Thursday, November 20, 2008

Victorian Unmentionables

While I would never show a picture of modern undergarments in a post, doesn't it seem like an ironic twist that I should be posting photographs and details about Victorian undergarments? Especially considering the almost absurd level of modesty and decorum exercised during the Victorian Era.

One of my favorite scenes in "Meet Me in St. Louis" is when Majorie Main's character, Katie the Maid, was shaking a pair of freeze-dried bloomers in Rose Smith's (Lucille Bremer) face - outside in the yard, no less. Rose's shame and embarrassment is funny to me. Totally cracks me up every time. Yet if someone started shaking a push-up bra in my face in public - oi!

Yet, here we are with a progress shot of Victorian Unmentionables going out into the public domain. Weird, huh?!

This is the corded petticoat that took FOREVER to sew. There are 24 corded pin tucks in it. Forgive the rather rumpled appearance but I had just dipped it in liquid starch yesterday and am just getting ready to finish the rather complicated pressing process today.

Next, I will need to dampen the petticoat, roll and wrap it in plastic wrap and put it outside for a few hours. Then it will be ready to steam press into crisp, voluminous fullness. While very time consuming, I'm hoping the stiffness of the starched cords will keep the rest of the costume from tangling around my knees and ankles. And allow me to slip through the rather tight spots behind the scenes, where hoops would be extremely difficult to maneuver.

You'll notice the deep yoke on the corded petticoat. I am actually constructing a full crinoline on this base piece, so I have basted guidelines into the yoke, to which additional layers of gathered netting ruffles and muslin petticoats will be attached. It will take a few more hours to complete but the end is in sight on this complicated piece of VU.

This morning, I worked on a pair of pantalets. A little hand sewing and some added closures, and that VU will be off the list as well.

That just leaves the corset. I'm hoping to get that finished by the end of the weekend, so I can start the actual outer costume pieces next week. In the meantime, I will start practicing some of the scenes in the Fezziwig dress, just to get used to moving around in a full-length dress.

After all this complicated VU stuff, construction the rest of the actual outer garments will be a piece of cake.

I hope!


livnletlrn said...

Wow, the attention to detail in these costumes and how they work in the scenes of the play and backstage is mind-boggling.

Guinifer said...

Holy Moly!

Sheepish Annie said...

There is something rather sweet and demure about Victorian underthings. Of course, I'd lose my mind trying to get into all that. I'd probably give up before I got to the outerwear and just wander around all under-dressed.

Lovely work, there. Nice job!

Ellen said...

We women of a certain age remember when ironing many things involved dampening the item, wrapping it up in a plastic bag and then refrigerating it for a while. I was absolutely thrilled when we could finally afford to send out my husband's shirts!

Christina said...

Your post made me smile, considering the bashfulness of Victorian ladies about their undergarments, remembering the recent sale of a pair of Queen Victoria's bloomers, embroidered with the monogram 'VR'. The waist was 48 inches!!! Although she had a great sense of humour, I am sure Her Majesty would most definitely not be amused to know her smalls (bigs!!) were on view for all the world to see!!

Hilliard & Croft

Most Beautiful Princess