Corsets!

When planning the programme for 2015 we wanted to ensure that at least a couple of months were dedicated to remembering the WI centenary and got us thinking a little bit more about the ladies who would have been attending meetings 100 years ago. In the first of the centenary themed meetings, we welcomed Izabela Pitcher from Prior Attire, an accomplished historical costumer, corsetière and historical interpreter to talk to us about the fashions of 1915 and what ladies undergarments looked like. In addition we welcomed Lucas, Izabelas husband who is a fabulous photographer from Pitcheresque Imagery to take some pictures of all the fun! Both came attired in Edwardian day-wear and very fine hats!

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We learnt about the underpinnings worn by our Edwardian counterparts. Corsets in particular have been worn by women for over 500 years and have changed a lot in that time. By 1915 corsets had started to fall from favour as the emphasis on comfort and practicality overtook the desire for a perfect silhouette.  Early forms of brassieres/bras and girdles were introduced. The Liberty bodice was developed initially for children around 1907 as a practical way to button children up warmly (Liberty bodices were still in use in the 1970’s ladies) and were then adapted for use by certain women for example in service such as maids who would be freer to get on with their work, bending, leaning and stretching without a constricting corset and layers upon layers of undergarments.

The underwear for the Edwardian lady were stockings and drawers (split crotch) and a chemise with a corset on the top. Then there would be a camisole or a corset cover and a petticoat.

original corset cover
original corset cover

Alternatively there were ‘combinations’ which were chemise and drawers rolled into one:

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Investigating the combinations!
Investigating the combinations!

The outbreak of war also changed the social norms of middle class society, and repectable women became involved with work (shock horror) This could involve work in factories, railways and on the land in the newly formed womens land army. In order to do this type of work, trousers or breeches and boots needed to become acceptable attire for women and the rest is history! Remember though only ten years previously-to show ones ankles would be the equivalent of walking across Parkers Piece topless!

The suit was developed, more practical and useable for multiple tasks such as visiting, shopping, motoring, cycling and wearing around the house….this saved the need for multiple outfits for tasks such as these, more economical, less household laundry work for those without servants and allowed middle class women to be able to afford fashionable items, this was the advent of the department stores.

I do not intend to re-invent the wheel by repeating Izabela’s talk in detail. She is a mine of information relating to costuming and a lot of the questions we asked relating to the wearing of corsets are answered within her own blog at https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/corsetted-victorians-and-others-myths-and-reality/ definately worth a read. There is also a blog about how she made the outfit that she wore on the night https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/hot-summer-1914/

Naughty!
Naughty!

Looking good ladies! Proof that corsets are far more comfortable than we realised…………After the talk we got to examine the garments and some Ladybirds decided to give a corset a go. They are all smiling notice-not passing out or grimacing in pain!

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Gill looking wonderful in a very fine hat!
Gill looking wonderful in a very fine hat!
Original mourning outfit
Original mourning outfit

We had some wonderful refreshments this month and an array of cakes! 8

It was all a bit of a feast really….yummy yummy yum. Did anyone remain corseted whilst eating cake? If so I missed that one….that would have been a great photo! What a fabulous evening and we welcomed lots of new members and guests this month.

For more corset and costume inspiration check out Izabela’s website and Facebook page http://www.priorattire.co.uk/  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prior-Attire/140313531692?fref=ts

See you all next month!

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