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Women's Clothing Throughout Time

(70 Posts)
nickelcognito Tue 18-Sep-12 12:45:32

As part of my HND fashion technology, I had to do a major essay on the history of the Corset.

(the module was historical and contextual referencing - we all wanted to make corsets, so in order to fit it into the course in a proper way, it was used as Historical and Contextual Referencing Module)

I wanted to talk about it.

I won't do a massive introduction, because I'm sure we all have our own ideas of why/when etc.

I'll start by:

Women have always been suppressed by men, right?
in fashion, it was one way that they could express themselves and men couldn't touch them.
(and we can discuss the whole thing about cloths etc too!)
in Mediaeval Britain and Europe, women were banned from showing their legs (calves and ankles), so they got round this "modesty code" by lowering their necklines. At one stage in the C13th, they had such low necklines that their entire bosom was showing.
one in the eye for the religious!

nickeldaisical Mon 01-Oct-12 12:43:41

i don't know much about Rational dress, but i know it was ridiculed at the time.
shame, because it made a lot more sense.

Have you got more information, Rilla ? especially stories she might have told?

RubyStolenBootyGates Tue 25-Sep-12 20:39:32

I was thinking that the whole time I was reading it!

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 20:34:17

Wow, looks amazing Ruby. Someone needs to do a tv drama!

RubyStolenBootyGates Tue 25-Sep-12 20:32:47

Have you read her newish biography? It's very interesting. There are hints that she "helped" Oscar with quite a lot of his work.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 20:30:03

ah, so Constance Wilde turns out to be more interesting than she is always portrayed as in films about Oscar Wilde.... No surprise there!

RubyStolenBootyGates Tue 25-Sep-12 20:27:49

Oh Constace Wilde was a member wasn't she? She wrote articles about the aims of the movement too.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 25-Sep-12 20:14:55

what a brilliant story Rilla!

I'd love to know more about Rational Dress. I bet it's really interesting.

RillaBlythe Tue 25-Sep-12 19:17:07

Fascinating thread! So where does the Rational Dress movement of the late 19th c fit in? My great great grandmother was really into t, toured around the country speechifying & neglecting her husband.

RubyStolenBootyGates Sat 22-Sep-12 16:25:31


TunipTheVegemal Sat 22-Sep-12 14:10:32

This reminds me of a joke about a nervous young curate visiting an elderly parishioner. 'Winter draws on, eh?' he remarks. 'As a matter of fact I have' she replies 'though I can't see that it's any business of yours!'

nickeldaisical Sat 22-Sep-12 14:04:06

clergyman not likely to look at her drawers wink

TunipTheVegemal Sat 22-Sep-12 13:54:23

LMAO @ 'or clergyman'!

Mirage Sat 22-Sep-12 13:49:08

The Victorian ladies used to wear a detachable skirt to go out hunting in.There were so many cases of ladies being dragged by their long habits being caught up when they fell that detachable skirts were designed for safety reasons.If a lady did lose her skirts,a married gentleman or clergyman would be called to assist her.The rather lovely veils they wore were to protect their faces from scratches when flying over or through hedges.

nickeldaisical Sat 22-Sep-12 11:24:51

yes, and of course, in the Georgian period, they had those huge elaborate wigs too.

almost like the Victorians went "we'll have none of that thank you! <hoicks bosom>"

TunipTheVegemal Sat 22-Sep-12 11:16:04

I've always been fascinated by the thought that if you were an early Victorian young woman you might see your Georgian granny as really uncouth, with her swearing, not covering her ankles up properly, going for walks by herself etc.

The way extreme gendering came in for both sexes is quite fascinating. In Georgian times both men and women wore silks, a range of colours, make up and perfume, and the men didn't have facial hair. Then in the 19th century not only do you get women more restricted socially, you get men dressing in drab colours with beards and whiskers.
I came across some interesting stuff about the advent of trousers for men as opposed to knee breeches. They were seen as practical but informal. At one point (1800ish IIRC) Cambridge colleges were marking students as absent if they turned up to formal hall and chapel in trousers.

nickeldaisical Sat 22-Sep-12 10:49:26

i would imagine that's when it came in.

the Victorian age brought in a lot of weird stuff. covering table legs, women not eating loads, being frowned upon for playing church organs for a living...
(that one was later, though. in the mid-1800s, there were more women organists than men, by rather a long way. they used to do blind tests so that the best candidate would get the job rather than the best male candidate)

TunipTheVegemal Sat 22-Sep-12 10:44:12

Do you remember that scene in Gone With The Wind where she's made to eat loads before a barbecue because it wouldn't be ladylike to stuff her face in public? grin

It's an interesting thought about women having to not eat too much. It seems like a very Victorian thing - I wonder when it came in.

nickeldaisical Sat 22-Sep-12 10:40:52

MrsJR grin
yes, that does also help - have you seen what they served for dinners in posh houses? shock

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 22-Sep-12 00:27:46

This is really interesting!

MrsjREwing Fri 21-Sep-12 19:50:24

I thought rich lady's wore a tight corset to prevent over eating.

RubyStolenBootyGates Wed 19-Sep-12 13:44:43

And of course, the tighter and more restrictive your corsetry is, the less manual labour you can actually do. Thus tight corsetry is a mark of wealth. Although in the Tudor era I believe that most wealthy women still had a very hands-on approach to house-hold management, so early and mid-Tudor corsetry, even for the wealthy is relatively practical.

It's only towards the end of the period that very long busks imobilising the body become fasionable.

SuperB0F Wed 19-Sep-12 13:30:34

Good points, yes.

nickeldaisical Wed 19-Sep-12 13:25:07

i guess that a lot of posh rich women found it easier to lose inches by corsetry - it was unbecoming of ladeees to do any physical exertion (leave that to the working classes, they're uncouth).
there wouldn't have been any need to lose the corset because that's how you stay all nice and shapely and ladylike.

Thistledew Wed 19-Sep-12 13:00:44

On that point I think it is just that there isn't now and has never been a significant difference in clothing between wealthy people and poor workers. It was all on a continuum. You showed that you were wealthy by having your stays made out of an expensive fabric and by lacing them tighter than was really good for you. As someone else said up the page- they had a use even for wealthy women by supporting the heavy dresses.

I would also imagine that much of it is vanity- they do give you a very even, uniform shape. Why would you as a wealthy woman present yourself with a flabby tum and saggy boobs, when your maid servant was looking all neat and trim in her corset?

RubyStolenBootyGates Wed 19-Sep-12 13:00:18

Posh stools, and very posh cushions. Good corsetry makes it all ok though smile

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