Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol” was written during the Victorian era, when class divisions in England separated the wealthy from the poor. This social distinction was reflected in clothing, from the elegant velvet and brocade outfits of the privileged to the tattered clothing of the disadvantaged. Whether you’re costuming a play for your local theater group or dressing for your own Christmas party, select authentic looks from whatever rank of society you choose.
Mrs. Fezziwig and her daughters dressed in the elegant holiday style suitable for their class. Victorian ladies of means attending the Fezziwigs’ ball would have worn scoop-necked dresses with puffy sleeves, narrow bodices with pointed waists and full skirts -- bell-shaped from the hoop skirt they wore underneath. You can achieve the same fullness by wearing a square-dancing slip. Outdoors, ladies always wore bonnets. Their hair would have been done in ringlets, and they might have wrapped a fringed shawl around their shoulders. Use ribbons, ruffles, lace and velvet accents as decoration for dresses.
Scrooge's Nephew, Fred
The epitome of a young gentleman, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, would have dressed especially well for the ball. Fred’s costume might include a black top hat, straight, snug trousers in a neutral shade, and boots. To achieve the look of a Victorian shirt, tie a dark silk scarf under the collar of a white shirt to keep the collar raised. Gentlemen in the early part of the Victorian age would have worn a fancy vest over the shirt, possibly made of brocade with a floral pattern or other design. Top it off with a dark, formal cutaway coat with tails in back.
A working-class man with a family to feed, Bob Cratchit would have dressed conservatively in a white shirt and black trousers when he went to his job at Scrooge’s counting house. Although poor, he probably would have had a worn black hat and black coat to look respectable. While his clothes were washed, they would have shown signs of wear. Other working-class people who did heavy labor tended to look scruffy. To dress like one of Dickens’ working-class men, wear a work shirt with the sleeves rolled up and pants with suspenders. Working-class women’s dresses were dark and plain with long sleeves. They were less elegant than those of upper-class women because they were worn without a hoop skirt, and often with an apron.
Victorian children traditionally wore clothing that mimicked the clothes of their elders. A boy like Tiny Tim who lived in poverty would have worn the same outfit every day: a ragged jacket over a plain shirt, with knickers that reached just below his knees instead of long pants. He might have had a small-brimmed cap on his head. The look was respectable but worn. Upper-class young gentlemen wore dress shirts, vests, pants and jackets, with younger boys in shorter pants. Privileged young girls wore ruffled dresses that buttoned in back and had puffy sleeves, often with a pinafore over them and ruffled pantalettes underneath, with their hair in banana curls.