Due to strict norms of behavior when it comes to sex, during the 19th century Victorian men were often portrayed as lewd, while women were expected to preserve their honor and innocence at all costs. One rather bizarre dilemma especially captured the attention of the ladies of that time.
Victorian England was a place of rigid rules of conduct and rigid norms. For all those who would dare to defy them or openly oppose them, the punishments were worse than just material or physical - such individuals faced social contempt and rejection of the environment. That is why today by "Victorian morality" we mean a special attitude towards sexuality based on a strict interpretation of Christian norms that forbade any open expression - through "provocative" clothing or nudity, or explicit or implicit eroticism in literature, art and everyday life. . These strict rules of conduct were especially binding on women, and here is one of the bizarre dilemmas that the ladies of that time had to face:
The dresses consisted of several parts and the most important were corsets, crinolines and panieri.
The corsets had the function of tightening the waist and thus emphasizing the hips and chest. They consisted of metal rods wrapped in silk and a hard cloth connected by thick laces. They prevented normal breathing, kept the body upright, and the woman in it could neither eat nor drink. The corset restricted the movement of the upper body, so the movements were slower and more graceful.
Crinolines were a construction that was inserted under the lower part of the dress, thus giving it a large volume and a rounded shape. It consisted of circles or ellipses made of fish bones, soft wood or wire connected by silk ribbons. The whole construction was a bit like a chicken cage. Its function was to emphasize the hips. It followed the effect of the corset because the thin waist stood out with the accentuated and wide hips.
Victorian men found women's legs, and especially the ankles, incredibly sexy. The ankle was considered to be the only lower body that "honest women" were allowed to show in public, but as Victorian skirts and dresses were long, ladies in practice never enjoyed this "freedom".
On the other hand, it was often necessary for women to lift their dress to prevent them from dragging themselves through the mud. Namely, the dirt from the street often contained numerous bacteria, and in the first place it could cause tuberculosis, so the need to lift a skirt or a thousand was also of a health nature. However, for some men, this only inflamed their imagination, so they often asked for any moment of inattention to "peek" and at least for a moment see the wrist of a woman on the street. And here we come to the real Victorian dilemma of every "honest woman" - whether to let the dress drag on the ground and thus risk not only soiling clothes but also their own health, but thus preserve the reputation, or raise the skirt, avoid its soiling, and let men to “steam the eyes”.