Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Are So Not Amused

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Susan reports:

As you've probably gathered, Loretta and I really, really like historic dress. We're constantly sending links back and forth that show this 19th c. gown or that 17th c. pair of slippers, because this is the kind of stuff that inspires us.  It also distracts us a lot, too, but whatever.

Sometimes, though, we come across examples of historic clothing that we'd (almost) rather not see. This happened recently when the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, housed in Kensington Palace, proudly announced their latest acquisition: a pair of drawers that had once belonged to Queen Victoria (1819-1901).  They are, ah, large.  Very large. Seems that by the 1890s, Her Majesty – who was five feet tall on a good day – was sporting a 56" waist. 

Poor Queen Victoria!  It's hard to imagine her horrified reaction to such a press release. But since you're probably every bit as curious as we were, here's the whole story plus the picture of two curators (yes, it took two) displaying the royal undies.


VirginiaC said...

Lordee, those are some Queen Size britches!
You have to wonder why anyone would save old underwear, even if it belonged to a royal.

Loretta Chase said...

Them's sure some big pants.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Yup, even allowing for a drawstring waist and plenty of gathers, them's sure ARE some big Loretta said, they do cal to mind a certain scene in "Bridget Jones' Diary."

Monica Burns said...

Ok, now I don't feel so bad with my waist size! LOL She definitely looks fiercely regal though doesn't she!

Ladies, I'm really enjoying the blog. Don't always post, but am reading. Good job.

Ingrid said...

That's not fair! It would also take two people to hold out Paris Hilton's bra and thong if they had to show them horizontally.

I have seen Queen Victoria's coronation dress and wedding dress, and she had a tiny waist in 1838 and 1840. In 1997 they had an exhibition of the clothes of Princess Charlotte and Queen Victoria in the Museum of London, that's where I saw them. Princess Charlotte's wedding dress was on display too. There's a catalogue of the exhibition called In Royal Fashion with very good colour photographs.
Even in old age Queen Victoria was not spectacularly fat, when you see her dresses, though she was rather dumpy. And let's face it, menopause is making my waist disappear too, and I haven't borne nine children.

I'm quite surprised at the price of 600 pounds paid for two items of underwear. I remember a pair of Queen Victoria's drawers turning up once on the Antiques Road Show, and the owner was told there were many of these floating about, and they were therefore not worth much. That is many years ago, though.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Queen Victoria WAS tiny when she married, and though all those children plus time did take a toll on her, I suspect that the waist size of the drawers isn't necessarily the same as her own. But the story (and the picture) got picked up by media all over the world, so I guess if the curators wanted attention for their collection, they did get it.

To be honest, I found some of the other items from the collection to be much more interesting -- click through the pix on the link to see everything from Princess Diana's honeymoon suit to William III's stockings.

Jane O said...

That gorgeous silver mantua in the last picture on the link — definitely a fairy tale gown!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Maybe Her Majesty wasn't as big as her undies suggest, but it's still pretty mind-boggling. One wonders why she should would want to have all that extra material if she didn't need it.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I simply...don't know...what to say. I am heartened, however, by all the empathy being shown our fair Vicki. Talk about Victoria's secret. But I agree, it's a lovely bit of pr for the collection.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Considering how tightly corseted the upper part of Victoria's body always was, maybe she just preferred to be comfy and roomy below. Given how voluminous the skirts were, esp. during the crinoline era, maybe that was the only comfortable part of her entire wardrobe.

And yes, Jane O, I love the silver mantua, too. Interesting story about how they had to *fight* to keep it in the UK, when those mean old Americans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art want to carry it off to NYC.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Wonderful post. I must remember to visit Victoria's underthings next time I'm in the UK!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. And BIG congratulations on turning your blog into a book deal!

(For anyone who's somehow missed Elizabeth Kerri Mahon's blog, Scandalous Women, here's the link: You know you're in good hands when the blog description leads with the legendary Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote: "Well-behaved women rarely make history.")

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