Why did rich people in the past wear impractical clothing like in the Victorian era, 1700s etc?

I thought a comfortable life for rich people was important. The clothing in the Victorian era, in the 1700s, 1500s etc. wasn't very practical or comfortable to wear. They had several layers of clothing and women wore corset.
Why did rich people in the past wear impractical clothing like in the Victorian era, 1700s etc?Why did rich people in the past wear impractical clothing like in the Victorian era, 1700s etc?Why did rich people in the past wear impractical clothing like in the Victorian era, 1700s etc?Tags: #Fashion #History #VictorianEra


This video shows how a 18th century rich woman gets dressed. These clothing was so impractical that they needed someone else to dress them up. It's not like only putting on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

Similar question I asked earlier: Hygiene in the past.
https://www.girlsaskguys.com/social-relationships/q2477711-how-did-people-in-the-past-cope-with-hygiene-like-in-the-medieval

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Because they could? They could afford to get huge gowns made. Clothes were expensive, especially fine clothes where the detailing was put in by hand. Clothing wasn't just getting dressed, it was a statement about how good a citizen you were, how much money you had to spare on things like clothes as opposed to people who were literally spending eveything they had on just enough food not to starve. Practicality wasn't as important as showing how well off you were.

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Most Helpful Guy

  • You're right about the fact that those clothes were frequently impractical but you're wrong about them being uncomfortable. Surely, compared to modern clothes, they may seem uncomfortable but in that time, they were considered the state-of-the-art in regards to comfort. Rich people often wore silk for example, which was specially important from China. This was a thousand times more comfortable than the itchy linen-based clothes that normal peasants wore.

    In terms of practicality, there was actually a deliberate purpose to wear such clothes. By using impractical clothes that take a lot of time (and manual assistance!) to put on and off, wealthy people made a clear statement about their social status. Farmers and craftspeople were not able to wear such clothes because they had to perform exhausting physical labor. In order to do this, they needed clothes that were fast and simple to put on and didn't restrain them while they were working. Therefore, wearing impractical clothes meant that you didn't have to do such jobs. You weren't "one of those lowly people". You had the money to afford a maid who would help you get dressed and you had the leisure time to sit in your room playing costume party. Also, since the clothes tended to be restrictive, you couldn't do certain tasks. Harvesting potatoes in a fancy suit doesn't work. So when people saw you, they probably knew that you were a special person; a lawyer, a scientist, an aristocrat etc..

    Now, it is true that the clothes during the Victorian era were particularly impractical and restrictive (such as the corset). This is also related to the extremely strict/prudish morality of that time. Sexuality and eroticism were considered highly taboo, so people made an effort to not talk about it and not display themselves in any arousing way possible. Again, this was of course especially true for the people of high social standings, since they had the free time to contemplate such issues.

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What Girls Said 10

  • How do we know in modern times how well off someone is (or at least appears to be)? Well, we can look at their clothes and see that they are wearing designer brands, or we can see impeccable tailoring, or expensive details like fur lining, crystals sewn in, or expensive leathers. Add to that, every time we see them, they are in a new outfit. You know right off the bad, this person probably has money.

    This obvious visual detail about a person is no different today then it was back then. Not only could the wealthy afford to wear more clothes and the newest styles, no matter how uncomfortable, but they forbade those below a certain standing or poverty line to wear certain colors or fabrics to further distinguish their wealth and status. By having to be dressed, especially with a corset that tied from behind, that meant you could afford to hire a staff to dress you whereas that poor farmer girl had a front laced corset because she had to do it herself. A tighter smaller waist was also an indication of your social standing... it's not that women of that era thought them comfortable to wear, but if in that time, it helped you land a husband because it was the fashion, you did it, and the same goes for men. Showcase wealth and power through fashion attracted wealth and women to them.

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  • i guess its because of their high status... so they show off their wealth through their clothes and accessories (which are generally made from luxury materials of high quality)... and their garments being so impractical won't be an issue to them because they didn't had to perform tasks that requires efforts like people of lower status

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  • Sign of wealthy and status...

    + only other options would be poor cloth - which would be rough on the skin... and wouldn't protect them from the elements.

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  • Only women did really.
    Some kings had "show outfits" for sure but overall mens outfits were practical and women's outfits weren't practical because upperclass women weren't allowed to work.

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  • To display their wealth, status. Also because that was fashion back then and women couldn't show a lot of skin

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  • To show off their wealth and power. Too they didn't have anything too physical to do and so didn't needed to wear comfy / practical clothes.

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  • All the material the women wore could weigh up to 100 pounds. They were always fainting from lack of air especially in the hot weather. It was the style. Style is always painful.

