Thursday, September 7, 2017

Friday Video: Dressing an 18thc Lady

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Susan reporting:

This recent video from the Lady Lever Art Gallery and National Museums of Liverpool has been popular on social media, but it's so well-done that I'm sharing it here, too.

A few things to keep in mind as you watch. The video is recreating the routine of an elite woman. With two maidservants to assist her, the mannered ritual of dressing is part of the luxury of the woman's fashionable (and costly) clothing. The time she spends being dressed - for she's remarkably passive in the process - reflects the leisure of her rank, and the entire process could be repeated during the course of a day. She might first be dressed in a riding habit in the morning, changed into a gown to receive friends at home for tea, and then again dressed into a more formal ensemble for the theatre or a ball, before finally being undressed for bed.

The two maidservants are much more representative of what the majority of 18thc European and American women wore - and yet their clothing is not significantly less complicated. They're also wearing shifts, stays, petticoats, pockets, stockings, stomachers, aprons, kerchiefs, and caps. With less time at their disposal, however, they would have learned to dress themselves much more quickly than their fashionably idle mistress.

Remember, too, that privacy is a modern concept, and that few 18thc women would have had a room to themselves. There would likely have been a mother, sister, or fellow servant nearby to help tie the laces on stays snug, or adjust the back of a cap. Practice makes perfect, and efficiency as well: women who dressed like this every day of their lives would have the routine down. I've watched some of my friends from Colonial Williamsburg - who wear 18thc clothing on a daily basis - and they dress with surprising speed.

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11 comments:

Sarah said...

there is a mistake in this video. The mention of the 'woven design called clocks' is incorrect. the clock was not a woven design, but was an embroidered design to make a virtue of necessity, in that there was a seam at the ankle, and the embroidery covered and strengthened the seam.

Elizabeth L said...

What is the cylinder rod that she inserts down her front before the pockets are tied on?

Christina Spikloser said...

Thank you what a lovely Viedo!!!

Theresa Novak said...

It's called a busk and would have been made from wood or bone. I, too, was suprised they didn't mention that.

Theresa Novak said...

Also, it's flat, not a cylinder. Hope that helps! :-)

Laur Cowdery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Thank you, Theresa -- I was wondering the same thing.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Sarah ~ The stockings were also knitted either on needles or a knitting frame, not woven. You're right about the clocks; on the (reproduction) pair shown here, the clocks are way too far up on the leg. But hey...;)

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Elizabeth ~ As Theresa noted, the lady is inserting a busk down the front of her stays. The busk was narrow, flat, and rigid, and its purpose was to help maintain that fashionable "flat front" of the 18thc and to improve the "shoulders back" posture. Imagine an old-fashioned wooden ruler....

For examples of busks, see this older blog post: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2011/09/essential-busk-whether-for-bodies-stays.html

Pauline Loven said...

Hi All - thank you for sharing. We made the video, but didn’t do the voiceover so we have made another short video to explain the Busk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2drssuwuM7c&feature=youtu.be Pauline Loven, costumier, Crow’s Eye Productions

Pauline Loven said...

Sorry, I don’t think my link to the Busk video given above will work, so here it is again: https://youtu.be/2drssuwuM7c

 
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