Saturday, February 23, 2013

Victorian Underwear

These days underwear tends to be a relatively small and brief affair. It usually doesn't cover much and takes seconds to put on in the morning. Back in the 19th century, putting on underwear was a long process, especially for women, and it covered far more area than it does today.

Women's Underwear

The first item of clothing a lady would put on is a pair of drawers. These were usually quite long, to below the knee at the start of the 19 century, then became just above the knee by the end. They were tied at the waist and crotchless, for easier bathroom access. They were considered the most unmeanchonable of a ladies under garments. The crotchless ones caused problems when hooped skirts came into fashion, as if a lady happened to bend over it might cause a glimpse of immodesty.

Next one would put on a chemise, a simple sleeveless dress, made from cotton. This would protect your corset from your skin and vice versa. It also added another layer to keep you warm and for modesty. As lower neck lines became more popular during the mid and late century for evening wear, chemises with lower necklines and straps rather than sleeves came on to the market.


Or if you didn't want to bother with two pieces, one could wear a one piece chemise and drawers combination, as seen above.

Your corset would be placed overtop the chemise or combination garment. This was usually the most expensive of the undergarments and provided women with part of the desired silhouette of the time period. While a good corset, properly worn can provide posture support, lacing them too tightly can cause problems with breathing, and even injure internal organs. Even doctors of the time recognized problems with pulling corsets to tight and over using them, but for many people fashion persisted over common sense. As women became more active in sports during the Edwardian era, they would still wear corsets during these activities. There are stories of bloody corsets being found in locker rooms from the stays cutting into them while they exercised.

During the fist half of the 19th century layers of petticoats were used to create volume and disguise one's legs. When crinoline and hoop skirts came on the market, one would often wear a petticoat under the structural garment, and another one overtop of it. During the 1860s it was fashionable to have your dress slightly shorter to show off the decorated hem of your outer petticoat.

Structural Garments
These included the crinoline, popular during the mid century, and hoop skirts, as well as the bustle. These would go over top the first petticoat, then another placed over top of it to soften the outline under your dress.
Once all this was assembled, you could finally put on your dress! It sounds very time consuming and hot. Great in winter, but not such a great idea in summer. No wonder women fainted! Restricted breathing and multiple layers are a recipe for getting out the smelling salts.

Men's Underwear

Drawers and Undershirts
As you can probably guess, men's underwear was a lot simpler. There wasn't the multiple layers or structural contraptions to be tied to one's waist. Most men's under garments consisted of a simple pair of drawers and an undershirt. Look at these guys hanging out looking comfortable.

Union suits
The other option for men, mostly worn in winter, was the one piece, usually made from flannel. The classic style with the button up flap at the back for bathroom access, was also called a union suit and came in white or the ever popular red. It's interesting to note that some women wore this as well. I can easily imagine the pioneers coming out here to the Canadian prairies in winter and deciding this would be the underwear of choice for them!

Okay there is one piece of structural underwear for men from this era. The jockstrap was invented by CF Bennett of Chicago, for bicycle jockeys in Boston. Apparently riding your bike over cobblestone streets without support can be an uncomfortable experience.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Victorian Romance

With Valentine's day approaching I thought I'd write a little something about Victorian courting practices. I must say, while I am a fan of many things Victorian, the stuffy social mores of the time is something I think best left to the past.

In the 19th century, A girl's entire education and upbringing was directed towards finding an eligible husband. Middle and upper class girls were educated in literature, French, music, drawing and some math, history and geography. This would ensure they could run a household, entertain a potential partner, and hold a conversation. It is important to note that they were not encouraged to have opinions or appear smarter than their male counterparts. Luckily, it seems, not everyone followed this (eg. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice).

When a girl was 16 or 17 she would have a coming out party or attend a debut ball. This signalled to her social circle that she was available for potential courtship. The Victorian social season was April to July. Young women would travel with their families, or go to visit older female relatives, in larger centres or holiday towns like London and Bath in England, or Boston and New York in the US.
A young ladies day during the social season started at noon with breakfast and getting ready for the day. Afternoons were spent strolling in the park, shopping, or attending a concert. Dinner was around 8pm and then they would attend an opera or play, and on to parties and balls, sometimes until 4 or 5am. All this was with an attentive chaperon, usually their mother or other older female relative.

