Pantalettes, Corsets And Drawers, Oh My! Mentioning Unmentionables

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
uw 1850.jpg

From an 1850 satire on crinolines, this cartoon is a kind of x-ray. Women were a veritable fabric cake- the final , buttercream rose was one's dress perched atop layers of sponge and filling.


uw crin1856.gif

We wore a lot, under there. Found on Pinterest, I think this is from Frank Leslie's Monthly

Here's a myth busted. " Bloomers " is not the name of the garment first donned, one leg at a time, after stepping from one's bath. No sociological linguist, That came later and is like calling Mary Virginia Wade " Jennie ". It's just plain wrong but we're all so enchanted by it, can't blast ' bloomers ' from the vernacular.

Pantalettes, if you were so inclined ( and possibly, if these were silk and lace confections intended for the wealthy ) , " Drawers ", if one bought cotton. And yes, one did use the term " Unmentionables "; a little hysterical. You just mentioned them, using the word ' Unmentionable '.

We'll never know how Queen Victoria referred to what stood between she and chilly castle air, post bath. poor, dear thing. Not everyone has their underwear framed and on display. We do see ( and so sorry, Victoria ) the wealthy could prefer their pantalettes plain.

uw Q-V-drawers.jpg

Short and cotton or linen, these are today's boxer shorts. for men. Guessing from her long, lonely years of widowhood.

Make no mistake. Prudish as rumor has it, our Victorians may not have yet devolved into 40 dollar scraps of polyester, string and lace. They sure liked ' pretty ' and commerce helped them achieve some corset designs which would launch a thousand eyebrows in 2017.

uw pantalette1.jpg
uw pantalette2.JPG

From the Met, a pair of very pretty unmentionables.

Knickerbockers , same as above but with knee bands, were born ( from various sources read online, please take it for what it is worth ) around the time crinolines and hoops manadated women's skirts flirted with disaster, should an upset occur. Here's something I did not know- Brits still refer to ' drawers ' as ' knickers ' ( knew that ). Did not know why.
uw drawers pattern.jpg

Cannot tell if this Godey's illustration shows a banded knee? A LOT of Godey patterns came from Demorest's. a comprehensive fashion empire of the era.

We see hints, strong indications the feminine will to perhaps push limits of allure. Love some of these.

** My mouse fell, booting me off the forum, off-line and losing a ton of this thread. CONTINUED as soon as it can be fixed!


So. Drawers, chemise, several petticoats and gosh- corset. Godey's shows us little girls were stuffed into these.
uw corsett little girl crop.jpg

HOLY gee whiz!

Then there's Mode Magazine, pushing limits. Whoa! Love it, knowing they all di but whoa!
uw 1860 mode mag.jpg


uw demorest godeys corset.JPG

Not to be outdone.... Mme Demorest

uw bathrb.jpg

Supposedly a ' dressing gown ', no one can convince me this is not era lingerie.

Chemise- one layer, precorset, seems a big yawn, doesn't it? SO.
uw chemise.jpg

Layers-
er, Pantalettes ( no lace, we'll go with drawers ), south,
chemise, north.
Corset, north again,
crinoline, south.
petticoat, south.
petticoat, south.
And sometimes south again.

uw4.jpg

uw chemise gods.jpg
uw corsett godeys crop.jpg
uw1.jpg
uw9.jpg


uw layers.jpg


You're not even dressed yet and exhausted. Doesn't she look it?
 
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WJC

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#4
View attachment 140890
From an 1850 satire on crinolines, this cartoon is a kind of x-ray. Women were a veritable fabric cake- the final , buttercream rose was one's dress perched atop layers of sponge and filling.


View attachment 140877
We wore a lot, under there. Found on Pinterest, I think this is from Frank Leslie's Monthly

Here's a myth busted. " Bloomers " is not the name of the garment first donned, one leg at a time, after stepping from one's bath. No sociological linguist, That came later and is like calling Mary Virginia Wade " Jennie ". It's just plain wrong but we're all so enchanted by it, can't blast ' bloomers ' from the vernacular.

Pantalettes, if you were so inclined ( and possibly, if these were silk and lace confections intended for the wealthy ) , " Drawers ", if one bought cotton. And yes, one did use the term " Unmentionables "; a little hysterical. You just mentioned them, using the word ' Unmentionable '.

