Lush and lavish are the key concepts in Victorian Christmas decorations. Rich colors, luxurious fabrics, and splendidly over-the-top embellishments make this style the epitome of sumptuous holiday elegance.
The Victorian period (1837-1901) was known for strict rules of behavior that regulated everything from etiquette to morality, but the styles, fashions, and tastes of the day were anything but Puritanical. In both Europe and the US a burgeoning middle class were enjoying the economic effects of the industrial revolution, and they reveled in displaying their newfound affluence.
In an era when even everyday items were often ornately decorated, the holiday season was an annual explosion of color, shine, and exuberant rococo profusion. Here are some tips for giving an Victorian air to your holiday decor.
Use color to set the mood
The Victorians loved color and used it everywhere, sometimes in combinations that we would find surprising today. But very bright shades (including the fire engine red and apple green that we associate with the season now) were seldom seen in the decorations of the era. Colors that are typical of the period include deep gem tones of red, blue, green, and purple, along with shades of gold and cream.
Suggestion: try decorating your tree with ornaments in deep gem tones, and replace bright tinsel garland with swaths of broad burgundy red ribbon. Add accents with cream-colored bows and shiny gold balls or figurines.
Suggestion: if you don’t care for deep tones, try going with pastel theme. While not as historically accurate, light shades of dusty pink or blue mixed with cream and ecru and highlighted with plenty of gold can create a breathtaking period look. Strings of pearly beads make a dazzling accent to a pastel holiday theme.
Lots of greenery wherever you look
Boughs of pine and other greenery were a basic component of holiday decor during the period. Carefully arranged with fruit, flowers, candles, and ornaments or woven into garlands, greenery was everywhere.
Suggestion: hang pine garlands wherever you can – festooned on staircases, surrounding doorways, and draped over mirrors and mantlepieces. Weave broad ribbon, silky fabric, or thick gold decorative rope through the branches and decorate with bows, flowers, figurines, ornaments, and tiny wrapped packages.
Suggestion: strictly speaking, electric Christmas lights aren’t really part of period holiday decor. But they’re very much in keeping with the decorating spirit of the era, and using slightly gold-tinted mini lights creates a warm glow reminiscent of candlelight.
When in doubt, embellish!
The Victorians had a real “more is better” ethic about decorating, particularly when it came to decorative ornamentation. The question was rarely “which one should I use?” but rather, “How many can I fit into the space?” This is particularly true of the holiday decor of the period.
Suggestion: to capture the mood of the era, go lavish with everything and decorate everywhere. Don’t stop with hanging the garlands and decorating the tree. Make arrangements with flowers, candles, ornaments, ribbon and greenery on tables, mantles, piano tops, shelves; every flat surface is eligible. And don’t think in terms of “either or” – think “both and” instead. When you’re creating an arrangement, use bows and ornaments and fruit. Or pearls, flowers, and lace. Or bows, ornaments, fruit, pearls, flowers, and – well, you get the picture.
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