This super-short film (a little over a minute) has been popular on social media recently, and for good reason, too. For modern costume historians, it's the perfect way to see all the layers of clothing an Englishwoman wore in 1896 - and how quickly she could remove those layers, too.
But documenting a woman's wardrobe wasn't the original point of this film. Here's the information supplied by the British Film Institute:
"Is this Britain's oldest erotic film? Modern viewers might question how genuinely erotic it is. But it certainly pushed the boundaries of what was permissible in 1896 - and there's little doubt that it was intended to titillate. Erotica being what it is, it's possible that other (and perhaps more explicit) examples exist in private hands, but this is certainly the oldest surviving British film of its kind that we know of. "Also known as AWoman Undressing, the film is credited to Brighton-based pioneer Esmé Collings _ making it one of very few of his films to survive. Alongside rather more demure films from around the same time, such as Grandma's Reading Glass (1900) and As Seen Through a Telescope (1900), it demonstrates that early filmmakers - even in these comparatively inhibited islands - were quick to realize the new medium's implicit voyeurism."
Victorian Lady in Her Boudoir by Esmé Collings, 1896, BFI.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.