Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Video: Early Erotica? A Victorian Woman Undresses, 1896

Friday, December 9, 2016

Isabella reporting,

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 A Woman 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.


Karen said...

I am one of the three other people who loves this stuff! I routinely read 19th century newspapers and compile the best stories into books. Thanks for your blog!

Ms. Jen said...

I love how she stops to scratch after she takes off her stays/corset.

Annette said...

What always amuses me is when looking at my grandmother and great aunt in their black skirts, white blouses, and jackets-big black hats for working when selling hats, or creating a new hat... The ties to the skirts, slips, for grandmother was always very modest. Bonded out to learn a trade as a milliner my grandmother and great aunt had to work so many years to pay the milliner company off. During the later period, when having paid the company back/the bond was no longer of any legal restraint on them. The milliner tried to say they had to work five more years... then in the shop to sell what was made. Thank goodness for lawyers and two young women who were wise, they kept their papers, and the milliner company had no power over the two leaving. I love the look and visuals of the woman undressing to see how much women had to wear during that period. atk

Elena Jardiniz said...

Annette, that is fascinating about your grandmother and great aunt! Glad they were smart enough to keep their documents too.

Ms Jen, yes, that quick rib scratch is amusing. I liked the very matter of fact way she stripped too - no coy glances, no fussiness, just businesslike, strip and and drop on the furniture, strip a sock and shoe, sit down and... we're done.

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