While far from accurate, this comic image about global warming, illustrating the shrinking of ladies’ undergarments is hilarious. I found it on Pinterest, Facebook, and various sites on the internet. Like the origin of “O.K.” (coming up next!) we might just need to agree someone started this (picture). It belongs to someone under copyright–but it’s been shared and forwarded and reused until no one has any idea to whom it belongs.
LADIES VICTORIAN UNDERGARMENTS
Women wore a great deal beneath their gowns in the Victorian Era. Corsets and corset covers. Chemises. More than one petticoat. Bloomers. Bustles or crinolines. Bust improvers or bust ruffles. Garters. Suspenders. Hose supporters. Safety belts. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Compared to women today who wear panties (usually) and a bra (or not), it’s remarkable how much women used to wear when ‘properly’ attired.
BACK TO PANTIES
In recent blog articles, I’ve covered several Victorian Ladies’ Secrets: hair augmentation, padded hips and breasts, curling irons, and feminine hygiene. Some of these contraptions (like the harnesses worn to manage posture as well as keep stockings and ‘security belts’ in place) make more sense when ladies undergarments are viewed in context.
The closest thing to today’s panties are yesteryear’s bloomers.
DRAWERS a.k.a. Bloomers
Drawers (ladies underwear) were advertised in the Montgomery Ward Catalog of 1875. This early mail-order catalog did not have pictures, but mentioned Drawers for sale:
Prices were essentially the same 20 years later (1895 Montgomery Ward Catalog), but engravings (cuts) illustrated the available products.
You’ll note in the two Montgomery Ward Catalog segments, above, ladies drawers were fashioned out of cotton, Egyptian cotton, jersey ribbed (knit), muslin, lawn, Merino, cambric–as these are both spring and summer editions. I understand winter drawers were often made of woolen flannel. I can’t imagine wearing wool against my skin, but apparently women used to do so.
Ladies drawers were made with either a waistband and button closure or a drawstring. Both fasteners were beneath the corset when fully dressed, so undressing, removing the corset, and lowering ones drawers in the outhouse would have taken the better part of an hour. To remedy this problem, the crotch seam was left open (though finished, as a placket or at least a hemmed edge).
Girls not only learned to pull up their skirts and hold them out of the way, they figured out how to keep their underthings dry and unsoiled. Upon completing ones business, all that was required to right ones garments was to fluff things back into place. Can you even imagine how the process of emptying your bladder would have been a nightmare at the height of hoop skirt widths in the 1860’s?
The open-crotch drawers worked with ‘safety belts’ during menstruation even though the belt was worn over the drawers and likely over the corset.
It’s apparent, from images of items for sale in the 1890’s, that ladies’ drawers could be very loose in the legs (doubling as a petticoat layer and reducing bulkiness–perhaps in hot weather?) or quite slim-fitting (see the jersey ribbed offering, above). By the length of the inseams, it’s evident some were mid-thigh length while others were knee-length or longer.
COLD WEATHER UNDIES
Like men, women wore Union Suits when the weather suggested and their dress styles permitted. In an era without central heating, open carriages, and walking most places inside town, it made good sense to layer up and keep warm. Winter petticoats were often made of cotton flannel or wool flannel and well-to-do ladies wore plenty of them on the coldest of days. Beneath all those layers, female Union Suits were today’s equivalent of long (or thermal) underwear.
Note: Union Suits were also a summertime thing–but had short sleeves.
Why were these “medicated underwear” touted as having benefits for rheumatism? The use of radium in everything from food and water to toys and novelties didn’t begin for another decade… Any ideas?
and on Memorial Day–
Old West Bath Tubs The Necessary (a.k.a. the outhouse) How Did Victorian Stockings Stay Up? Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene Corsets in the Era: Yes, even Maternity Corsets Pencil Skirts, Victorian Style Victorians at the Seashore Victorian Hair Augmentation Victorian Curling Irons Lady Victoria(n)’s Secret L-O-N-G Victorian Hair Mail-Order Catalogs: Timeline & Truth Mail-Order Catalogs in the Old West The Old West: Dental Floss & Toothpicks Old West: Toothbrushes and Toothpaste P.S.: Old Laundry Implements…On Vacation 19th Century Washing Machines Warsh: Grandma’s Receet (Washing/Laundry, Granny’s Recipe) Stetson’s Boss of the Plains vs the Bowler Victorian Fashion: New Colors
Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC