Thursday, March 7, 2013

Horrors! Not a Flannel Petticoat!!! 1807

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Isabella reporting,

We've often wondered how early 19th c. ladies kept warm wearing thin linen gowns in draft, unheated houses. A wool paisley shawl was a fashionable solution, but in many cases, it probably wasn't sufficient to keep away wintery chills. Flannel drawers were an apparent solution, and also apparently soundly rejected, if this 1807 caricature by George Moutard Woodward is any indication. (Click on the image to enlarge it for details.)

The print is called A Hint to the Ladies - or a Visit from Dr. FLANNEL!! The good, red-faced doctor has heard from Her Ladyship's maid that her stylish clothes leave her shivering, and has brought an old-fashioned remedy. Says Dr. Flannel: "Mrs. Jenny said your Ladyship complain'd of being cold about the loins - so I have just stept in with a warm flannel petticoat."

But Her Ladyship will have none of it.  "I have no loins, fellow!" she shrieks. "Do you want to make a monster of me?!!"

What more can I say?

Above: A Hint to the Ladies - or a Visit from Dr. FLANNEL!!, coloured etching by I. Cruikshank, , after George Moutard Woodward. London, 1807. Wellcome Library.
Thanks to Lindsey Fitzharris, The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, for spotting this print first. 


Terese Ramin said...

Aside from being "unfashionable" , the flannel probably clung to everything and caused clothing worn over it to ride up, appear wrinkled, or just plain as though it didn't fit right. Not sure if they had a Static Guard equivalent in those days... ;-)

Anonymous said...

My assumption would be that the "flannel" referred to is actually wool flannel, and not the cotton flannel we know today. It was commonly worn through the 18th century, and I would guess that it was still in use in the early 19th. Wool flannel was a lighter weight wool that had a brushed nap, so it was a warm fiber to wear... albeit rather scratchy!
Joyce B.

Miss K said...

I focus mostly on the Civil War, but this post was hilarious! I think I could also use some flannels, especially in Michigan....

Isobel Carr said...

One of my books has a knit wool petticoat that I always think would do the job nicely (it’s from Denmark I think, where perhaps it was cold enough for the ladies to not be so fastidious, LOL!).

And, yes, Joyce is right. “Flannel” is a type of woolen fabric in this period.

Morte said...

I participate in medieval recreation and have several flannel shifts/chemises and they're AMAZING. They're actually comfortable in warm weather as well as cold, they don't stick to my outer skirts either 8)

nightsmusic said...

ME! Give the flannel to me! I'm sitting in front of a roaring fire, covered in a blanket with two sweaters on and I just cannot get warm tonight. So fashionable or not, it would have been the flannels for me back then.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I agree that the flannel was probably wool, with a brushed surface.

Static cling is more a modern plague than a 18th-19th c. one - remember that these ladies are wearing only natural fibers, with no nylon or polyester to get all static-y. No pantyhose, either, with their stockings only come to their knees. Plus without forced-air central heating, the air inside wasn't as dry or electrically charged. A small advantage to fireplace heating!

I suspect this lady's main objection is that the sensible petticoat is old-fashioned, heavy, and just plain "ugly", and no amount of argument is going to make her change her mind. As someone who can remember standing at school bus-stops in the middle of winter in very short skirts without stockings because that was the style, I totally get her objections. Not that it makes sense, but hey....

And in defense of wool: wool is a wonderful natural fiber, warm, soft, and cozy, plus being renewable and biodegradable. It's gotten a bad rap in modern times as being "scratchy", mostly by people who've never worn a good wool sweater. Beats acrylic and polyester fleece hands-down. Can you tell I'm a wool-loving-knitter? *g* Yay, sheep!

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