Dressing Primrose From the Corset Up: For Balls, Sports, and the Bedroom by Gail Carriger (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

So, Fashionable Reader, I have concocted a pictorial guide to possible outfits that a young lady of Prim’s rank might wear during this time period.

The images run with what she would need to put on, in order. Ready? Here we go…

On the bottom half:

1. 1890  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2. 1890s Stockings The Metropolitan Museum of Art
3. 1899 Garters  1899  The Chicago History Museum
4. 1895-1905 Oxfords   The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Note that shoes have to go on early? Well before the corset and also the rest of the dress for bending and hemming reasons.

Combination  1890s  The Metropolitan Museum of Ar

Combinations are a hard one for me, as an author.

Because they were ubiquitous undergarments at the time of the Custard Protocol books. They were the most common form of underwear.

However, the name and the concept is entirely lost to the modern mind set. Most of my readers would have no basis for comparison should I drop the word “combination” into, for example, a shape change or a nookie scene. I must, therefore, use the word in correct context so as to make it clear that is what the character is wearing. Or have it described to a foreign character. And yet, it’s not something that would be described. Sigh. Challenging.

On the upper half:

Bust Improvers  1890s  Whitaker Auction

Prim wouldn’t need these, but I include them because I think its fun that they exist at all!

5. Camisol  1895-1905  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
6. 1893  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
7. Sleeve Supports  1890s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And over the top:

8. 1895  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
9. 1894 Evening Dress  Charles Fredrick Worth, 1894  The Kyoto Costume Institute
10. 1890s  The Goldstein Museum of Design
11. 1895-1905  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
12. Muff and Hat  1890s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alternatively, here’s a look at more sporty options…

Stockings  1890s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Combinations undergarment, England, 1875 – 1900
Corset 1890s Summer Corset   The Victoria & Albert Museu
Corset Cover  1895-1900  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And sportswear on the outside:

Shirtwaist 1894 The Museum at FIT _ OMG that dress!
1890s Under The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Travel Suit  Jacques Doucet, 1895  The Victoria & Albert Museum

You don’t have to take the pictures as proof. Here’s some research to back it up…

Gwen Raverat at the end of the century describes the modest dress of a respectable female.

“Women were incredibly modest . . .  even with each other. You could see a friend in her petticoat, but nothing below that was considered decent. At school, the sidht of a person in her white frilly drawers caused shrieks of outraged virtue; and I should have thought it impossible to be seen downstairs in my dressing-gown.”

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 269)

americangothgirl-tumblr Catalog Photographs, Front and Back Views of Woman In Corset, c. 1880s. Albumen Prints

“This is what a young lady wore, with whom I shared a room one night…

  1. Thick, long-legged woolen combinations.
  2. Over them, white cotton combinations, with plenty of buttons and frills.
  3. Very serious, bony, grey stays, with suspenders.
  4. Black woolen stockings.
  5. White cotton drawers, with buttons and frills.
  6. White cotton ‘petticoat-bodice’, with embroidery, buttons and frills.
  7. Rather short, white flannel, petticoat.
  8. Long alpaca petticoat, with a flounce round the bottom.
  9. Pink flannel blouse.
  10. High, starched, white collar, fastened on with studs.
  11. Navy blue tie.
  12. Blue skirt, touching the ground, and fastened tightly to the blouse with a safety-pin behind.
  13. Leather belt, very tight.
  14. High button boots.”

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 269)

Undergarments ca. 1900-03  From the FIDM Museum

 1898 Walking Suit, House of Worth, French, Made of silk and lace

For the Boudoir!

How about an alternate more sexy arrangement of underthings layer…

Here’s the first layer:

Brassiere  1910s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art copy
Drawers  1900s  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Garter  1875-1825  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Stocking  1860  Les Arts Décoratifs

Over that would go the next layer of these items:

Corset  1900  The Metropolitan Museum of Art copy
Corset Cover  1910s  Antique Dress
Chemisette, Undersleeves, and Handkerchief  1860s  The Metropolitan Museum of Art copy

Over all of this she might wear this:

Negligee, 1908  From the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Dressing Gown  1897-1900  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Watch 100 Years of Lingerie in 3 Minutes

OK I know that’s a lot of research but you know how I feel about clothing!

This post originally appeared in two parts over on Retro Rack.

Yours in fluffy dresses,

Miss Gail

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6 Responses

  1. Pence said:

    My paternal grandmother was an avid tennis player all her life – starting in this era. And I was told scandalized the neighbors by helping my grandfather carry a small sailing boat he had built out of the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. Also scandalized everyone by going sailing in it with him. From the few photographs I have of her she would have definitely have had all these layers on.

  2. Amelia said:

    If it’s any consolation, I recall reading various references to characters “skipping about in [their] combinations”, (or, shockingly, “having been sewn into their combis”) in books as a child, and being able to understand what they were from context, so it might not be quite so opaque to the uninformed as it seems.

    *Those* underthings are thoroughly delicious, though, not at all the sensible cambric, wool(!) and flannel of Noel Streatfeild and her ilk.

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