Social Habits of Victorian Times


Women enjoying a tea party.

The Victorian era was prim, proper, and serious.

Maintaining appearances was very important and everyone had to know the rules for social situations like the backs of their hands. These rules applied to everything from tea parties and inner parties to chance street meetings to church etiquette.

Victorian social habits might seem like a game, but to fit in you needed to know how to play. Conforming was a must and anyone who messed up would stick out … or worse.

Basic Rules of Etiquette
If you ever wind up in the Victorian times, remember these rules and you should do all right for yourself:

  • Mind your manners. Put others before yourself and never let your emotions get the better of you. Always be polite, kind, and gentle. Practice self-control and keep calm at all times. Men are to treat women with respect and to hold them in high esteem, being gracious and helpful when needed.
  • Appearances are everything. Never wear your pajamas when coming down to greet guests. Always dress modestly. Women of age should tie their hair up in a bonnet or chignon. Keep covered from your neck to your ankles, skin showing is a sign of vulgarity.
  • Be hygienic. Take a complete bath every morning when you wake up. Wash your hair at least occasionally. Instead of make-up, take a teaspoon of powdered charcoal and sweetened liquid, to keep the complexion fair and clear. Do not wear bright or bold colors.
  • Learn the art of conversation. Know how to listen. Never speak in anger. Memorize the proper greetings and use them with people of proper social rank. When speaking to those who know less than you, don’t speak about subjects they won’t understand. Be respectful and kind, keeping opinions at a minimum.

The social calendar was of the utmost importance, and included everything such events as afternoon teas, dinner parties, balls, dances, and more. Social gatherings were so important to Victorians that even they had rules of their own.

You had to pull them off right, or risk becoming a laughing stock!

  • Always send out invitations for an event 7 to 10 days in advance. If you receive an invitation, always respond within a week.
  • Do dinner parties right. Always use the finest quality table cloth, but don’t make a big display of your wealth. Each guest should have a plate with two large knives, a small knife and fork for fish, as well as three large forks, a soup spoon, an oyster fork, and a goblet for water.
  • Treat tea guests properly. Teas and social callings were a way of life for Victorian-era ladies. To make a good impression and fit in, you should serve only simple refreshments, such as bread and butter, sandwiches, biscuits or cake, tea, coffee, and so on. At small gatherings, the hostess should move around the room and mingle. But at large gatherings, the hostess should stay by the door while others aid her in entertaining the guests.

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