Posted by Laura W on November 26, 1997 at 13:51:44:
In response to Shorter and smaller?, written by Constanza on November 26, 1997 at 13:25:02
] Were people shorter and of a smaller size 200 years ago or is this just a misconception I picked up somewhere?
It is a misconception. We discussed this at length recently on the Heyer Mailing List, and our costume experts in particular pointed out that we often draw this conclusion on the fact that most of the surviving clothes today from that era are tiny. But this is really because clothes were re-made, sold second-hand, and worn until they were rags by the lower classes. A gentleman's coat, for example, might make it through several owners before it became so threadbare that even a beggar would use it for rags.
So anyway, the surviving tiny clothes survive because they were not made over, since they wouldn't fit anyone else.
Another reason given is that beds were short. But this is mostly because people slept propped up on pillows. It makes it easier to breathe, especially if you have a cold.
Nutrition plays a great role in the heights people reach as adults. It is probably generally true that the aristocratic and bourgeoisie classes were taller than the poor classes due to better nutrition. But even among the well-fed there is a wide variety of heights: Napoleon was only five feet tall but Wellington was over six feet, as was Washington.
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