It has been mentioned on this site before about how fascinating 19th century fashion is with its huge hoop skirts, tight corsets and pointed bodices. But what’s just as interesting is that in Namibia, these fashion still survive in the Herero tribe, who are known for their Victorian-style costume.

 How Did These Fashions Get to Africa?

Although these outfits are often beautiful, the reasons they are being worn in Africa stem from the horrors of Europe’s involvement in Africa in the 1800s. Although the slave trade in Africa had ended by 1870, by that point the continent was split between Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. After these countries destroyed traditional trade routes to build railways, many Africans had no choice but to make a living working for these Europeans in their mines and plantations.

With this colonization, European fashions began to enter Africa. This, combined with European missionaries entering the country meant that 19th century fashion began to appear on the continent. 

African Traditions Meet European fashions 800px-african_street_style_festival_2016_-_colourful_african_style_clothing_for_saleThis was swiftly followed by African weavers and clothes makers making their own more traditional spins on these outfits. Shawls were an established part of 19th century fashion, providing extra modesty for women. European version would often start in one colour before going into a pattern at the bottom, with florals and paisley designs particularly popular. Egyptians weavers recreated these shawls in more traditional African designs. At first, they made what is called an aba, a male gown that is one of Africa’s most beautiful traditional fashions. Then they became more like the European modesty shawls for women.

From the Nineteenth Century to Now


It is these garments that are part of the signature look of the Hereros. Though there have been some changes to it in the last 200 years, like it now being made out of rayon and other artificial fibers rather than cotton and silk, it is still essentially the same garment as worn by German missionaries’ wives, landing in Africa in the mid-to-late 19th century. Combine that with these Namibian women’s’ love of layers petticoats and full skirts and you have a tribe who have reclaimed a traumatic time by making their colonizer’s fashions their own.


This guest post was provided to you by Jackie Edwards, who specializes in African fashion and writes for:


Women Education in 19th century

A question of women education arose in order to a particular social status of a woman who performed only “female” functions (wife, mother, mistress), ceased to satisfy public needs. In the ancient world, maiden received home tutoring. Only girls from the upper classes deserved to study at the elementary schools which were given by institutions under the bless of Church. Humanists (Erasmus of Rotterdam, J.A.Komensky) substantiated a necessity for female enlightenment in their writings. Practical work was conducted in monasteries, where women learned good manners, graceful needlework, music, singing, poetry, and were brought up in the spirit of piety and obedience to how to make reading a real blessing to mothersher husband.

Especially successful was an activity of Ursulines (16th century) in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy. J.Pascal was a nun who worked at the monastery seminary of Port-Royal in the 17th century. She was an author of didactic issues upon the women’s education. M.Ward from England founded several Catholic institutions, where girls from families of English and French nobility were trained. English educators paid special attention to the role of a female education system.

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My Inner Victorian

I was very pleased to receive an email from a fellow Dutch history blogger Josephine. I mean, how many Dutch history bloggers are there, all in all? Not that many, I bet. Josephine runs a delightful blog called My Inner Victorian, which deals with various aspects of the nineteenth century, both historical and more practical like DIYs and recipes.

I was really delighted with the DIY section and I think many of you would be interested to, to do a little Victorian immersion while reading your Brontes and Trollopes. I loved the post on making an Ederflower face scrub. Since the blog is in Dutch I’ll give you the Google Translate link and the link to the original post as well.


Check out the entire DIY section for a lot of fun tips, ideas and recipes! vlierbloesem-scrub

Did  you know the famous writer of cookbooks Mrs Beeton is largely regarded as the first ‘domestic goddess’? ‘Mrs Beeton’, as she preferred to be called (her matronly manor only served to endorse her relentless instruction) success was largely attributable to the fact her husband was a publisher, and she actually copied most recipes from the successful cooks of the day/ Sneaky!


Much info about Mrs Beeton, and some delish recipes, I found in this new blog calle Yesterday Enchanting Today. Check it out!



MauryMetadataThis amazing graph shows you the populair sailing routes in the 18th and 19th century. The white parts are continents. Isn’t it amazing?


From here:

With today’s hygiene standards, some people are shocked to hear that it was very common in the 19th century to only bathe once a week. But it was!

So why? Well, for a multitude of reasons. First of all, it was simply tradition. From the middle ages on, it was thought that bathing too often would make you sick or sickly, and bathing once a week was enough. Some people or some cultures started to bathe more often (an example is Marie Antoinette at Versailles, who bathed every day) but this was definitely not common practise by the 19th century. 52549420dbfa3f2cb501051a._w.309_h.316_s.fit_

Also, bathing means full-on taking a bath. Many people were spot cleaning: washing face and hands every day, and maybe their feet as well. The same thing happened to clothes, by the way. It was very common to wear the same dress all week but to switch out collars and cuffs more often.

Water had to be drawn from wells for a large part, and heated on stoves. And with families as large as in the 19th century, there really was no way they could have washed themselves or their clothes more than they did! Homes with dedicated bathrooms that resemble our modern bathrooms started appearing in the late 19th century, but homes in rural areas often didn’t have plumbed bathrooms even well into the 20th.

Eww, that’s gross, you say? Well, the notion of what is clean vs what is dirty has varied a lot across the ages, and very, very few populations ever have had the economical means to apply our standards of washing everyday and changing clothes often. Currently, we’re a very clean culture, scrubbing and using lots of detergents to get everything spotless and desinfected. The 19th century was, for a large part, really more about not appearing to be muddy.


Bathing was a pretty big deal. There’s a scene in Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy where Almanzo has to take a bath and he hates it very much, because he doesn’t like just sitting there and getting wet, and also it’s cold and he has to wear clean clothes that are very stiff. So it was really a different outlook back then.

Clothes were changed about once a week (these school regulations from the 19th century show that students had to bathe on Saturdays and change their clothes once a week.)

This had to do with cleanliness but also very much with the fact that clothes were very expensive in the 19th century. Basically, clothing was vastly more expensive to produce prior to the advent of mass production, which is really only possible once the sewing machine has come into use. As late as the American Civil War, the vast majority of clothing was being hand sewn, and much of it, especially coats and trousers, were tailor made. So, people generally owned far fewer sets of clothing, but they were comparatively better quality than what most of us wear today.


Definitely didn’t buy rights to this picture DX

As an historical example, Abraham Lincoln’s first proper suit of clothes (a frock coat, trousers, and a vest), made during the 1830s or 40s, cost $60. This is at a time when a private in the US Army made about $10 per month.

So, should you bathe more often than once a week? You shouldn’t if you lived in the 19th century, only maybe take some care to keep your hands and face clean. And change out your cuffs, if they get dirty. Otherwise, once a week is plenty.


Some academic sources for you:

  • Georges Vigarello, Le Propre et le Sale : L’hygiène du corps depuis le Moyen Âge, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, coll. « L’univers historique », 1987, 288 p. (ISBN 978-2-02-008634-9)
  • In english: Concepts of Cleanliness: Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2008




Horizontal history

I was totally blown away by this page and the amount of effort that was put into it. I don’t want to say too much to introduce it really, except to say that this page visualises historical events that took place around the same time, and that it’s AMAZING!

Go check it out: