Lady Victoria’s Secret

Lady Victorian’s Secret

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Every woman who has wished her chest filled out a form-fitting dress, stepped into Victoria’s Secret searching for just the right padded (or water) bra, or used silicone inserts to fill out a dress (or swimming suit or bra) understands exactly why American women in the Victorian Era bought Bust Pads. A Lady Victorian’s Secret.

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Padding

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Lady Victorian’s Secret No. 1. Yes, most of us think of corsets as necessary with Victorian-era (and Edwardian-era) costumes. Some dresses were “natural fit” and intended to be worn without “stays” (a corset). Did you know padding was also used to emphasize the “hourglass” figure and focus the eye on the small waist?

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Bust pad and hip pads with bustle, from the 1897 Sears Catalog, no. 104.

Bust pad and hip pads with bustle, from the 1897 Sears Catalog, no. 104.

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Kristin Holt | Victorian Hair Augmentation. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

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Two posts ago, when covering Victorian Hair Augmentation (hair pieces, among other devices), I shared an image of a warning published in 1873 (and circulated within several editions of the Matrimonial News) wherein Judge John H. Arbuckle stated such padding would be grounds to declare a mail-order marriage null and void…if the ‘fooled’ groom so desired. Here it is once more:

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. This warning appeared as an insert in sereral editions of the Matrimonial News in the 1870's. While this image is readily available (without citations) on the internet and various websites, I believe this image (and the caption) comes from at least one mail-order bride nonfiction title by Chris Enss.

This warning appeared as an insert in several editions of the Matrimonial News in the 1870‘s, notice by Judge John H. Arbuckle (1873). While this image is readily available (without citations) on the internet and various websites, I believe this image (and the caption) comes from at least one mail-order bride nonfiction title by Chris Enss.

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NOTHING NEW

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If women were guilty in the American Victorian Era of padding some parts and minimizing others, they’ve done nothing others haven’t done both before and after them. (Who says corsets are out of fashion, entirely?)

English Lords–physically inactive as most were–often wore girdles to skinny in their midsections and padded their shoulders and arms and thighs in order to cut a fine figure in their expensive attire. Ladies did the same. Not only was a bit of weight (plump hips, plump breasts and arms) considered a sign of wealth (after all, only the wealthy could afford to be idle and pay someone else to do the work) but considered stylish.

Victorian-era women worldwide had worn their skirts in the large bell reminiscent of Civil War-era images. The bigger the better. Once the bell skirt began to diminish and eventually embark on the “bustle era”, skirts were still strongly shaped by the foundation garments beneath.

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One can only assume Judge John H. Arbuckle did not mention bustles in his list of divorce-able offenses because men understood, generally, that the shape of a woman’s lower body was not defined by the shape of her skirt. so why was the padding of hips listed? Note the first image, above, showing the Sears Catalog offering of a combination bustle and hip pads. In the Victorian Era, steel boning in corsets strengthened the garment adequately to constrict the waist smaller than ever before. Those who study fashion will note that every element of a woman’s costume drew the eye to the smallness of her waist: balloon sleeves, wide collars, drapes across the hips, and apparently–padding of those hips.

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BUST PADDING

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Padding the bust, perhaps the least surprising of all. Here’s Lady Victorian’s Secret No. 2.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Corset Advertisement within the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895, stating:

Corset Advertisement within the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895, stating: “It has perfectly formed self-sustaining “Tricora” busts, which will give to every lady wearing it the outlines of perfect development and stylish figure.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Two examples of Bust Enhancers, labeled "Dress Forms" for sale in the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895.

Two examples of Bust Enhancers, labeled “Dress Forms” for sale in the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Lemon cup bust improver 1890 (c) The Symington Corsetry Collection

“Lemon Cup” bust improver, circa 1890 © The Symington Corsetry Collection, via Victoria and Albert Museum

Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Lemon Cups, a Victorian breast enhancer.

Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Lemon Cup Breast Enhancers circa 1890, via La Gatta Ciara

Lemon Cup Breast Enhancers circa 1890, via La Gatta Ciara

Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secrets. Bust Improvers of 1880 to 1910's

Bust Improvers of 1880 to 1910‘s, via Pinterest and La Gatta Ciara

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Victorian 1840s to 1850s ball gown hows large bust improver sewn into dress, from Pinterest

Victorian 1840s to 1850s ball gown shows large bust improver sewn into dress, from Pinterest

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PRINCESS BUST DEVELOPER AND BUST CREAM

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Lady Victorian’s Secret No. 3. Feed the curves, and grow them. Maybe with the help of a doctor.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Princess Biust Food Bust Improver.Sears Roebuck & Co., 1897,

Princess Bust Developer and Bust Cream or Food, Sears Roebuck & Co., 1897.

