Posted by Marie Bernadette on March 01, 1998 at 23:52:23:
In response to So what are the clothing myths?, written by Carolyn B on February 28, 1998 at 00:18:06
Having read the discussions below about corset myths and "wet t-shirt" ; ) fashions, I'm curious about what the common misconceptions that the costume experts here at RoP see repeated again and again.
I am not an expert, but have been studying historic costume on my own for quite a while now. One myth that comes to mind is that people did not wear any underwear (i.e., 'drawers'). I do not know about other eras, but in the late 18th/early 19th centuries women wore drawers under their petticoats (although the crotch seem was not sewn which sort of defeats the purpose, but I suppose the garment would still afford some warmth to the legs and since the fabric was loose and draped, at least some modesty should one happen to slip and land 'feet up'). Men wore drawers, also, what is interesting is that the undergarments completely covered the skin so that no flesh made contact with any part of the outer garment. So if a man was wearing 'unmentionables' (a popular term for trousers) his drawers were as long as the trousers. Women's drawer's came just beneath the knee, it being deemed 'not respectable' to have long drawers that showed from underneath the petticoat (such a cheap exhibition!). Girls wore long drawers, though, since their dresses ended just below the knee and something was needed to cover the space between knee and ankle.
Another myth is that the clothes are terribly uncomfortable. During the Regency period the clothes aren't too bad. The long skirts take a bit of getting used to and certain shoes catch on the hems but they are comfortable enough because there are no actual 'corsets'. However, after raising one's arms above the head in such a frock certain things tend to need, ah, re-arranging when the arms come down. It takes some practice and grace to raise the arms without bother and some styles of dress allow for this better than others. My husband says that Regency gentleman's attire is fairly comfortable and the neckcloths and stocks are no worse than a modern neck tie. He does not want to wear his cutaway if it's hot, though.
The drop front trousers are much more comfortable and convenient than he thought they would be.
I am always interested in the "myth-busting" aspects of history and also in the ways we sometimes misconstrue past cultural behavior because we either impose our own values on the past OR we forget that people in the past were generally sensible human beings who in many instances reacted to things the same ways we do.
I agree with you on this subject. The above could be a post unto itself.
I am also curious about what the main sources are for how people in the early 1800s actually wore clothes vs. what the fashion plates look like, because most of my experience with 19th C. costume is after the invention of the camera.
For costuming I have found this board and the links it provides to be very valuable. I find a lot in books. Some books have photos of garments that have survived. A History of Custume by Carl Köhler has a decent chapter on the Regency complete with photos of museum pieces. Most of what is seen in the fashion plates is for the wealthy or for special occasions. The 'everyday' clothes were similar in style but plainer. The clothing of the lower classes also had the same basic cut but without the ornamentation.
I hope that I have been helpful and have not gone on too long.
- drawers P. Bingham 13:38:37 3/03/98 (3)
- Thanks + a laundry question Carolyn B 20:15:44 3/02/98 (1)
- Laundry Marie Bernadette 11:42:37 3/03/98 (0)
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