There were very strict social rules that ladies had to follow. You could not introduce yourself to a man, a mutual friend must do that. Also those of higher class would be introduced to those lower and not the other way around. Those in the higher position did not have to keep up the acquaintance if they didn't want and could "snub" those beneath them. A young lady must always be with her chaperon when out socially and never be alone with a male she was not related to. She could not receive male visitors alone or ride in a covered carriage with one.

At a ball a man who wanted to dance with a young lady would fill out his name on her dance card. He could have up to three dances with her, and if she was interested one of her dance partners, she could give him her dance card at the end of the night, indicating he may call on her. Visits were always in the company of her family or chaperon. They could go for walks, but they must walk apart without contact and in view of others.

If the partnership developed to a proposal, the male had to get permission from the ladies' father, and she did not have to accept the first time. Families would look at the class level, family reputation and finances as well before approving the match. Once approved, it was usually announced to an inner circle first before being publicly announced.

An engaged couple could hold arms, ride in an open carriage together and kiss on the cheek. However if the engagement was broken after the public announcement, this could damage a girls reputation. After all a man had touched her hand! Who would marry such a trollop now? Some suitors were even sued for damages and loss of money spent on the bride's wardrobe.
Despite all this, many couples did find love, even those ladies who had previously rode around in other men's carriages.
What are your thoughts on Victorian style courting?

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Goth-tastic 2013 - Positive Friends

My third challenge for Goth-tastic is to go and have fun with a positive friend. Someone that inspires or encourages you and makes you feel good about yourself. With Valentine's approaching it can be hard sometimes when you are single, to remember how awesome you really are. Or if you're a busy wife/mother etc. you sometimes need someone who doesn't see you in that role to remind you that you are more than this. A good friend can help you keep your optimism and lift spirits when times are hard. While I am in a excellent relationship, and things are going great for me, I still think it's super important to make time for friends in my life.

YouTube Video

What are your thoughts about making time for friends?

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

App Review - Songza

My dear friend Ms. Chloe clued me in recently to a fabulous music app called Songza. When she described it to me I thought it sounded neat, but after trying it out, I'm sold! (No I'm not being paid by Songza).

Songza is a music suggestion service, and it's free! It has a music "concierge" that suggests music to you for different activities. For example Monday evening you can pick music for commuting, working out, cooking etc.

It then offers you more options for each category, so you can narrow down what you might want to listen to. I find it amusing some of the activities it thinks people are doing. One night it suggested music for looking at pictures of your ex! Lol.

Besides the concierge, you can look up music by activity, mood or era. For example, it offers music for rainy days, feeling melancholy, angsty, or brooding - perfect for us gothy types. ;)

You can also look up music by genres or artists. Some of my favourite playlists are Heavy Industry, Industrial Dance Floor, Urban Gothic Electronic and Brechtian+Punk+Steampunk+Dark Cabaret. There's also a playlist for classic goth music called The Goth Parade.
I'm enjoying the app because I find it hard sometimes to find out about new music and this gets me to listen to new things. I found out that I quite enjoy dark cabaret music. Who knew?

Have you tried this app? If so what are your thoughts?

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Goth-tastic 2013 - Gothy date!

First I'd like to thank Miss Kitty at Sophistique Noir for the mention in her Blogger Appreciation post. Please check out her fabulous blog if you don't already know about her.

My second challenge is to take yourself out on a gothy date. It doesn't have to be expensive, or cost anything, or even be gothy for that matter. Just go do something fun for yourself. It can be shopping, going for a coffee and reading a favourite book, visiting a museum, or taking photos of a graveyard. Whatever inspires you!

YouTube Video

If you'd like to participate, please comment below with the URL to your blogpost and I'll link it in next week's Goth-tastic post. :)

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