We'll never know how Queen Victoria referred to what stood between she and chilly castle air, post bath. poor, dear thing. Not everyone has their underwear framed and on display. We do see ( and so sorry, Victoria ) the wealthy could prefer their pantalettes plain.

View attachment 140883
Short and cotton or linen, these are today's boxer shorts. for men. Guessing from her long, lonely years of widowhood.

Make no mistake. Prudish as rumor has it, our Victorians may not have yet devolved into 40 dollar scraps of polyester, string and lace. They sure liked ' pretty ' and commerce helped them achieve some corset designs which would launch a thousand eyebrows in 2017.

View attachment 140881 View attachment 140882
From the Met, a pair of very pretty unmentionables.

Knickerbockers , same as above but with knee bands, were born ( from various sources read online, please take it for what it is worth ) around the time crinolines and hoops manadated women's skirts flirted with disaster, should an upset occur. Here's something I did not know- Brits still refer to ' drawers ' as ' knickers ' ( knew that ). Did not know why.
View attachment 140879
Cannot tell if this Godey's illustration shows a banded knee? A LOT of Godey patterns came from Demorest's. a comprehensive fashion empire of the era.

We see hints, strong indications the feminine will to perhaps push limits of allure. Love some of these.

** My mouse fell, booting me off the forum, off-line and losing a ton of this thread. CONTINUED as soon as it can be fixed!


So. Drawers, chemise, several petticoats and gosh- corset. Godey's shows us little girls were stuffed into these.
View attachment 140876
HOLY gee whiz!

Then there's Mode Magazine, pushing limits. Whoa! Love it, knowing they all di but whoa!
View attachment 140872

View attachment 140878
Not to be outdone.... Mme Demorest

View attachment 140873
Supposedly a ' dressing gown ', no one can convince me this is not era lingerie.

Chemise- one layer, precorset, seems a big yawn, doesn't it? SO.
View attachment 140888
Layers-
er, Pantalettes ( no lace, we'll go with drawers ), south,
chemise, north.
Corset, north again,
crinoline, south.
petticoat, south.
petticoat, south.
And sometimes south again.

View attachment 140889
View attachment 140887 View attachment 140875 View attachment 140884 View attachment 140885

View attachment 140886

You're not even dressed yet and exhausted. Doesn't she look it?
Thanks for posting this early Victoria's Secret Catalogue....
My Grandmother wore a corset (and high heels) every day of her adult life until she was hospitalized at the end.
As for those ridiculous hoop skirts... what were they thinking?
 
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At reenactments, dressing takes me about an hour the first morning, maybe 30-40 minutes subsequent mornings.

Here are the layers in order of donning, per Juanita Leisch, Who Wore What? Women's Wear 1861-65 and Elizabeth Stewart Clark's Dressmakers Guide:
(1) Chemise--nice soft cotton, next to the skin, usually between thigh and knee length, changed daily since it absorbs sweat/odors and keeps them off your far-less-launderable foundation garment, petticoats, dress. If you reenact, you'll want as many chemises as there are days in the reenactment. Making your own chemises is a great way to learn to sew, since nobody will see your (my!) crooked stitches! Of course various decorations may be added, but I don't bother since nobody will see them.
(2) Corset--the foundation. If it fits properly, it will not be uncomfortable. It's essential for the proper mid-19th-century "look" of a smooth upper body tapering from underbust to waist. It also supports the weight of the petticoats/skirt supports, distributing the strain from your waist to your hips. Those doing a "lower class" impression can get away with a corded corset, depending, of course, on how "fluffy" your body is.
(3) Drawers (as mentioned, not pantalettes, not bloomers): These are actually optional if you are an old lady like me. For younger women, they are mandatory. They are strongly recommended for those wearing hoops, in case of accident. Drawers were split in the crotch, to allow for easier visits to the privy. Frankly, I haven't yet tried them, since for medical reasons I unfortunately have to wear modern underwear anyway, and as an old lady I certainly can't do cartwheels!
(4) Petticoats/skirt supports--Pre mid-1850s, usually half a dozen, well starched. Some petticoats were corded or contained horsehair (itch, itch). Think of the weight and the laundry! After the hoop/cage came in about 1856-7, the number of petticoats was reduced to two or three--one relativly narrow one under the cage ("modesty" petticoat) and a full one (or maybe two) over the cage to disguise the lines of the hoops. Needless to say, the weight and amount of laundry and ironing (!) was reduced close to 75% when the cage came in! Despite all the jokes, the cage was actually extremely liberating and every woman had one (they were cheap!). Normal diameter was 90" to 110"; the bigger ones were for wealthy women's ball gowns.
(5) Shoes and stockings--could also be put on before Step 2, but if you forgot, better late than never.
(6) The dress.--As mentioned above, the buttercream rose atop the layers of foundation and filling. Description taken with a grain of salt when it's a "wash" dress designed to cope with everyday house/farm/field chores!
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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A glimpse into a fascinating world. Is there any real difference between a corset and a girdle?

