When we think of Victorian decorating, we automatically think of the parlor, then the bedroom. The Victorian style of dressing a bedroom has never gone out of style. Think of a bed (antique or not) dressed in layers of bedclothes, piled high with pillows, add a doll, bear or tea tray and there you have it. Wash out the colors and you have the Romantic style of today.
While we have the advantage of many colors, patterns and embellishments in sheets and pillowcases, the Victorians used exclusively white linens. In the 19th century, white was a symbol of prosperity as keeping them clean would require hiring servants to wash them by hand. Lace, embroidery and monograms would decorate them heavily.The actual clothes of the Victorian bed depends upon the exact era you wish to duplicate.
In fashion, the opulence of the early part of the century (Rococo) swayed in the direction of a more sleek, pared down look (Eastlake), then back to unrestrained abundance during Queen Victoria's reign. All of these designs would be appropriate for the era between 1840 and 1910.
If the period you are trying to create is the early Rococo era (1850-1860) you would have lots of S and C curves and there would be scores of pillows and shams in lace, ruffles and embroidery. Your bed would be piled high with coverlets, quilts and throws in addition to the pillows with lots of embellishments (medallions). Your frames and metalwork would be in gold or a mica gloss.
Moving to the Eastlake period (1870-1880), your bed would wear only a spread over a dust ruffle and the necessary sleeping pillows. Curtains would hang on a simple wooden or metal rod, unswagged and unadorned. Think of the Seaside Cottage look of today only unpainted.
The colors of the Victorian period ranged from the jewel tones like ruby reds, royal purples and golden yellows of the 1860's to the lighter tones (but not pastel) of the same colors later in the century.
For this look, it is important not to hide the headboard. Piles and piles of pillows are fine for beds with high headboards as they still show off all of the wonderful carving of the bedstead. Because Victorian mattresses were about half the thickness of today's, and box springs were unheard of, our naked beds tend to be much thicker than the bed of yesterday. If you have a slightly lower headboard because of that, use a canopy or some fabric decorating element (swag, curtain or picture with swag) to create height above the bed.
Many of today’s bedcovers come in a complete package in coordinating designs. This makes our decorating easier than in Victorian times. Don't be afraid to mix and match bed-in-a-bag packages, designers, or add and change with items of your own.
Finally, don't skimp on fabric! Remember the Victorians were all about opulence, abundance and elaborateness. Your window curtains and bed-curtains should be very wide (lined if possible) and puddle on the floor. This means they should be at least an extra foot long and edged in some type of fringe, ruffling or pleating. Draperies should be multi-layered with as little as three layers up to six layers of fabrics. Use lots of elaborate tassels or medallions to tie back the drapes, bed-curtains and just to hang on that bedroom slipper chair or bedpost.
Pictures should be in abundance and hung from cord, ribbon or tassels. If you are lucky enough to have a picture rail, use it. If not, shelves, dressers and end tables should be loaded with photos as well as the walls.