worn in this fashion were known as 'alberts'. Watch chain ornament Additional items were often attached to watch chains, including emblems, sovereign cases, pencils, compasses and ornaments like this. Vesta (match holder) Match holders of this type were also attached to watch chains using a small ring. Silver, as in this example, was the most common material used for vestas. The striking edge is on the bottom of the holder.
Things to do
1. Sort the collection according to whether the items would still be useful today or not. Discuss reasons why or why not. 2. Identify and list the materials used to make the items in this collection. Identify materials which are not usually used today, and discuss why not. 3. Compare items in the collection with modern equivalents e.g. glasses, handbag, magnifier and pencil. Consider differences and similarities in materials and design and discuss reasons for these. Discuss advantages and disadvantages of the Victorian examples. 4. Look at each object and discuss how much its design was influenced by consideration of its function, and how much by consideration of its appearance. 5. Compare the two styles of purse. Try out the stocking purse with coins (please handle with care). Evaluate the design of each type of purse, considering size, ease of use and ease of carrying. 6. Look at the decorative designs on the jet decoration, bead bag, vesta, watch and patch box. You could use magnifiers to study the detail. Draw a section of decoration enlarged (encourage large drawings by providing big pieces of paper and felt-tip pens). What might have been the sources of inspiration for the designs? Compare with decorative designs on modern personal objects. 7. Draw an object from memory. Check the drawing with the object. What details were missed?