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What to Wear for This Year's “Dickens on the Strand” Festival

Updated 947 days ago

It’s that time of year again when Galvestonians and visitors alike don their best Victorian outfits and hits the streets of the historic Strand District, to capture the feeling of the Christmas spirit during the life of the great English author Charles Dickens.

For many, the big question for the annual “Dickens on the Strand” festival is what to wear. Men’s clothing during the Victorian era included the so called Morning and Frock coats, both long and short, and hats including the flat-topped tall hat, rounded-edged derby and even the signature hat worn by fictional Sherlock Holmes. For women, dresses narrowed at the waist adorned with embroideries and trims over layers of petticoats.

“The best costumes are one you’re comfortable in and enjoy wearing. For some, that could be a custom made costume and others might prefer something pieced together at home,” says Will Wright, Director of Communications and Special Events with the Galveston Historical Foundation. “Dickens on the Strand is the most fun when you’re in costume and feeling like you’re part of the festival, so do what’s comfortable for your style.”

Some dressing tips from include the following:


Ladies usually wore bonnets of some kind, trimmed with feathers, flowers, ribbons and bows. Create a bonnet easily from an old straw or felt hat from a thrift shop. Indoors, ladies often wore small lace caps that can be fashioned today from lace handkerchiefs, a flower and a few small ribbons. A Victorian dress usually had a high neckline, sometimes with a collar and fitted bodice, three-quarter length full sleeves and a very full long skirt worn over layered petticoats or a hoop. With a few amendments such as adding more fullness to the skirt, accenting with ribbons, braid, lace and flowers, and even adding a collar, any thrift-shop find can be transformed into a lovely Victorian dress.


A gentleman always wore a hat of some kind. Even working-class men are pictured with battered top hats or lower-crowned, broad-brimmed hats. Tweed skimmers were more sporty versions of Victorian attire. For clothing, a plain white shirt can be given a period look by turning the collar up. Add a ribbon, scarf or fancy cravat and knot in front. A vest [or waistcoat] of brocade, velvet or silk will help create a gentleman’s costume. And tapered pants in black, grey or buff with a strip of ribbon running down the outer seam were a gentleman’s normal attire, while a working man would wear baggy wool or corduroy pants.

For more costume tips, click on

“There is a lot of creativity in costumes, and each year I see something that is new and exciting,” says Wright. “At the end of the day, we just want people to come out in costume.”

Influenced by Dicken’s classic, “A Christmas Carol," this year marks the 43rd anniversary of the annual festival.  Due to rain the main Dickens weekend December 2-4, Galveston Historical Foundation will hold an unprecedented second weekend of Dickens on The Strand (held exclusively on The Strand street only) on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. Admission is free Friday night to our Fezziwig’s Beer Hall from 5-9 p.m. Saturday’s event will be held from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. with tickets specially priced at $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12. Attendees in Victorian costume are admitted for $4. Children 5 & under are free.

“We work hard to transform downtown into Charles Dickens’ stories. That’s helped along by the fact that most of the buildings downtown are of the same time period that he was writing about and lived in,” notes Wright. “Seeing people in costume, having fun and surrounded by the gorgeous buildings downtown makes it a lot easier for everyone to feel that they might be in a different time, country or frame of mind.”

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Article written by Richard Varr

Richard Varr is a well-rounded freelance writer with more than 25 years writing experience. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), he specializes in travel, feature and business writing and is the author (main contributor) of the Dorling Kindersley EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE TO PHILADELPHIA AND THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY. Richard currently lives in Houston and contributes to a variety of magazines and websites, with particular focus on highlighting destinations for cruise and RV publications. Visit his own blog at