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Underpinnings Menu

 
18th Century (1700 - 1795)
Regency Era (1795 - 1819)
Romantic Era (1820 - 1849)
Antebellum Era (1850 - 1869)
Late Victorian Era (1870 - 1899)
Edwardian Era (1900 - 1912)
 

 

18th Century Shift and Stays

Next to her skin, a lady wore a linen or cotten garment called a chemise or shift. The purpose of this garment was to protect the other clothing from sweat and body oils - the chemise could be washed while the rest of the outfit, generally, could not. Over the shift the stays were worn. This garment provided the proper sillouette.

18th Century Stays and Shift

Stays worn over a shift. I now make my shifts from either cotton or linin batiste - a very thin fabric. This reduces the amount of bulk under the stays as is much more comfortable in hot weather.

18th Century Stays Front

18th Century Stays Front. The stays are made of cotton brocade in tan and blue, with blue ribbon trim. The stays are bound in bias strips of the same fabric. The eyelets are threaded. I now have an embroidery machine that can make thread eyelets. Metal grommets had not yet come into use at this time. Note the lacing pattern - rather than the double lacing pattern used today, in the 18th century one lace was used, and the eyelets are offset.

18th Century Stays Front Detail

Detail of stays showing thread eyelets. Some stays lace in the front and the back - this allows them to be put on and taken off easily. Not everybody had a ladies' maid!

18th Century Stays tabs Detail

Detail of tabs. The purpose of the tabs is to prevent the stays from digging into the waistline.

18th Century Stays - Side View

18th Century Stays - Side View.

18th Century Stays - Back

18th Century Stays - Back View.

18th Century Hooped Petticoats or Panniers

For most of the 18th century, a hooped petticoat was worn to create the stylish shape of the skirt. Over this one or more petticoats were worn. At this time, the term "petticoat" referred to a skirt rather than a slip, as it does today. Over the petticoat or skirt, a robe (or mantua) was worn. For most of the 18th century, the robe was open in the front to display the petticoat. Petticoats could match the robe or contrast with it, depending on the needs of the wearer.

18th Century Hoops - Small

Small 18th Century Panniers - or side hoops. During the mid 18th century hooped petticoats (later called "panniers") were worn by women in every social class. Small hoops like these could even be worn by servants.

18th Century Medium Sized Panniers

Medium sized 18th Century Hooped Petticoats.

18th Century Large Panniers

Full sized 18th century panniers. These remained part of formal court dress long after they went out of fashion in the "real world".

18th Century Panniers - Side View

Side view of full panniers.

18th Century Pockets

The poem "Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket" refers to this garment. In the 18th Century pockets were separate from the dress for ladies. They were worn tied around the waist on a band. Slits for access were opened in the side seams of the overdress and petticoats. One or two pockets could be worn.

   
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Regency Shift and Stays

This is one of the nicest shirt patterns I have worked with - it is the shift from Sense and Sensibility patterns. It has a nice narrow sleeve and a wide drawstring neckline. I made it out of cotton batiste to reduce bulk under these thin Regency garments.

The stays are made with a very high quality cotton coutil, which is a densely woven fabric produced specifically for corsets. These are back lacing stays. In the interest of having my husband be able to lace it, I used metal eyelets in the usual modern double lacing pattern. A completely historically correct stay would have thread bound eyelets arranged in a single lacing pattern.

Regency Stays Front

Regency Stays Front

 

Regency Stays Back

Regency Stays Back

 

Regency Stays Front Detail

Regency Stays Front Detail

 

Regency Stays Back Detail

Regency Stays Back Detail

 

Regency Stays Front Top

Regency Stays Front Top Detail

 

Regency Stays Front Bottom Detail

Regency Stays Front Bottom Detail

 

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Regency Short Stays

One of the really interesting things about the undergarments of the Regency period is how oddly similar some of them are to modern bras! However once fashion drifted back towards the tight bodices and full skirts of the late 1820's and 1830's the full stay came back in force, and the bra-like undergarments of the Regency period were religated to the dust bins of history for another 100 years. However they are very popular with reenactors as they are far more comfortable than full stays to our taste.

This pair of short stays was made using the Sense and Sensibilty pattern using domestic coutil fabric. The stays lace in the front only and have only minimal boning. The draw string at the lower binding was part of the pattern, but I added the drawstring a the top binding as I did not take the time to fit the bust gussets closely. Most of these garments were made up as tests and if I make another, I will take more time on the fitting. However they are comfortable and do the job even with the drawstring bust.

Short Stays Front

Short Stays Front

 

Short Stays Back

Short Stays Back

 

Short Stays Front Detail

Short Stays Front Detail

 

Short Stays Front Closeup

Short Stays Front Closeup

 

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Regency Bodiced Petticoat

Wearing a petticoat under a high waisted dress has a problem - unless you are willing to have the petticoat fasten at your waist (and possibily leave a line showing under your dress) you need to have a way to hang it from your shoulders. The classic Regency way to accomplish this is the bodiced petticoat. These petticoats have a very short sleveless "bodices" to which the actual petticoat is attached. This one is designed to be worn over stays. It is possible to make them with lightly boned bodices that would function as the short stays shown above with a petticoat on the bottom.

This bodiced petticoat has a waistline of beaded eyelet through which a ribbon is drawn for a tied closing in the back. The neckline also has a thin ribbon threaded thorugh it for fitting and ties at the back. The arms and hem are finished with scallop embroidery. Some of these petticoats had a ruffle around the bottom, but as I intended to wear this under straighter early Regency gowns, I did not add a ruffle.

