Regency Fashion research


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Regency Fashion research

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Maio 24, 2011, 2:37 pm

I was doing a bit of research on men's and women's fashions for this (due to re-reading a lot of Georgette Heyer's books recently), and imagine my surprise and astonishment to find that neither gender wore underpants!

The women usually only had a chemise under their dresses, and maybe a light corsette! BUT NO PANTIES!

The men had several layers above the waist, but only the one below the waist!

Maio 24, 2011, 2:54 pm

Well, sort of. It depends on when in the Regency you're discussing. Men did have underdrawers, and wore them when they felt like it; drawers came in over the course of the era for women as well (who would have been wearing petticoats in addition to a chemise and corset, especially in England--remember, no central heating!) Not wearing underwear was a carryover from the 18th century, when dresses were so heavy and cumbersome that using the privy was quite an undertaking, and drawers would have made matters even more difficult.

There's a recently published and gorgeous new book out with oodles of photos of actual clothes from this era: Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion

Maio 24, 2011, 3:27 pm

> 2

And for a look at the home of the authors (and collectors):

Maio 24, 2011, 4:39 pm

Fabulous book - I got it for my birthday. Definitely drool-worthy!

Maio 24, 2011, 5:01 pm

It's a common misapprehension...but yes, underwear (petticoats and drawers) was worn, according to individual preferences--especially petticoats, which were actually constructed like today's full slips rather than a half-slip. It was just too cold not to wear layers--Europe was still in the midst of the Little Ice Age, and (as I said) there was no central heating. And of course, fashions changed over the course of the period--skirts became increasingly full after about 1810 or so, till by 1825 multiple petticoats were needed to hold skirts out. Pantaloons were especially worn when riding, in case of falls!

Re ladies pantaloons:

"The soft muslin dresses of 1800 clung to the body highlighting the natural body outline so stays were unpopular unless the figure demanded them.These Empire fashions at the turn of the century were often little more than sheer nightgowns. The practical solution to the discomfort of lighter clothing was to simply adopt the warm undergarment called pantaloons and already worn by men.

The pantaloons were made of light stockinet in a flesh toned nude colour and reached all the way to the ankles or to just below the knee. This is why Empire women often appear to be wearing no underwear when seen in paintings of the era.

The flesh tone pantaloons acted in just the same way under clothes as they do today when a woman wears a flesh toned bra and briefs under white or pastel trousers and top.

Later it became fashionable to wear a white or pastel slippery silk satin slip over the stays making the dress silhouette quite smooth. To support extra skirt fullness a small bustle pad lifted the dress back."

I have dozens of fashion plates posted on my blog, as I collect them--so far I've covered 1809 through 1821.

Maio 25, 2011, 8:31 am

How fascinating, Marissa!
Thanks for posting this, and thanks to all of you for the above links.

Maio 25, 2011, 9:18 pm

You're welcome, aluvalibri. This is one of my favorite things to research, and had turned into a hobby.

Maio 27, 2011, 9:24 pm

Although a little late for Regency, Queen Victoria supposedly forbade underwear beneath Prince Albert's cashmere trousers. Sounds itchy.

Maio 27, 2011, 11:10 pm

She did grow up during the Regency, though!

Maio 28, 2011, 2:06 pm

>9 setnahkt: Sounds like an amusing anecdote, but I rather doubt it--it wasn't in her make-up to order him around over anything. However, she does mention in her diary on one of their early meetings (shortly before she proposed to him) noticing that he wore cashmere trousers with nothing underneath, and you can just see her fanning herself. :)

>10 staffordcastle: Just because I get pedantic about this stuff, she was born during the Regency...but the Prince Regent became King George IV when she was 8 months old. By then a lot of the rollicking aspects of Regency culture had begun to give way to a new conservatism (the King himself became a clear Tory supporter on attaining the throne)...Victorianism actually predates poor Victoria, who gets the blame for it (Albert was by far more the prude.)

Editado: Maio 24, 2015, 11:38 am

Cashmere is beautifully soft so itchiness I do not think would be the problem.

I do collect a few books on Regency fashion along with reference books on trades, manufacturing, carriages etc etc

Dress and Undress: History of Women's Underwear by Elizabeth Ewing

Batsford Ltd (1978), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 192 pages