Ouch to both! No expert here but girdles were later? What a dreadful word. Boy, some corporate board scored a big zero on tempting younger generation with the product. It could have made me look like one of the Gabor sisters- I still would not wear something called a ' girdle '.

I remember Mom wearing them- they seem to be more for a general flattening effect, squeezing things into place comprehensively with terminally effective elastic. Corsets squeezed toothpaste tubes in the middle, as it were. :angel:
 

JPK Huson 1863

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(4) Petticoats/skirt supports--Pre mid-1850s, usually half a dozen

HOLY cow, really?? How does one do that? How does one do that without the whole thing falling donw- and if it doesn't, rubbing one's hips or waist raw?

Was the hoop/crinoline invented solely to mimic the effect of so many petticoats, and became a little carried away? Boy, they raised heck over he dangers of crinolines/hoops- 6 petticoats cannot have been very safe around fires, either, no?
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thanks for posting this early Victoria's Secret Catalogue....
My Grandmother wore a corset (and high heels) every day of her adult life until she was hospitalized at the end.
As for those ridiculous hoop skirts... what were they thinking?

I was hugely surprised to discover a lot of people detested them at the time! You know, we have this iconic image of ladies in that familiar guise, floating through the era. Reading era papers and magazines, boy was there controversy on the topic amounting to what you just said " What are you all thinking? " :giggle:
 
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Some would add a corset cover (the item shown above as a "chemise," which it isn't) over the top of the corset, but it's not really necessary unless the dress is sheer (in which case the dress lining will solve the problem). In the case of a questionable dress fabric that turns out to bleed dye, though, a corset cover would be a good idea!
 
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@JPK Huson 1863, one of the purposes of the corset is to transfer part of the weight of petticoats/petticoat supports from the waist to the hips. Sort of similar to a modern backpacking backpack in which the metal backstays transfer weight from the shoulder straps to the hip belt.

There were a lot of jokes about the "cage" when it came in (lots of them in your material!), and of course there was a safety issue in factories and still is around open fires, because with the "cage" the "drop and roll" technique if your clothes catch fire doesn't work--too much air space! I have resisted wearing hoops at outdoor reenactments for that reason. However, since our sites out here now no longer allow campfires and insist on closed stoves (our group has bought a nice wood stove that we all use), I may, finally, have to learn how gracefully to sit down on the ground in the things!

Personally, I'm grateful to be reenacting an era when extremely full hips like mine were at the height of fashion! If it were the bustle era (with skirts tight across the front), I'd never make it!
 

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I was hugely surprised to discover a lot of people detested them at the time! You know, we have this iconic image of ladies in that familiar guise, floating through the era. Reading era papers and magazines, boy was there controversy on the topic amounting to what you just said " What are you all thinking? " :giggle:
Thanks for your response and confirmation of my view on hoop skirts!
Some of our older colleagues may remember when multiple crinoline petticoats were popular. But that appears as nothing compared to the framework and covers of a hoop skirt.
I can understand why Chinese women had their feet painfully bound at birth to fit some idea their society held of femininity, but I can't imagine what image was supposed to be projected by a hoop skirt....
 

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Ouch to both! No expert here but girdles were later? What a dreadful word. Boy, some corporate board scored a big zero on tempting younger generation with the product. It could have made me look like one of the Gabor sisters- I still would not wear something called a ' girdle '.

