Quietly the maid draws back the curtains, the shafts of sun light creep across the bed towards the still slumbering lace-clad creature. Nightgown off, it’s time to dress for the day!
“The new silhouette required a much slimmer parcel of undergarments than before, and it was in this period that underclothing took on the sensual connotations of the word “lingerie“. Ornate, overtly sexual and colorful underclothes began to shift away from the boudoirs of courtesans and into the bedchambers of respectable housewives and independent women. Whereas Victorian underclothing had been functional, the sole function of Edwardian underwear was to attract and tantalize men. . . ” (click me to read more!)
The first step in dressing an Edwardian lady would be the stockings. I will be re-using my regency stockings purchased from Dressing History . I am still trying to find a pair of black silk stockings!
After that comes our lovely drawers. As far as the underwear of the Edwardian era is concerned I will be making an exception to my 1912 clothing only rule. I love re-enacting history but I am just not that hardcore.
Crotchless drawers are still popular. Like most Edwardian lingerie they are split down the center and are two tubes of fabric covered in highly decorative and frilly lace. I admit that when it comes to the undergarments I am cheating. Except for the corset everything else is extant pieces that I’ve collected throughout the years.
The first layer is the camisole and drawers. I completely lucked up on the camisole as it’s almost the exact same lace on the drawers!
The next layer is the corset!
“One of the most fascinating aspects of studying the history of dress is how women’s fashion so closely reflected the morals, values and societal conscience of the time period that it represented. Nowhere in history is this more obvious than in the Victorian era where the corset became the symbol for not only tight-laced bodies but even more tight-laced minds as well. It was in the Victorian period, when the waist became the focus of fashion, that modification of the female body became a widely desired and denounced necessity for the fashionable woman. The corset embodied both literally and figuratively the question of whether this fashion ritual was a male driven vehicle for repressing the less intellectually gifted female or a means for the female to express her own empowerment by controlling the shape and appearance of her own body. Depending on the point of view, the corset could be seen as an essential fashion item, which gave the female a desired hourglass shape and enhanced the waist; or, it could be seen as a device that tortured and restricted the movement of the imprisoned wearer.”
This is an excerpt from my recent university essay on corsetry.
Due to the fact that I would be wearing a corset for three days and I need to be able to sit and walk comfortably I decided to make a corset from the early Edwardian era. I would usually draft my own corset pattern but because I’ve never ventured outside the 18th and early 19th century I bought the Truly Victorian- 1903 pattern. Sadly I wish I had taken the time to think about the fact that the 1903 corset was cut for the pigeon bust shape and that was the opposite style for the Teens era. Live and learn I suppose.
When I first started off I was working with three corsets in mind.
Even though the three images I was working from were cream I ended up working with white coutil. The pattern was very straight forward:
Cut the pieces out, insert the busk, stitch together, eyelet, bone, and bind!
Recently I attended a week long course taught by Luca Costigliolo of The Borgias. One of my favorite phrases he used was “Well basted, no time wasted.” If you are going to use this pattern I highly recommend basting the bone casings down before stitching.
I am currently working on stitching the lace to the front panel.
For the next layer I have two choices: A bust improver or a corset cover.
I am going more towards the bust improver because sadly I am going to need some help. I originally cut the C cup out and to my shock I ended up trimming the A cup down.
“The new style required a new corset, this time finally dispensing with the waist-training that had plagued fashionable women for centuries. The new corset was long and straight and cut even lower on the bust, requiring the use of a bust-bodice to provide necessary support. It constricted the hips, did not squeeze in the waist and was so long that sitting down was a problem. The curvaceous womanly figure of the Edwardian lady had given way to a slimmer, more upright, more youthful but equally uncomfortable alternative.” (click me!)
Thankfully the V&A makes me feel much better about my lack of heaving bosoms. “The ideal figure in the early 20th century was more statuesque than its Victorian predecessors. Rather than focusing on the waist, more attention was paid to the other parts of the body – smooth long hips and a swelling chest. By 1910, corsets were cut so long that they reached well over the thighs. They also tended to be shaped very low around the bust line so women would need more support on top – if at least to preserve decency with the low-cut evening dresses of the time. . . What was new about the 1900s was the range of inventions available, and also the fact that artificial beauty aids had become much more acceptable. For many women the superb physical proportions and statuesque curves dictated by fashion simply had to be achieved no matter what the methods.” (click me!)
But just incase I run out of time I do own a lovely corset cover. Basically a corset cover is exactly what the name implies, a garment that goes over the corset to protect it from stains (perspiration etc.) and spills.
Oh! Before I forget! I’ve had quite a few people on The Ornamented Being enquire about how the stockings were attached to the garters, fear not I have photographic evidence to explain!
As you can see from this photo (taken on my iphone, apologies for the bad quality!) the garters are attached through the openings in the drawers. I can’t imagine that it was very comfortable to walk around with all of that fabric bunched up between ones legs! Here is another example of how the garters would attach to the stockings.
My garters are from the twenties but I was more focused on trying to find a pair in the colour I needed!
Next comes the petticoat!
I was quite upset as I lost the Edwardian petticoat I had been watching for five days on ebay earlier today. I own a few but none are quite the type I need. They are all a bit wider at the bottom and don’t fit under my skirts properly.
As you can see the hem is just too wide to fit under a straight skirt. My mom sent me one that fits under my brown skirt perfectly but I’m worried about what I will wear under all of the other garments!!
I have a feeling Lizzy and I will end up re-creating this photo!
About five minutes before my lecture I was informed that there had been a little mishap with the mannequins. So the girl who accompanied me on the trip offered to help me with the hooks and eyes as I could not undress alone.
After wearing the corset for a few hours I have to admit that I would have to think twice about making this type again. I am not going to post photos of what happened when I took the corset off but suffice to say it took about an hour for my rib to go back to normal.