Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Video: Roller Skating in a Corset and Bustle

Friday, August 10, 2018
Loretta reports:

Many readers express dismay at the clothing of the post-Regency 19th century, and how restrictive it seems. There's an assumption that women couldn't do much while wearing corsets and layer upon layer of undergarments. Dress historians and re-enactors, however, have shown us otherwise. For example, some years ago I attended a talk by Astrida Schaeffer, during which she showed photos of Victorian women (whose clothing made it clear they were wearing corsets—not to mention all the other layers) performing various outdoor activities.

My post the other day about bustles drew more of the dismayed comments on social media, e.g., women couldn't do any work in these clothes. And so, naturally, I hunted for evidence that women did not spend all their time lying on sofas in a swoon. I think this video, of a lady skating while wearing a corset and a bustle and the elaborate dress of what seems to be the 1880s, offers a good demonstration. Gina White's even wearing Victorian-era roller skates, which apparently aren't easy to maneuver.


Image above left is a still from the video.
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Cynthia Lambert said...

All these old wive's tales and misconceptions about 18th and 19th century living, corsetry and undergarments are perpetuated by docents in museums who think they know what life was like "back then" and really don't. The chaise longues that they call fainting couches, and all the other nonsense they spout give a very incomplete and slanted view about ladies' lives. Women's movements may have been slightly limited by the weight and fullness of a garment, but there was a lot of encouragement for ladies to be active. For one thing, there were dances, and if one has ever participated in the kind of dancing they did, it was quite strenuous. The reason gentlemen were required to wear gloves was to keep the perspiration from their hands off the silks of the gowns, because they worked up a sweat dancing. Women played tennis, did archery, and other activities, fully dressed, and were able to do so without constantly fainting and needing smelling salts. But still, these misconceptions persist. I've worn corsetry and liked it very much, as my clothing stayed more smooth and it supported my back so nicely. Not once did I ever feel faint, and I have very low blood pressure.

Regencyresearcher said...

I don't see them bending over to pick up toys, easily, nor scrubbing floors.They were active as women with servants who did the clothes scrubbing, washing and rinsing. if they did that work, they changed to less restrictive clothes. The servants weren't wearing the clothes. The ladies generally weren't bathing babies wearing such garments. Dancing and skating were done upright and elegantly.
I know women of the time could be active for it was the time of many intrepid women travelling the world. I imagine that they made a modification to their dress to be comfortable.
Most fashions appear to be for the idle rich. Or at least, those who don't have to even sweep floors, much less scrub them.
I do not see how skirts that were too wide for the doorways could be anything except a nuisance.

Loretta Chase said...

Nancy, you might want to take a look at some current research regarding Victorian women's dress, like Ruth Goodman's _How to Be a Victorian_, as well as photographs of Victorian servants. "Corsets were worn throughout Victoria's reign by women of all classes." "An uncorseted woman was thought to lack self-control and would have faced public disapproval and crude assumptions about her lifestyle." Ms. Goodman also talks about negotiating hoops and bustles. She has a number of videos on YouTube about living in various eras.

Cynthia Lambert said...

Perhaps Regencyresearcher should do a bit more research. Even farmer's wives wore corsets and did the cooking, washing, floor scrubbing, baby tending and other chores corseted. No respectable woman would have been without a corset. To be without was to be considered "undressed." Whilst wearing a corset, I could do anything I could do without the corset. Stays are not entirely rigid and are made to move around in. During the Regency, even men were corseted. It was very common, and made their waistcoats fit more smoothly. Women often wore aprons to protect their clothing during baby washing and chores, but they never took off their corsets. Please watch the 1995 series of Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie runs and jumps about whilst corseted and the servants are very obviously wearing stays whilst performing their household duties. And do try wearing a corset yourself some time. It will help you have a better understanding of life in stays.

Gina White said...

Oh what fun to have my video featured on your blog!! Thank you so much! This was a super fun video to do as I get so many questions from people who attend my programs on Victorian underwear concerning the wearing of corsets and how they affected our ancestors. I tell them that corsets were underwear. Period. Not items they only wore on occasion when it suited their fancy, or when they had to squeeze into a super tight ball gown. Things they wore every day like we do bras and panties. And yes, I can do so many things while wearing my corset! It truly does not hinder me in any way, except for when I have to lace super tightly because I've gained 15 pounds and have to fit into a dress I made 5 years ago. Then that's my own fault because I can't say not to pastries!

Loretta Chase said...

Gina, thank you for making the video available! We're always happy to do myth-busting, especially about corsets, and there's nothing like seeing actual people engaging in various activities while wearing 19th century clothing, undergarments and all!

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