A Closer Look at Victoria’s Shamrock Gown

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I really wasn’t paying attention to season three of Victoria (2019), but turning on PBS Masterpiece Theater at 9pm Sunday night is a really hard habit to break. I’ve only been doing it for 40-some-odd years now! So if there’s a costume drama on, I’ll watch or at least have it on in the background whilst I noodle around online or wash dishes or fret about going to work the next day, etc. And I always have my DVR set to record Masterpiece, it’s something I automatically do, I can’t help myself.

Thus, while I haven’t kept up with the series, I know the main characters, plot, setting, and period because DUH, and didn’t mind a little historical eye candy last winter. I was pleasantly surprised to see one costume in particular show up on screen — in episode 5, “A Show of Unity” (which just aired in the UK), the Queen decides to visit Ireland, a controversial choice, given the famines and Britain’s awful treatment of this subject state since, well, forever. Being a fluffy costume drama, the politics of the period are merely hinted at and mostly glossed over, of course.

But what is shown clearly and most relevantly for us is how Queen Victoria used fashion as a political statement. A year or so back, the Frock Flicks crew attended a conference where Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, spoke about Queen Victoria’s wardrobe. She described how Victoria wore specific outfits for state occasions to impress and communicate with people — what is sometimes called ‘sartorial diplomacy’ and is often practiced today by political wives. One of Queen Victoria’s most noted episodes of sartorial or fashion diplomacy was when she first visited Ireland in 1849 and wore outfits decorated with shamrocks, the traditional symbol of Ireland.

Kendra was able to track down a few such references to Victoria’s first visit to Ireland. A description from The Times on August 11, 1849, says of Queen Victoria holding a drawing room event in Dublin: “Her Majesty was attired in a superb pink poplin dress, elaborately figured with gold shamrocks.” For an afternoon levee several days later, The Albion, A Journal of News, Politics, and Literature, September 1, 1848, says of the Queen’s ensemble: “She wore a robe of exquisitely shaded Irish poplin, or emerald green, richly wrought with shamrocks in gold embroidery.”

The TV show Victoria doesn’t seem to be recreating a specific historical outfit, but costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt did do some research and knew about the queen’s efforts at sartorial diplomacy. She did a nice job incorporating an Irish theme into the outfit Jenna Coleman wears as Victoria during a scene of ceremonial peace-making.

Victoria (2019)

In close-up, you can tell the shamrock detail is an applied ribbon or tape — which is a pretty good time & budget-saving trick for a TV series.

Victoria (2019)

The leaf motif does seem to be embroidered or couched though.

Victoria (2019)

The trim (both embroidery & ribbon) extends all over the back of the jacket & at the hem of the gown.

Victoria (2019)

I’m not a bonnet fan, but this one is well-made & nicely trimmed. The green touches are nod to the Irish theme.

Victoria (2019)

Tiny green cameo earrings.

Victoria (2019)

As much as I dislike the fashions of this era, I do love this jacket shape! Very feminine & charming.

Victoria (2019)

The full outfit.

 

Are you still watching Victoria? Did you notice these details?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

18 Responses

  1. Lynne Connolly

    I gave up. So many historical inaccuracies that I couldn’t take it any more. And it’s so boring! How can you make it up and then make it so boring?
    pretty jacket, though. I’d wear it.

    Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      I’m with you. I think the shamrock ribbon looks very much like the sort of thing you’d find at Joann’s in the craft ribbon section immediately after they clear out the Valentine’s Day crap and start vomiting green shit everywhere for St. Patrick’s Day.

      I’m sure it reads better on screen. /sarcasm

      Reply
    • Ammanda McCabe

      So true. The real history would have been much more interesting than, well, whatever weird nonsense was going on! Nice costumes, though

      Reply
      • Ammanda McCabe

        Oh, and I do hope the real Crystal Palace was a bit more impressive than a couple of glass cases and a teepee sort of thing :)

        Reply
    • Gosia

      Hi Lynne,

      When you write about historical inaccuracies, do you mean the distortion of historical facts?
      Concerning my opinion about “Victoria” I couldn’t take it too beyond the first season, because the series looked like a puff for the British royal family. It was too glossed over.

