More than 50 women and girls, including mothers and grandmothers, attended Cascade Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., to find out what a Victorian Christmas looked like.

Hosted by the women’s ministry leadership team, the event included hors d’oeuvres and live music from a violin duet.

Wendy Batchelder, historical costume designer and host of Lostartsrevived.com, showed what it was like for women to dress in the Victorian era.

It’s about silhouettes, she said. “During the Victorian era, illusion ruled. Women wanted to get married and become a mother. That was it. We have what we have today because of the women who wore these clothes.”

Women were constricted by their garments. As Batchelder demonstrated how women’s fashion evolved from 1890 to 1920, she explained that things were not as the popular PBS drama Downton Abbeywould have us believe.

“Women had to wear this cage!” she said, holding up a metal cage shaped like a bell. “In the winter of Michigan, women would have pounds of ice and snow caked to the bottom of their dresses.”

Batchelder walked on stage in a basic white garment and went on to explain the amount of clothing women had to wear. By the end of her demonstration, she had donned several layers of clothing, including a corset. Many women were amazed when she pulled the corset string by herself, without the aid commonly depicted in the PBS drama.

“It is a good event to bring a friend or a neighbor to introduce them to the church,” said event coordinator Julie Beezhold. “Christmas without Christ isn’t Christmas at all, but a lot of the world doesn’t know that.”

About the Author

Kristin Schmitt is a college student at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and a member of Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville, Mich.