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  • Because it displayed wealth and status

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    • So being in uncomfortable clothing was wealth and status? If you're rich you've the money to live a comfortable life. So it would make more sense the rich ones showed they lived more comfortable than the (other) farmers, peasants etc.

    • Comfort is relative, even in today's fashion choices. Beauty isn't necessarily comfortable - lingerie, tight clothing, high heels, hair extensions, lash extensions etc but they're all socially acceptable and in some cases expected to be attractive.

      Back then it was the same - no one of a lower social class could possibly afford anywhere near the trappings the aristocracy and the nouveau riche could and it was designed to show.

    • Now I gets it. : ) Thanks for answer.

  • To show off their wealth.

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  • because fashion duh

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What Guys Said 24

  • The clothes were practical for THEM and what they needed to do. It showed their status. Similar to why rich people today will spend $100k on a car that only lasts 1-2 years before they trade it in.

    Side note: I don't like extreme corsets but a fake one on a woman with her boobs up to her chin is pretty sexy. Must have been hot back when guys had to unwrap women like a birthday present. Mmmmmm

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  • You selected a wide chunk of world history to look at. Essentially 1700-1914, but the thing to remember is that 'wealth' becoming a goal is very recent. Especially earlier in history, wealthy merchants were looked down on. The goal was to be aristocratic, a class whose importance was based on birthright, not wealth. This type of clothing signaled for aristocratic.

    Also, as soon as wealth became desirable, a lot of these looks started changing.

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  • Probably for the same reason basketball players wear shorts so long and baggy they practically look like tents. STYLE. Heard a story of one kid who was dribbling a basketball and it went up the legs of his shorts. If they were dead serious about their game they would wear something more aerodynamic like spandex or biker shorts.

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  • Chinese intellectuals used to grow three foot long fingernails and any family rich enough not to need a woman's labour bound their daughter's feet. Why, to show theybwere rich and didn't nerd to work. Posh hints were always fainting, corsets, could barely breath, proles had to be able to work, so, no corsets for them.

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  • because rich people had no need to work and they wanted do something with their time, so why not uncomfortable expensive senseless clothes... and If I think about, there are many unpractical things in our time which you can see every day

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  • Distinction from commoners, imho.
    People loved to (and still do) to show their status.
    Looking like a walking showroom in the extravagant events was essential for this.
    But this isn't an old custom. People still do this.

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  • should have spent more money on a sewer system and less on clothing...

    But now days its kind of the same, business people still wear ties and suits.

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  • OMG that codpiece... in the past they cared more about looks than comfortability. Yes, they were impractical and extravagant but at the same time eye catching and showed superiority.

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  • I would imagine it was for similar reasons that the Chinese gentry (rich) wore their nails impossibly long or why so many women would try to keep their skin as pale as possible, it was a sign of wealth. As you said it wasn't practical and wearing that would show that they had servants to dress them and that they didn't have to worry about practicality because they where not laborers (for instance with the long fingernails you would not be able to maintain those doing a manual labor job. Same goes for pale skin, most people worked outside so a woman who had pale skin would be presumed to have wealth enough that she never had to work in a field or do manual labor). Though that is only an (educated) guess.

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  • If you were rich, you didn't really have to do much ( like physical labour) so being impractical wasn't a problem and clothing reflected that.
    Also clothing was a symbol of status.

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  • Rich people still do (neckties for example). It conveys that they don't have to do manual labor or move around that much, meaning status and wealth.

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  • Its a display of social status and wealth. It does exist now as well I buy stuff from Rick Owens, guidi, Yohji to show my financial status.

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  • I would say just slaves to fashion probably more so than today

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  • I think that's the point, they were so wealthy that they didn't need to worry about practicality

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  • People went to great extremes to show that they had wealth.
    In the past, only the one who displayed one's wealth were considered royal.
    So much so that poor people would try to imitate the wealthier ones vainly to have a higher social status...
    In the 16th and 17th century, sugar had been a relatively new discovery, and only the rich could afford it. So eventually, they had to face a lot of dental problems like cavities, black teeth etc., This absurdly was considered a luxury statement.. so poor people would intentionally blacken their teeth during balls and festivals to show that they could afford sugar.. Maybe irrelevant, but gives us the opinion how much people could do in order to LOOK wealthy...

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  • A show of wealth and status I guess. It probably keep them warm

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  • Same reason they do today. It's a display of wealth and power. Only the rich can afford to not work.

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  • Because they had no clue about fashion. I love girls who wear leather!!

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  • It's something changes all the time to this day and forever more: Style. Fancy. "The thing". lol

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  • They wanted to impress commoners.

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