Book Review: ‘A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty’ by Mimi Matthews

Hello friends! It’s been a while since I posted anything, but I’m hoping to slowly get back into the swing on things in the coming months.

ANYWAY, I have a new review for you! I am grateful to have received a complementary copy of this book from Pen and Sword Books in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed within this review are completely my own.

Title: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty
Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books
Publication Date: 17 September 2018
Pages: 159 (including sources and index)
Rating: ***.5

I absolutely love the cover of this book too!

I really enjoy these introductory books from Pen and Sword – they are relatively short, but concise and allow the reader to do further reading and research if they want. If you want to dive into a new subject, but you’re not sure it’s going to be entirely for you, I’d recommend these types of short & sweet reads!


I found this to be a good general introduction and whirlwind tour of fashion trends and changes throughout the Victorian Era. Each chapter was dedicated to a decade and was easily split into clothing, undergarments, accessories and shoes so you could follow broad and specific changes quite easily. This format helped to make it more understandable for the layman.
Although I did often find myself confused at some of the terminology used, especially names of clothing items, but they were generally all explained as they were used within the text. I often found myself skimming a paragraph and realising I had no idea what the items were, so I had to flick back to remind myself. Maybe a wee key or list of terminology would have helped with this, or maybe you’ll follow it easier than I did! Thankfully, the author included a lot of quotes and images from the time which helped explain some of the items and broke up the text a little.

Just a bit of hair inspiration!

These quotes and images were not only helpful, but were always relevant and supported the main text really well. Similarly, the list of sources at the back mean it would be easy enough to do your own reading into the subject and the index makes it easy to find specific items, if you already what you want to read about.

It was interesting to see how changing attitudes and sports affected fashion choices and spurred development and change throughout the Victorian Era. But it was also interesting to see how often fashion repeats itself and draws inspiration from previous trends and decades – this is something that we notice today as well.

There was less content on beauty and cosmetics than I would have liked, because I thought that section was really interesting – especially the chapter on haircare. I’m not really a ‘fashionable’ person so skincare is of more interest to me personally, but the small insight provided by this book was an interesting one. Overall though the book was short, sweet and to the point, with really the only fault being my inability to remember the difference between a mantle, paletot and pardessus! (In all honesty, I still don’t have a clue – I think they’re maybe all types of cloaks/shawls?)

I rated it 3.5/5 stars because it was enjoyable overall and the layout of each chapter was very good and made it easier to draw comparisons between the decades, but I sometimes found the terminology a little confusing which made it personally difficult to follow all the time. I read this during a terrible reading slump though, so you may follow it easier than I did!


If you’ve read this one, let me know what you thought about it! Or if you have any other Victorian book suggestions for me!

Much love,

Alison x


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