I remember Mom wearing them- they seem to be more for a general flattening effect, squeezing things into place comprehensively with terminally effective elastic. Corsets squeezed toothpaste tubes in the middle, as it were. :angel:
I always thought my grandmother's habitual corset- wearing was because of vanity- a family characteristic. After she died, my father told me she had a bad back: maybe that explains at least part of it. I can certainly remember that no matter where she was, inside or outside, she had fabulous posture.
 
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Wearing a corset certainly does support the spine, especially the lower back. Unfortunately, that's at the expense of not using the abdominal muscles that are supposed to support the spine. That of course created a big problem when women wore the things from girlhood. Once the muscle tone was gone (or never developed), back support was essential.

That's also why I would never wear a corset except for reenactments. So far (probably due to my age), I've gotten away with a corded version (although with lots of cording!).

@WJC, the purpose of the "cage" was to replace most of the numerous heavy petticoats. The result was a lot lighter as well as greatly decreasing the necessary laundry, starching, ironing of petticoats by about 75%. Believe me, the cage is far more comfortable than many petticoats. As I've mentioned before, the greatly exaggerated "whoops" in the "cartoons" we've seen above were certainly not used.
 
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"Normal diameter was 90" to 110"; the bigger ones were for wealthy women's ball gowns."

I just want to check: did you mean 90" to 110" circumference, not diameter? A 110" diameter would produce a 345" circumference hoop!
 

WJC

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Wearing a corset certainly does support the spine, especially the lower back. Unfortunately, that's at the expense of not using the abdominal muscles that are supposed to support the spine. That of course created a big problem when women wore the things from girlhood. Once the muscle tone was gone (or never developed), back support was essential.

That's also why I would never wear a corset except for reenactments. So far (probably due to my age), I've gotten away with a corded version (although with lots of cording!).

@WJC, the purpose of the "cage" was to replace most of the numerous heavy petticoats. The result was a lot lighter as well as greatly decreasing the necessary laundry, starching, ironing of petticoats by about 75%. Believe me, the cage is far more comfortable than many petticoats. As I've mentioned before, the greatly exaggerated "whoops" in the "cartoons" we've seen above were certainly not used.
So the insanity was piling on petticoats until some poor woman told her clothier, "Enough, already!"
at which point an enterprising, imaginative mid-18th century Howard Hughes (Jane Russel's uplift bra) went to the drawing board and devised the hoop.Yet another engineering triumph!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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@JPK Huson 1863, one of the purposes of the corset is to transfer part of the weight of petticoats/petticoat supports from the waist to the hips. Sort of similar to a modern backpacking backpack in which the metal backstays transfer weight from the shoulder straps to the hip belt.

There were a lot of jokes about the "cage" when it came in (lots of them in your material!), and of course there was a safety issue in factories and still is around open fires, because with the "cage" the "drop and roll" technique if your clothes catch fire doesn't work--too much air space! I have resisted wearing hoops at outdoor reenactments for that reason. However, since our sites out here now no longer allow campfires and insist on closed stoves (our group has bought a nice wood stove that we all use), I may, finally, have to learn how gracefully to sit down on the ground in the things!

Personally, I'm grateful to be reenacting an era when extremely full hips like mine were at the height of fashion! If it were the bustle era (with skirts tight across the front), I'd never make it!

Ah! Thank you! One of my greatest frustrations is not knowing a thing about reenacting. It's such a terrific way to understand how women lived- or as closely as can be managed, it's a veritable missing tooth. For instance, I just knew some arrangement had to occur with the sheer weight of fabric- had no idea what.

Well, it never occurred to me hoops were controversial. Cartoons in era papers and various editorials just skewer them but women persisted. There's just nothing in Demorest's, Godey's, Leslie's, Mode or any other fashion magazine of the era I can find without them. That is not to say crinoline free fashion did not exist; I just cannot find it. Seems safe to say the look plus being able to get rid of so many layers must have been worth risks?
 

Mrs. V

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#20
A glimpse into a fascinating world. Is there any real difference between a corset and a girdle?
Corset comes over the breast, and upper back, continues down the line to the hip and beyond.

A girdle, could also be called a waist cincher..keeps the belly flat. They were for men and women!! My mother in law called her girdle, her " transformation". And she wore one until dementia took her hand and walked her away.
 

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