A Victorian Woman’s Layers

If you’ve ever wondered what women in the 19th century wore underneath their dresses, this video should illuminate you. Watch the layers get removed in the video from 1897.

Assisted by a maid, first comes off the dress and then a petticoat. She takes off a pair of drawers, followed by her corset to reveal a chemise. Her stockings come off. And then lastly the chemise.

Comments

  1. Mariela says:

    This is so incredible to watch! Her skin was permanently marked from the different things she wore!!

    Also, that bath water was not a fun bath water color…

    • Betty says:

      A very interesting video clip, thank you for posting it.

      Some comments:

      1. Perhaps difficult to believe today, but this was hard core pornography in the 1890s. Note that the woman wears a leotard in the bath for decency, real nudity was a “no, no, no” at this time.

      2. I think it’s taken on a film or theatre set. Look at the door on the wall behind, both the door and the door lock have been painted rather than being real?

      3. The color of the water – probably for technical reasons. Perhaps the movie camera might not catch the fast descent of clear water? Not sure.

      4. Before undressing she has the fashionable shape, but not a wasp waist. The corset is not very tight, she can open the busk without undoing the laces. Perhaps it’s the theatre aspect, but watch the pleasure in her face when she takes it off. Anyone who has worn a tight corset knows that real pleasure!

      5. As you might expect the maid is wearing a corset – look how she bends over, but it’s a maid’s corset and neither tight nor stiff. It was impossible for a lady’s maid to be uncorseted at this time. Remember that a lady’s maid was near the top of the servant hierarchy and it was important to bee “properly dressed”.

      Betty

      • jacqueline says:

        Oh I totally agree that this was pornography. It’s very clearly a set. I was thinking the water was an odd color because it wouldn’t film well in black and white without something added to it. Like the way the women wore dark colors (not red) on their lips because red didn’t show up in black and white very well.

        You make some great points, especially about the lady’s maid.

        • Betty says:

          Hello, me again.

          I’ve been thinking about the “water”. I think that it’s sand or other non liquid material. I don’t know, but perhaps they didn’t want to get the leotard wet if they needed to do retakes. Or possibly they wanted to avoid the wet T shirt effect!

          Jacqueline, I’d appreciate your comments on how tightly the lady is laced. The opening shots indicate to me that she is not very small waisted by the standards of the era. The corset can’t be very stiff because she bends over to take her drawers off.

          If the “maid’ is an actress then perhaps my comments about maid’s corsets are wrong?

          Betty

          • jacqueline says:

            Even if the maid is an actress, your comments are still correct about lady’s maids in general during the period. And I’m sure the actress who played the maid would have been wearing a corset, which would need to be loosely laced in order for her to act out these tasks.

            Good theory on sand instead of water!

  2. onegroovydude says:

    Hi. I’m restoring an 1895 wax corset mannequin right now, and came across your site. I appreciate the lesson, but I don’t know how much of that video I could watch, even back then. Her butt looks like two giant rocks trying to break themselves in half. Now maybe that girl in the picture on the back wall… That was definitely real water. That’s just how clean it was in 1897…:)

    You can tell the background is a set, because nobody painted wall art that sloppy back then. Even the worst was good. The design looks like it was painted by a 6 year old. It’s very evident on the left panel, near the pulled back curtain. The door, and the wall is not 3-dimensional as depicted either. It’s painted that way to give the impression of depth.

    If you look at the right wall and door, you will see that the upper painted panels are equal in length from the top of the clip down. If you pan over to the front facing wall, it’s panel comes much lower, which would’ve never been painted that far off back then. The Victorians/Edwardians were masters of fashion design. I’ve seen gas station bathrooms with better artwork than that, and they used a sharpie. Also there appears to be a trim piece between the upper and lower panel on the right wall, that the front facing wall is lacking.

    Good day. Thanks for letting me post.

    Credentials:
    Artist, Fashion expert, and owner of eBay store: http://stores.ebay.com/MINT-VINTAGE-TOYS/_i.html?rt=nc&_sid=97160430&_sticky=1&_trksid=p4634.c0.m14&_sop=3&_sc=1

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