Monday, April 15, 2013

A Modest Lady's Undergarments 1811

Monday, April 15, 2013
Ball Dress 1811
Loretta reports:
[T]hough the hoop and quilted petticoat are no longer suffered to shroud in hideous obscurity one of the loveliest works in nature, yet all intermediate covering is not to be banished.  . . .

Some of our fair dames appear, summer and winter, with no other shelter from sun or frost, than one single garment of muslin or silk over their chemise—if they wear one !  . . . No eye but that of a libertine can look upon so wanton a figure with any other sensations than those of disgust and contempt: and the end of all her arts being lost, the certainty of an early old age, chronic pains and deeply-furrowed wrinkles, is thus incurred in vain.

No woman . . . ought to be prodigal of her charms ; she should not " unmask her beauties to the moon or unduely expose the vital fluid, which animates her frame with life and joy. A momentary blast from the east may pierce her filmy robes, wither her bloom, and lay her low for ever.

ca 1815 corset, CW
The Chemise, (now too frequently banished,) ought to be held as sacred by the modest fair, as the vestal veil . . . to shelter her from the gaze of unhallowed eyes. There are circumstances which might occur to her, wherein the want of this decent garment might subject her to a shame never to be forgotten by herself or others. Let her think of accidents " by flood, or field, or fire;" and I trust she will never again subject herself to the chance of such unwomanly exposure...

[W]e shall next speak of the stays, or corsets. They must be light and flexible, yielding to the shape, while they support it. In warm weather, my fair reader should wear under her gown and slip, a light cotton petticoat; these few habiliments are sufficient to impart the softening line of modesty to the defined outline of the form. Health, also, is preserved by their opposing the immediate influence of the atmosphere; and none will deny, that enough of female charms are thus displayed, to gratify the quick, discerning eye of taste.
The Mirror of the Graces,1811
Guidance on shoes and stockings here. Proper behavior between the sexes here.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that she calls the shift a slip. IT does seem as though there was a period when some ladies put on as few layers as possible. Living as I do in Atlanta, I can understand wanting to reduce the amount of clothes worn in hot weather. The trouble is that I don't think that England had enough of that sort of weather to encourage ladies to leave off garments.
The advice to wear a shift and stays in case of accident reminds me of the advice of mothers of my generation-- wear clean underwear everyday in case of accident.

Kathy said...

I adapted that print to make a "Regency Christmas Card" for folks to down load. It is one of my favorties, tho to tell the truth, they're ALL my favorites.

Grace Burrowes said...

Lovely (and terrific fun), but WHEN did they all start wearing skivvies!!!?

LorettaChase said...

Grace, my understanding is that they started coming into fashion about 1806 or so, but were far from common at that time. The caricatures show women without knickers, though this might have been merely a look the artist preferred. By the 1820s, one is safe in having one's heroine wear "pantalettes" or drawers--unless she's lower class. I've seen photos of extant drawers from somewhere between 1810-20, including a pair belonging to the Duchess of Kent.

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