The Victorian era of Great Britain marked the height of the British industrial revolution and the apex of the British Empire. Victorian morality is a distillation of the moral views of people living at the time of Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901) in particular, and to the moral climate of Great Britain throughout the 19th century in general. For most, the Victorian period is still a byword for sexual repression. Victorian prudery sometimes went so far as to deem it improper to say "leg" in mixed company; instead, the preferred euphemism “limb” was used. Those going for a dip in the sea at the beach would use a bathing machine. Verbal or written communication of emotion or sexual feelings was also often proscribed so people instead used the language of flowers. However they also wrote explicit erotica, perhaps the most famous being the racy tell-all My Secret Life by Henry Spencer Ashbee, who wrote under the pseudonym Walter.
Travel to far away places became far more widespread resulting in the emergence of a new commodity called the postcard.
As far fashions and lifestyle elements are concerned, Men's clothing is seen as formal and stiff, women's as fussy and over-done. Clothing covered the entire body, we are told, and even the glimpse of an ankle was scandalous. Critics contend that corsets constricted women's bodies and women's lives. Homes are described as gloomy, dark, cluttered with massive and over-ornate furniture and proliferating bric-a-brac. Myth has it that even piano legs were scandalous, and covered with tiny pantalettes. Of course, much of this is untrue, or a gross exaggeration. Men's formal clothing may have been less colorful than it was in the previous century, but brilliant waistcoats and cummerbunds provided a touch of color, and smoking jackets and dressing gowns were often of rich Oriental brocades. Corsets stressed a woman's sexiness, exaggerating hips and bust by contrast with a tiny waist. Women's ball gowns bared the shoulders and tops of the breasts. The tight-fitting jersey dresses of the 1880s may have covered the body, but they left little to the imagination.
Victoriana refers to items or material from the Victorian period (1837–1901), especially those particularly evocative of the design style and outlook of the time. The word is usually used to refer to printed work or to objects such as machinery, house decoration, or furniture. Victoriana tends to reflect the tastes of the period. Examples in literature might be Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist or Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, stories which strongly reflect the moral atmosphere of the time. Victoriana strongly reflects two phenomena, one of which is the necessity of catering to the tastes of the nouveaux riché of the era and the other the ability of large masses of the population having aquired the wealth and ability to travel due to the introduction of steam boats and trains. Thus, both exotica and kitsch make a strong appearance in victoriana.
Kitsch: The term is used loosely in referring to any art that is pretentious or in bad taste, and also commercially produced items that are considered trite or crass. Because the word was brought into use as a response to a large amount of art in the 19th century where the aesthetic of art work was confused with a sense of exaggerated sentimentality or melodrama, kitsch is most closely associated with art that is sentimental, mawkish, or maudlin; however, it can be used to refer to any type of art that is deficient for similar reasons—whether it tries to appear sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative, kitsch is said to be a gesture imitative of the superficial appearances of art. It is often said that kitsch relies on merely repeating convention and formula, lacking the sense of creativity and originality displayed in genuine art.
Victorian greeting cards.
Victorian die cuts. These were the counterparts of today's stickers, with which people would ornament their diaries and letters. The effects of mass production and hence the neccessity to appeal to a far less sophisticated customer base can clearly be felt in the design of both these and the postcards above.
The Gothic Revival was an architectural movement which originated in mid-18th century England. In the nineteenth century, increasingly serious and learned neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval forms, in distinction to the classical styles which were prevalent at the time. The Gothic Revival was paralleled and supported by medievalism, which had its roots in antiquarian concerns with survivals and curiosities. The movement had significant influence throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Europe and North America, and perhaps more Gothic architecture was built in nineteenth and twentieth centuries than had originally ever been built. The revived Gothic style was not limited to architecture. By the mid-nineteenth century Gothic traceries and niches could be inexpensively recreated in wallpaper, and gothic blind arcading could decorate a ceramic pitcher. The illustrated catalogue for the Great Exhibition of 1851 is replete with gothic detail, from lacemaking and carpet designs to heavy machinery.