(This is the first in a series of character sketches, placing the people of the series Steam Geared in their Victorian milieu of approximately 1888.)
Nothing about Lavinia Kettering-Putterham is subtle. When we first see her in Steam Geared she is described as a statuesque woman wearing a highly fashionable dress and an extravagantly plumed hat. She is truly a talented, inventive, and imposing figure, but her taste in clothing is, well, let us say, not understated.
Possibly she is wearing something like this silk walking gown from 1885-88 in blue silk with asymmetrical trim and a very fashionable bustle, draped and embellished like a drawing-room hassock:
Or she might go with blazing shades of red, which would appeal to her sense of the dramatic.
Or a more sedate olive green Promenade Dress in a “retro” redingote style:
Fortunately for Lavinia, the poisonous arsenic greens, Paris green and Scheele green, went out of fashion in the previous decade, but the relatively new aniline dyes, in brighter and non-fading shades of greens, mauves, scarlets, and golden yellows were going strong.
No fashionable lady would consider going out-of-doors without a hat. Lavinia would have no shortage of choices for tall headwear, all trimmed with an extravagance of fluff, feathers, and flowers.
And finally, for the performance, Lavinia would have pulled out all the stops. Something like this dress in garnet velvet, lace, and heavily encrusted with pearls:
Acknowledgments: Photographs courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum. Illustrations courtesy of Google Digital Services and the University of Minnesota.