The second half of the 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution create several significant changes in how we viewed ourselves, and how that made itself apparent in our choice of clothing. Business and manufacture became, for the first time really, areas that were getting praise and support, not only because of what they provided for the individual, but what they meant to national prestige. The introduction, during the Victorian era of the notion of a multinational exposition made it possible for countries to show off the type and level of their made goods in a non-violent way. It also showcased these things in the best possible light; and as a method of advertizing, they were unparalleled. So by association, those businesses, and business men, that best represented the skill and variety of a countries products, got a great deal of positive attention.
So, the essential conservatism of the ruling class still affected how the rest of the culture thought and behaved, even in the face of constant, and ever more rapid, technological and social changes from the greater world. The mid century maintained its rigid grip on convention, knowing in some non verbal sense that there was a huge dichotomy between the world they desired to exist, and the one that did, in fact.
This repressive psycho-social behavior, expressed itself for women in fashions that were year by year becoming more constricting; till by the 1880s, with the cuirass silhouette, women could barely walk. The corset, which had stopped at the upper hip now dropped down to crotch level, making sitting more difficult than ever. The skirts, which had been enormous, became a narrow, heavily decorated, and hampering tube.
But, boy howdy were things about to shift.