From Shoulders to Toes: Undergarments

July 30, 2010

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s. We’ll take a look at the undergarments worn by men in the 19th century.

From Shoulders to Toes: Undergarments


Unless they were laborers, men in the 1800s wore trousers and jackets pretty much all the time. The shirt beneath the waistcoat (vest) was considered an undergarment. During the Regency period in the early part of the century, the man’s linen or cotton shirt was full and loose as Colin Firth graciously displays for us below. Though his is rather wet.

Mr. Darcy returns to Pemberley. Colin Firth in A&E's Pride and Prejudice.

The basic undergarments usually included shirt, drawers, and stockings. In an illustration that I couldn’t use because of copyright restrictions, the drawers were short and the stockings extended above the knee with garter ties. Another illustration showed knee-length drawers with the drawstring fastening below the knee over knitted white ribbed-cotton stockings.  And that was it for underwear. Simple, right? Not so fast.

1826 A corset was necessary to achieve this look.

Some men during the early 1800s wore corsets. Yes, corsets. Though they were called girdles, belts or vests. The only reasons for this that I could discover were (1) clothes were very tight and (2) some military officers wanted to maintain a straight upright posture and pull in a stomach bulge. Cavalry men were known to insist on the back support a corset could provide. And, if one wanted to remain among the fashionable, the waist must be cinched.

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From Shoulder to Toe: Undergarments

July 29, 2010

As I said in my previous 19th century fashion post, my focus will be on fashions in Europe. With undergarments, however, there probably wasn’t much difference between those in Europe and those in the US.

Regency Style 1813


Undergarments worn by women have, for the most part, always depended on their outergarments. Of course, cultural and social mores have had an influence, but the fashion of the day determined what was worn underneath. In the 19th century, women’s fashion went through vast changes, and none more dramatic than the Regency or Empire style at the turn of the century. As costume historian Elizabeth Ewing states in Dress & Undress:

Accepted types of petticoats, corsets and smocks were discarded along with all known styles of outer dress. High heels, elaborate headdresses, hats and hair styles all disappeared from fashion. . .  Instead the vogue was for slim, high-waisted muslin or cotton gowns, clinging to the figure and worn with the minimum of underclothing, sometimes with only flesh-coloured tights beneath them. (p. 52)

So let’s start with those tights, shall we?

Stockings/tights were made of silk, wool or knitted cotton and secured with garters.  At this time period they were mostly white. Later in the century, stockings were more elaborate with embroidery and contrasting colors.  A few women wore white cotton

1880s "drawers" Illustration from

drawers or pantalettes over their stockings and these became more common as time went on and fashion changed. (Little girls, however, wore them regularly.) Tied at the waist and open at the crotch, pantalettes were trimmed with lace and generally knee-length to ankle-length. The illustration at left is from later in the century, but it shows the basic construction of drawers.

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July 28, 2010

Here are the other photos I promised.  All of these were taken from my visits to Old Sturbridge Village and are typical of the early 1800s (1820-1840s).

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From Head to Toe: Hats and Shoes

July 27, 2010

Back in February Tricia and I did a five post series on clothing from 1800 to 1899.  Find it HERE! We will conclude it this week with Hats, Shoes and Undergarments.  Enjoy.

From Head to Toe: Hats and Shoes

The Panorama of Professions and Trades - The Milliner's Shop

Hats!  I assume most of you, like me, own at least one hat; mine being a winter hat that only makes it out of the closet on the coldest of winter days.  Also like me, you might remember your grandmother wearing a fancy hat with her Sunday best, or your dad donning a baseball cap when he brought you to a game, but imagine a world where women didn’t leave the house without a bonnet or men without their straw or top hat.  That world was the 19th century.

In the 1800s, neither women nor men went outdoors without some form of head covering.  In fact most women wore caps indoors as well.  Caps were typically soft linen bonnet-like head coverings.  Women generally wore them in the morning, while they did their housework.  In the afternoon, when calls might be made, they would change into more elaborate “dress caps” or bonnets.  The bonnet was a brimmed cap that was tied beneath the chin and could be made of fur, velvet, satin, wool, straw, gauze or cotton.  Women wore bonnets that ranged from elaborately trimmed to simple quilted hoods use in the winter to provide warmth.  Often women would add veils to their head attire when traveling.  This protected them from dust and excessive exposure to the sun.

Women gathered on the 4th of July attired in fancy head ware.

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Contest Winner!

July 23, 2010

Congratulations to Meg! You’re this month’s winner. I hope you enjoy Ransome’s Crossing as much as I did. Please e-mail us at damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com with your address!

Recipe: Lemon Pudding 1839

July 22, 2010

Lemon Pudding

Boil in water, in a closely covered sauce-pan, two large lemons till quite tender; take out the seeds, and pound the lemons to a paste; add a quarter of a pound of pounded loaf sugar, the same of fresh butter beaten to a cream, and three well-beaten eggs; mix all together and bake in a tin lined with puff paste; take it out, strew over the top grated loaf sugar.

Brought to you by: The Good Housekeeper, by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1839

Modern Adaptation:
2 lemons
4 oz. butter
½ cup white sugar
3 eggs
Prepared Pie Crust

In covered saucepan, cover lemons with water and boil until very tender (check water level to insure they are covered). Remove lemons and cool. Cut in half to remove seeds and mash until whole lemons form a fine puree. Cream butter and sugar and add to lemon puree. Beat eggs and add to mixture. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake in preheated 350° oven for 35-45 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cool before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

**This recipe is from OSV site.  It has been adapted for the modern cook by Debra L. Friedman, program coordinator for historic foodways at Old Sturbridge Village

I Can’t Wait to See…Part 2

July 19, 2010

In case you didn’t see Part 1, this is a three-part series of historical sites I can’t wait to see when I go to Europe in September.  I’ll do one post for each country we’ll visit, and today’s post is dedicated to the historical sites of Bruges, Belgium.

Bruges isn’t the only place we’ll see in Belgium, but it is where we’ll spend the most time (and the

Canal in Bruges, from Rick Steves' web site

 only place in Belgium where we’ll spend the night–three nights, to be exact).  While in the Netherlands I am most excited to see specific sites pertaining to World War II, Bruges is more an atmosphere city.  Its heyday was the fifteenth century, and the Gothic architecture still standing more than reminds you of it.  I am an absolute sucker for cobbled streets, tight, winding lanes, and old, close-together buildings, which I hear will stand me in good stead in Bruges.  Walking over canal bridges, feasting our eyes on the Bell Tower, Burg Square, and even a little windmill just a short bike ride out of town sound perfect to me.

The science and technology library of L'Universite Catholique de Louvain

One other site I’m looking forward to in Belgium is one you won’t find in any guidebooks, but is important to my sweetie.  See, from January to May 2002, he studied at L’Universite Catholique de Louvain (a French-speaking school), which split off from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Flemish-speaking), an established institution dating back to 1425, in 1968.  It’s one of the newest universities on the continent, and underscores the dark side of Belgian history: the tension between French and Flemish that is every bit as real as the racial tensions in the US.  We probably won’t have time to do much other than stroll the campus and grab some lunch, but it will be a change of pace for the woman who bought a t-shirt in England just because it read “Oxford University: Est. 1295.”