      Reply
  2. ljones1966

    Thus, while I haven’t kept up with the series, I know the main characters, plot, setting, and period because DUH, and didn’t mind a little historical eye candy last winter. I was pleasantly surprised to see one costume in particular show up on screen — in episode 5, “A Show of Unity” (which just aired in the UK), the Queen decides to visit Ireland, a controversial choice, given the famines and Britain’s awful treatment of this subject state since, well, forever. Being a fluffy costume drama, the politics of the period are merely hinted at and mostly glossed over, of course.

    Sometimes, the series can go beyond fluff Have you seen the Season 2 episode called “Faith, Hope & Charity”?

    Reply
  3. Sarah Lorraine

    I really want to know the designer’s reasoning for not doing something like putting her in a green dress as opposed to the craft ribbon slapped on an existing Cosprop costume? We know they have access to the entire Cosprop archive… There have to be at least a few1840s green dresses in that collection that would have worked to signify “I’m in Ireland, bitches, let’s do some politics” better than shamrock craft ribbon. Especially since, like you said, they’re not adhering directly to recreating the actual gown she wore.

    Reply
  4. Myra Edwards.

    I love the show. Love that they put her half-sister in the third season since everybody seems to forget about her.

    Reply
    • SarahV

      Ah! Is that who that is? I was wondering. I’ve only been half-following this show because it’s gone really hard off the rails.

      Reply
    • Aimee

      A shame they didn’t portray Feodore as she really was! She and Victoria were very close. I haven’t been really following the show, but my friend said at this point they might as well make her evilly twirl her moustache

      Reply
  5. Laura Peacemaker

    Yep, craft ribbon! haha
    I do like the bonnet, the beading/embroidery on the inside is really pretty, but the bows on it look crushed to me. Why didn’t someone fluff them up? What do you think? Was it supposed to look like that?

    Reply
    • Ammanda McCabe

      Lol! It’s like on “The Paradise,” where every costume looked like rickrack and fringe threw up on them

      Reply
  6. Susan Pola Staples

    I also liked the ‘Shamrock Dress’ and also like the show. Season 3 was a bit of ‘Let’s see how Clueless Albert Is With Regard to Princess Feodora’. And Feodora made a poor substitute for Ernst. Evil Feodora was very inaccurate, but what I did enjoy was Lady Pam, the new Charterist Maid (still miss Skerritt, but with her marriage…) and the Crystal Palace Exhibition to name a few.

    Reply
  7. Andrew Schroeder

    Seeing this again, it definitely looks like a pre-existing costume that they added the ribbon to.

    The historical inaccuracies have made my roll my eyes so hard they’ve almost fallen out, but I’ve kept watching because it’s mildly entertaining and the actor who plays Albert is cute. But the writer’s attempts to turn Victoria into some kind of proto-feminist woke qween are just stupid.

    The costumes have definitely improved since the first season. I’m guessing the budget was increased.

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Yes to the historical inaccuracies and Albert’s cuteness. (He was apparently pretty adorable in private life, when he wasn’t worrying about V’s and Bertie’s moods.) And Victoria’s proto-feminist stuff. V was a fascinating person without this sort of anachronism. We are not woke.

      Reply
  8. Nzie

    I don’t watch the show—I saw the first ep, was kind of confused by the storyline about accusing a lady of being pregnant who was just terribly ill (googling helped), and couldn’t unsee the housekeeper character from her Broadchurch S2 part which was truly disturbing, so that was it for me. But happy to learn more about the costume… I agree about why not dye the ribbon a bit, but maybe in the lighting it didn’t read as much.

    Reply

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