Primrose’s Packing List for Fashionable Victorian Dirigible Travel

One of my favorite early scenes of the Custard Protocol series in Prudence is when Primrose and all her trunks come on board the Spotted Custard.

If was fun to write and it was really fun to research.

I adore books about how people traveled in the past, possibly because I do so much traveling myself.

So I thought you, Gentle Reader, might enjoy like a little glimpse at all the things that Primrose put into those trunks of hers…

Undergarments Alone Would Include, at Minimum:

  • 6 Calico Combinations
  • 6 Silk or Wool Combinations
  • 4 Fine Calico Trimmed Combinations for Evening
  • 6 Calico Slip Bodices
  • 6 Trimmed Muslin Slip Bodices
  • 12 Pairs of Tan Stockings
  • 12 Pairs Lisle Thread Stockings
  • 6 Strong White Petticoats
  • 6 Trimmed Petticoats
  • 2 Warm Petticoats
  • 4 Flannel Petticoats
  • 36 Pocket Handkerchiefs
  • 4 Pairs of Stays (AKA corsets)

(adapted mainly from Flora Annie Steel on packing for India in The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook)

Flora doesn’t even presume to suggest the number and range of dresses required. But I imagine it would include something along the lines of the following, for the higher ranked of British society going into a larger city. Here is a little glimpse at all the things that Primrose put into those trunks of hers, to my best guess.


Outer Garments:

  • 5 Tea and/or Dressing Gowns (for breakfast, open front, less fitted)
  • 1 Carriage Ensemble (for dusty trains or long distance caravans, several layers, all matched)
  • 4 Travel Ensembles (sporting, shorter hem, durable fabric, plainer trim, matched broad brim hats)
  • 1 Riding Habit (if horse will be available, long skirt, menswear style jacket, tall veiled hat)
  • 5 Afternoon Dresses (for receiving at home, sumptuous exotic fabrics, fuller coverage, long sleeves)
  • 5 Visiting Gown (for paying calls, similar to above with matched hat)
  • 2 Promenade Gowns (for strolling the park, similar to above but with more frills and longer trains, matched parasol)
  • 5 Dinner or Evening Gowns (top part very elaborate, skirt narrower with train, short sleeves – usually elbow length)
  • 2 Ballgowns (whole gown is elaborate, attention paid to hem, skirt fuller for dancing, sleeves usually t-shirt length or shorter, low neckline except for the very old/young)
  • 1 Reception Gown (if anticipating meeting royalty, very elaborate, heavy fabric, long train designed to be seen standing or walking, but nothing else)
  • 4 Parasols (in additions to those matched to promenade dresses)
  • 4 Evening Reticules (aside from evening parties a companion or ladies maid handles money)
  • 19 Matched Hats total (for travel, carriage, riding, visiting, and promenade)
  • 5 Lace caps for indoors
  • 3 Pairs Sturdy Walking Boots
  • 3 Pairs Kid Boots
  • 3 Pairs Satin Dancing Slippers
  • 1 Pair Riding Boots
  • 20 Pairs Gloves

A thrifty female could include transformation options, where different bodices to the same skirt makes it acceptable for different occasions.

In modern times we think of dresses as all one piece, but in the past they were often made up of several parts.

Even the informal tea gown was basically a robe and an under-dress over which it was wrapped.

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup

Book of relevance to this post?


Your Infusion of Cute . . .
The 20 Pound World Travel Backpack

Your Writerly Tinctures . . . 
Preparing for Travel to 1900’s Europe

The Old Foodie talks about supplies for traveling persons 70 years earlier (1826).
Of Turtles, White Gloves, and Kings: Americans Travelling Abroad: 1893

Book News:

The Library of the Seen says of Waistcoats & Weaponry:
“Waistcoats and Weaponry has to be my favorite book in the Finishing School Series so far. … There is SO much I could, and want, to say about this book. (Seriously I could go on and on) But if I said everything I wanted to (or even a portion of what I want to) this review would be riddled with spoilers, and the book is way to good for me to go about spoiling it for you!”

Quote of the Day:

“Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.”

~ A Nice Cup of Tea (1946)

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gail Carriger

 Comments are closed


  1. Myandria said:

    Finished reading Prudence this week, took me a little while to get my head around the new charactors but once I did I loved it, and them and now I am forlorn because I'll have to wait for the next one ):

  2. DeAnn G. Rossetti said:

    I just finished reading Prudence over the weekend, and I loved it! Wonderful book, full of wit and lively, fascinating characters who are both new to readers and from your previous books. I can hardly wait for the next adventure aboard the Spotted Custard! By the way, the red velvet dress pictured above looks something like my handmade wedding dress, which was made with burgundy panne velvet with an embroidered ivory underskirt and silver rose button accents.

© 2024 Gail Carriger
Site built by Todd Jackson