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With help of a physician

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Enlargement of the Bust; see Dr. Popper, specilalist. Advertised in San Francisco Chronicle on March 9, 1890.

See Dr. Popper, Specialist, for all kinds of disfigurements of the face, superfluous hair, etc. and for the enlargement of the bust. Advertised in San Francisco Chronicle on March 9, 1890.

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HIP PADDING and Bustles

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Lady Victorian’s Secret No. 4. Pad the hips, bustles for the shape of the skirt. Maximize those curves!

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. The "Empire Skirt Cushion" (small bustle) and The Combination Hip Bustle (hip pad with bustle). Advertised in Sears Catalogue 1898.

The “Empire Skirt Cushion” (small bustle) and The Combination Hip Bustle (hip pad with bustle). Advertised in Sears Catalogue 1898.

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Different styles made different shape skirts look their best.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. The "Angeline" Bustle, made of heavy cambric, filled with the best quality curled hair. From Sears 1898 Catalogue.

The “Angeline” Bustle, made of heavy cambric, filled with the best quality curled hair. From Sears 1898 Catalogue.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. New Langry Bustle Skirting. Advertised in Chicago Daily Tribune of Chicago, Illinois. March 11, 1888.

New Langry Bustle Skirting. Advertised in Chicago Daily Tribune of Chicago, Illinois. March 11, 1888.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Scott Hipform and Bustle. C.1903. An unsual shaped three peice turn of the century bustle made out of white sateen and stuffed with horsehair. Metal grommets allow for ventilation. This type of bustle was worn by extremely slender women who wanted to pad out their hips and bum to acheive a balanced hourglass shape. The original tag is still attached is is marked as being a size 8. Sizes 00 up to a size 1 were worn by very large ladies as they were made less padded, etc. with sizes going up for smaller figures. Via Pinterest and Corsets and Crinolines.

Scott Hipform and Bustle. C.1903. An unusual shaped three piece turn of the century bustle made out of white sateen and stuffed with horsehair. Metal grommets allow for ventilation. This type of bustle was worn by extremely slender women who wanted to pad out their hips and bum to achieve a balanced hourglass shape. The original tag is still attached is is marked as being a size 8. Sizes 00 up to a size 1 were worn by very large ladies as they were made less padded, etc. with sizes going up for smaller figures. Via Pinterest and Corsets and Crinolines.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. 1870 horsehair bustle, via Pinterest and VintageTextile.com

1870 horsehair bustle, via Pinterest and VintageTextile.com

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Waist Supporter

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Ready for Lady Victorian’s Secret No. 5? Use supporters that give sustainable shape to special clothing. e.g., Leg-o-mutton sleeves and blousing waist fronts.

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Kristin Holt | Ladies Fashions: Huge Sleeves of the 1890s. Leg O mutton sleeve SUPPORTS. Metropolitain Museum of Art, via Pinterest.

Leg-O-Mutton Sleeve Supporter, credited to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Pinterest user.

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Just like the leg-o-mutton sleeves of the 1890s had sleeve supporters, women’s blouse “waists” had waist front distenders.

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Kristin Holt | Lady Victorian's Secret. Waist Front Distender. Prevents shirt waists and full front garments from clinging to the figure and for giving that full bust and small waist effect to the wearer. For sale in 1898 Sears Catalog.

Waist Front Distender. Prevents shirt waists and full front garments from clinging to the figure and for giving that full bust and small waist effect to the wearer. For sale in 1898 Sears Catalog.

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Related Articles

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Kristin Holt | When are Women Most Lovely? Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Ladies Underwear. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Corsets: Damaging Woman's Intelligence, 1880. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Defect in Form: Evils of Tight Lacing (a.k.a Corsets), 1897. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Pencil Skirts Victorian Style by Kristin Holt. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Ladies Fashions: Huge Sleeves of the 1890s. Related to Lady Victorian Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Ladies Wore Costumes ~ Every Day. Related to Lady Victorian Secret.

Kristin Holt | False Beauty Spots. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | How Did Victorian Stockings Stay Up? Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Curling Irons. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorian Hair Augmentation. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | L-O-N-G Victorian Hair. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Mail-Order Catalogs and the Old West. Related to Lady Victorian's Secrets.

Kristin Holt | Mail-Order Catalogs Timeline and Truth. Related to Lady Victorian's Secrets.

Kristin Holt | Corsets in the Era. Yes, even Maternity Corsets. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | Victorians at the Seashore. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

Kristin Holt | 19th Century Bathing Costumes from Harper's Bazaar. Related to Lady Victorian's Secret.

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Related Modern Items

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Updated July 2019
Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC