Queen Victoria remains an ever-present part of our society. As incredible as it seems, a woman who ruled in the Nineteenth Century still influences society today.  Her reign was a long one from 1838 to 1901 and in that time, she and her country saw many fashions come and go.  Her early years saw balls full of hoop-skirted ladies and the later ones saw the beginnings of Edwardian fashions.   Our image of Victorianism is an odd combination of all of these fashions, but the era is best defined as the era of bustles.  Bustles are, in retrospect, a rather odd fashion.  The hoop, popular from the late 1850's to the late 1860's, was transformed to disdend only the back part of skirts.  These skirts were combined with tight fitting bodices and small hats.  The upper silouhuette remained very similar to that of the previous period.  Following Victoria's example, popular colors were subdued, but the fabrics used in construction were sumptuous.  Rich velvets, silks, and taffetas were all used to create stunning gowns.  Men's apparel remained similar to that of the earlier periods.  Long frock coats or cutaways were paired with tapestry or brocade vests and completed with striped or solid trousers.  This would remain the basic "uniform" of the middle- and upper-class gentleman for the next 30 years.  The only major change in men's fashion was the rise in popularity of the sport coat, cut similarly to today's suits.  Made in tweeds and other hard-wearing materials, they were seen at hunts and other sporting events.  Toward the end of Victoria's reign, styles again changed.  The bustle was forgotten for the petticoat and skirts pleated in the back.  These styles, later called Edwardian, were popular into the early 1900's