Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Warmer: What the Ladies Wore

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Susan reports:

Last month, we wrote about the quilted waistcoats that 18th & 19th c. gentlemen would have  worn for relaxing at home, or underneath a jacket. It was an easy, informal style, and a warm one, too, a welcome layer in a drafty room heated only by a fireplace. 

But what of the ladies? What were they wearing as they sat at their equally drafty desks, writing and reading those endless letters that seem to have begun most every well-bred lady's day? They wore their own form of quilted waistcoats, often called jumps. Made of wool, or silk, or linen, they were heavily quilted to give them shape, and only lightly boned, if at all. They could take the place of stays (corsets) while at home, or could also be worn over them. Some had separate sleeves that could be tied on at the shoulders for extra warmth. Add a quilted petticoat (we'd call it a skirt) and wool stockings, and a lady would be well-fortified against the cold.

But as we saw with the gentlemen's quilted waistcoats, keeping warm didn't mean being unfashionable. These two reproductions, both stitched by the mantua-makers of Colonial Williamsburg, are not only elegantly quilted (all that diamond-patterned stitching is done by hand), but the example at lower left is also beautifully embroidered.  The flaps on the lower edge are to accommodate the gathered fullness of the petticoats.

Here are two more examples,  a bright yellow one from the Victoria & Albert Museum and another from the CW collections.

Coming on Friday: what the 18th c. lady wears out-of-doors to keep warm! 

7 comments:

Emma J said...

Love the one with the flowers, though I wonder how warm they really were. They don't look that heavy.

Vanessa Kelly said...

I love the combination of functionality and beauty. Were these types of garments also worn during the Regency period? And would the ladies of the ton have worn them, or did fashion prevail over common sense?

nightsmusic said...

I would think, lined with a couple layers of cotton or a lightweight wool, they'd be very warm. I have a couple of antique quilts, one lined with the wool, that I've *gasp* tossed over me while I'm napping (which is so rare for me) and I find myself waking because I'm too warm.

I've also made a couple quilts using a thin wool blanket as the lining as an experiment. They have a wonderful weight to them, but I don't diamond quilt them. Too much for my arthritic hands. The quilting though, that close pattern, was not only decorative, it also kept the lining from shifting.

sorry, I'll shut up now ;)

News From the Holmestead said...

Lovely garments, and they do look like they'd be toasty warm. I know how warm a long skirt can be, too. I've actually made myself a couple of long skirts from quilted material, and I wear them over my jeans at home on particularly cold days. Not very fashionable, but quite warm, since I live in an old, drafty house. They have a stretchy waistband and I simply pull them on over my jeans. So I could see how a quilted petticoat and vest or jumper would be nice and warm for a Regency miss. ~Sherrie Holmes

Susan Holloway Scott said...

EmmaJ, I'd guess the jumps were in fact warm. Several light layers are always warmer than one heavy one, as both Theo and Sherrie attest below. :)

Vanessa, I'm guessing here about whether Regency ladies would be wearing such garments, too -- but since these were for informal wear ("undress"), I wouldn't be surprised if ladies were still wearing some version of a quilted undergarment, regardless of the fashion, though as oversized shawls became more popular, quilted undergarments might have fallen into disuse.

Though you know, that long quilted corset that Loretta showed with the red gown last week probably would have had enough layers to have offered some warmth, too....

Anonymous said...

Air holds heat, so what is important is heating the layers of air in betwen the layers of cloth. With their multiple layers of linen, wool or cotton batting (?) the vests shown were probably very warm, and more attractive than modern thermal undershirts. A high level of skilled stitchery on that cross-grain quilting. She (or he) knows what she is doing with her needle.

Rachel Rossano said...

The quilting looks beautiful as well as functional. The thought of all the work that went into just one of these is amazing to me. :)

By the way, I am passing an award on to your blog. http://rachel-rossano.blogspot.com/2010/01/one-lovely-blog-award.html

I really enjoy reading about all the interesting topics you cover.

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