Bodiced Petticoat Front

Bodiced Petticoat Front

 

Bodiced Petticoat Back

Bodiced Petticoat Back

 

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Trapunto Stays

As the 1820's progressed the waistlines dropped again to the natural waist, and out of necessity the corset descended along with it. These early 19th century stays were shaped with gussets in the bust and hips. Stiffness was achieved through less extreme techniques - cording and trapunto or "stuffed" embroidery being two of the most popular. The embroidery pattern is outlined on the garment and then the inside is stuffed with wool batting using an awl. The awl can make a hole in the fabric without breaking any threads, so that you can work the hole closed once the design is stuffed. Naturally this is done from the inside of the garment to be safe about the holes!

This pair, having been made as a sample, is very small and does not fit the dummy very well. The gap in the back would not normally be this large. It would be between 2 -4 inches in most cases. The sides of the channel where the eyelets are worked in the back are corded.

Trapunto Stays Front

Trapunto Stays Front

 

Trapunto Stays Back

Trapunto Stays Back

 

Trapunto Stays Side

Trapunto Stays - Side

 

Trapunto Stays Bust Gore Detail

Trapunto Stays Bust Gore Detail

 

Trapunto Stays Front Detail

Trapunto Stays Front Detail

 

Trapunto Stays Front Waist Detail

Trapunto Stays Front Waist Detail

 

Trapunto Stays Side Front Detail

Trapunto Stays Side Front Detail

 

Trapunto Stays Side Waist Detail

Trapunto Stays Side Waist Detail

 

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Civil War Era Stays

In the 1860's the construction of corsets (stays) was undergoing a transition between the gussetted style of the early 19th century (as seen above) and the individual fitted pieces characteristic of the later 19th century. As skirts were very wide and waistlines were at the natural waist, there is no reason in the 1860's for stays to extend much below the waist. This particular pattern has a pointed front. This pair of stays is made from very high quality brocade coutil and it is bound with satin bias binding.

Civil War Corset Front

Civil War Corset Front

 

Civil War Corset Back

Civil War Corset Back

 

Civil War Corset Side

Civil War Corset Side

 

Civil War Corset Lying Flat

Civil War Corset Lying Flat

 

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1880's Spoon Busk Corset

In the 1870's and 1880's bodices began to extend lower and lower along the hips and as a result, so did the corsets. To help achieve that "hourglass figure" the spoon busk was introduced, which created an indention at the waistline in front and also controlled the abdomin. The busk is wider at the bottom than it is at the top, like a spoon. This corset is also made from high quality brocade coutil and bound with satin bias strips.

The construction of the average corset in this period took advantage of both the many shaped peices of the latter 19th century AND the gores of the earlier 19th century, to create an even more extreme change in diameter between the bust, waist, and hips.

Spoon Busk Corset Front

Spoon Busk Corset Front

 

Spoon Busk Corset Back

Spoon Busk Corset Back

 

Spoon Busk Corset Front Detail

Spoon Busk Corset Front Detail

 

Spoon Busk Corset Bottom Detail

Spoon Busk Corset Bottom Detail Showing Spoon Busk

 

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1890's Corset

By the 1890's the waistline was back up at the waist, although the skirts were gored and fitted over the hips so the corset still needed to provide some support in that area. This is the period of the"wasp waist" and many of these corsets are very heavily boned. This one is a good example. This is actually the first corset I ever made! It is made from creme colored brocade and is lined with cotton. The stays are on the outside of the fashion fabric inside stay casings rather than sandwiched in between the layers as was common in earlier times.

1890s Corset Front

1890s Corset Front

 

1890s Corset Back

1890s Corset Back

 

1890s Corset Side

1890s Corset Side

 

1890s Corset Side

1890s Corset Side

 

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Edwardian Corset

In the early decade of the 1900's the "Gibson Girl" style reigned. The skirts were very tight and fitted around the hips and flared at the bottom, requiring support around the hips. The "Grecian bend" posture was all the rage so these corsets were boned very heavily in front to produce a backwards bend at the waist. This is not very comfortable nor is it particularly good for your back, but there were lots of fashion victims then just as there are now!

Bust support because less of an issue due to the pidgeon mono-brest style. Younger women let themselves range free but most women were uncomfortable with this (myself included!) and this is the driving factor in the development of the brazier (bra). Need a new undergarment to keep things orderly up top! A chemise just doesn't do it for most of us. Later into the 1910's the corsets drop completely away from the bust and are almost exclusively underbust corsets, and by 1920 the modern bra as we know it was born.

Edwardian Corset Front

Edwardian Corset Front

 

Edwardian Corset Back

Edwardian Corset Back

 

Edwardian Corset Side

Edwardian Corset Side

 

Edwardian Corset Side

Edwardian Corset Side

 

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Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat

I mentioned above about the "pidgeon breasted" style. Well this is how you get it! The idea here is to have a big mono-bosom protruding out from the thin flat waist. Nothing like a corset cover (camisole) with lots of ruffles down the front to fill you out.

Petticoats were cut with the same fitted gores as the skirts, so as to not add any bulk at the waist and hips. They have a ruffle around the bottom to help the skirts widen and fill out in a flowing, liquid form from the narrow hips. The effect is not as dramatic on a plastic dummy as it is on a person, but it is close enough to get the idea.

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Front

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Front

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Side

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Side

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Back

Edwardian Corset Cover and Petticoat Back

 

Edwardian Corset Cover Front

Edwardian Corset Cover Front

 

Edwardian Corset Cover Side

Edwardian Corset Cover Side

Edwardian Corset Cover Back

Edwardian Corset Cover Back

   

 

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