Going Under Cover with Debra E. Marvin
Corsets, stays, underwire bras. Sounding and appearing as some sort of torture devices gives these "foundations" of female undergarments a bad reputation. But how would you know? Really?
My first encounter, not literally, but literature-ly, came with Mammy and Scarlett. Darn that Scarlett and her insistence on an 18" waist. (I think mine was 18" in elementary school!) Gone with the Wind, the movie, shows Scarlett clinging to her bedpost, sucking in her stomach and breath, while the lacings are pulled ever tighter.
Seriously, out of all those women around the world that wore stays and corsets over multiple centuries, I don't think they all were going for the tiny waist. A comfortable waist and some control over the rest of their female anatomy was probably good enough.
Case in point:
my day in stays.
It all started with some fun (doesn't it always start with fun until someone gets hurt?) Playing dress up is a great way to experience history. I'm researching and studying the War of 1812 which happens to fall during the British Regency period (think Jane Austen). Voila. A great excuse to join in.
It started with a chemise: think muslin nightgown with a drawstring neck.
|This pattern is "Regency Underthings" From Sense and Sensibility -Pattern Designer|
(Here's a link to another's experience creating these stays)
The Regency profile was rather unusual in an anatomical way. Consider this quote:
"A fashionable lady's bosom looked like a shelf aimed at her chest."
I chose the 'working class' stays to start. This means you don't have to have a lady's maid to help you dress. It still took practice and work...which I won't go in to here...
|This pattern is Regency Era Wrap Stays from Daffodown Dilly - I met Dawn in Canada. She knows her stuff!|
|"Regency Corset/ Long Stays" from The Mantua Maker.|
The dresses do possess some challenges: Walking on your hems. Granted... ladies of the upper crust had less need of functionality and the dragging-on-the-ground look was very feminine. For us, it meant a lot of "Get off my dress!" and "Don't back up!"
|My friends were good sports (and now they want to do it again) That's me on the far left after I dumped the hat and fichu for a night on the town.|
My next 1812 dress will be purely working class and I expect to make it shorter and much less foofy.
Check back in a year!
My collection of historical fashions on Pinterest
Great Pattern resources and help:
Spencer's Mercantile - online and in Hamilton Ontario. Excellent knowledge and customer service!
Past Patterns - a huge variety of historical clothing patterns.
Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. Debra likes to write, weed and wander and is blessed to have the best family and friends in the world. She has decided she needs to live closer to her grandchildren. She’s thankful each day that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor. Her work has finaled in the TARA, Great Expectations, Heart of the Rockies, Maggie, Fab Five, Daphne DuMaurier and the overall winner in the CWOW Rattler.
That War of 1812 story? It was a semi-finalist in the 2013 Genesis contest.