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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

20 November 2010

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Over on Risky Regencies I found them talking about recent discoveries. One of them was the idea of pulling the skirts of a gown through the pocket slits to shorten it. This was actually very common in the 18th century (wouldn’t really work with a Regency gown though, you’d end up looking like an upside-down mushroom!). It was called retroussee dans les pouches and was used to keep your skirts clean when walking through the notoriously filthy streets or when in the country. In the image shown here, you can see a clear example of this. The cherry and white stripes are the outer fabric. The orange and purple stripes are the lining.

QUESTION ONE: Garters

Hey Diane, I’m adding to the post so that I can post pics. I too have the V&A’s new underwear book (I pre-ordered it; isn't it fab?). Yes, stockings were held up by garters. Garters encircled the leg, either just above or just below the knee (depends on how your leg is shaped). When everything went white, so did the underwear (stays were also quite bright in the 18th century, before they went white during the Regency, and then back to bright in the Victorian era). Also, I'm not sure they would have cared if they showed/were visible through the gown (some groups, esp the French, didn't even care if nipples/aureoles were visible).

























QUESTION TWO: I was at a talk recently on early 19th century American portrait painters and the speaker said that in the early days of the empire gowns stays were not worn.

no No NO! I don't know who she talked with at Williamsburg, but I'll guarantee it wasn't Janea Whiteacre, their mantuamaker.

A lot of people (even ones who should know better) share this misconception. For a TINY period of time, in Paris (not even in France, in PARIS) some women left off their "stays" and instead wore something more akin to an undervest or bra. Here is a pic of said garment, accompanied by a portrait of a women who is very likely wearing such an undergarment.










You can tell just from the portraits that they must be wearing stays. If they weren’t their boobs would look like this:

Ever seen anything like that in a painting? Me either.


Any other strange things you’ve read or seen and have questions about?



6 Comments:

Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Hi, Isobel! I am the happy new owner of V&A's UNDERWEAR FASHION IN DETAIL. (Fabulous, fabulous book. I'm still drooling.)

When I look at the Directoire period, I think of scandalously thin clothing and very lightweight stays/corset. But I can't imagine how the stockings stayed up. Garters? If so, where did they hook/tie? Those petticoats were so thin, I'd have thought the garters would show.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I'm going to answer Diane in the post itself so I can include a picture.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Hi Isobel -- Love what you add to my knowledge of clothes. Here's a question for you....I was at a talk recently on early 19th century American portrait painters and the speaker said that in the early days of the empire gowns stays were not worn. Could this be? Maybe in the colonies? The speaker said that she got her info from an expert on dress at Williamsburg. Needless to say, I was shocked!

5:08 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

@Mary: ARGH! I hate this misconception. See the blog post for my response to this nonsense.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

BTW, I love this. I may do this every weekend!!! It's so fricken fun.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

OK, here's my question(s).

When (historically) do men stop wearing breeches (I know this is a multi-parter; have at me, please).

What exactly is/are a pantaloon/pair of pantaloons (garment and correct linguistic usage: I hate this word because I always hear "lean and slippered" in my mind, not to speak of Commedia del Arte)

When (historically) can I have done with all this and just say "trousers"?

8:29 AM  

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