Underwear was the very last thing on my mind as I was watching those women in the clip from the movie "Pride and Prejudice" whirling and twirling and having a jolly good time on the dance floor. But since the topic for today is underwear - what did they wear under those gorgeous Georgian/Regency era gowns? Let’s take a layer by layer look.
The first undergarment our lady of the era would have slipped on was a chemise, also called a shift. Usually made of thin, white cotton, it had close fitting short sleeves, a higher hemline than her dress, and a low neckline if it was to be worn under an evening dress. Chemises served two purposes. One was to provide a layer of decency under the sheer dresses that were all the rage. The other was to protect outer garments from perspiration as they were washed less frequently than undergarments.
Next came the corset, which was worn over the chemise, though a slender woman wouldn't have needed to wear a corset under the high-waisted dresses of the time. I'll mention here that a lady of the era would have found it impossible to get dressed without the assistance of her maid. The corset was laced together at the back - and tightly. Made of linen, it was boned for firmness and often had a long busk of wood or whalebone in the front to create the lift necessary to carry Regency fashions off. Some women preferred tight linen stays (pictured above) that had the same effect as a push-up bra. These came slightly below the breasts, though there were stays that extended to the waistline for a slimming look. Some attempts were made to design undergarments that would serve the same function as the modern bra, but I’ll save that for a future conversation.
|Petticoat circa 1800|
What about panties you ask? There was no such a thing because underdrawers (the predecessor to panties) didn't arrive on the scene until around 1806. But here's what they looked like.
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