Here’s an idea to develop:
“Class differentiation, one of the primary functions served by dress, was not always clear. A confusion about dress and its signals commenced that continued throughout the nineteenth century.” (Fashioned From Penury: dress as cultural practice in colonial Australia, Margaret Maynard.)
I guess it’s easy if you’re writing historical fiction the easy approach is to just grab a book (or website), see what people in UK/Europe/US were wearing at the time and run with that, but isn’t it more interesting to consider local factors? In fact, isn’t that a reason for writing fiction, to explore ideas?
There’s a lot of class & status tied in what people wore, so to what extent were the social tensions in society reflected in what people wore? And colonial/Victorian Australia society there are other tensions affecting dress, including:
* availability of clothing, both finished and materials
* the influence of overseeas esp. European fashions vs local conditions & needs
* regional variation
So then, the question becomes how and why did (local) fashion vary from what websites & books show, and should this, can this be reflected in fictional world-building? For world-building goes on in historical fiction just as it does in SF&F, or it should.
(Photos take at National Museum, Canberra. Convict-era shirt c.1830 and woollen dress, c.1885)