*gives you 10 cents and a shoelace* tell me about corsets and widows wear
sure thing! those things all vary quite a bit depending on exact timeframe, but i’ll do my best to cover as much as i can. big disclaimer that i am not a historian! hopefully other people will jump on this post to help me out a bit.
corsets! corsets changed a lot over the course of the 19th century since the ideal figure and cut of dresses changed so frequently. in the regency era, the ideal figure was pretty columnar; they didn’t want too many curves. the natural waist was deemphasized, as the waistline was just below the bust. this led to regency corsets, in their more popular form, being soft, with minimal boning. many stopped soon below the bust, like the dresses:
a very comfortable era in fashion, which did not last very long. already by the late 1810s, waistlines were beginning to move downwards, and corsets followed suit:
here’s some from 1819. as you can see, there was still some diversity in shape and style, but they did extend at least to the natural waist. they served a few different purposes, and each one unique in which they would emphasize. in general, they would gently narrow and lengthen the waist, push up the bust, and improve posture. gussets did a fair bit of the work, showing off the parts you want shown off.
the big board you see up the middle of the one on the right is called a busk. these were generally made of either wood, baleen, bone, or sometimes even ivory. they were meant to separate the breasts and keep the posture set.
boning was usually made from baleen; reed was an older convention and slowly phasing out. steel boning wasn’t much of a thing until until the 1850s as the industrial revolution took its course. boning was pretty light for a while; gradually corsets came to have more boning.
the fabrics used for corsets at this time was almost always cotton, though i have seen at least one example where linen was used as a lining! multiple layers of the fabric would be sewn together to make the corset strong.
the lovely pattern you see is the cording! strong cords made of cotton or similar fabrics were sewn into the fabric to stiffen it a bit. here’s a really great image of someone’s modern recreation:
while early regency corsets laced in the front, as time passed, they came to be laced in the back. the eyelets could either be holes in the garment itself, as so:
or separate rings:
conveniently, both those past two examples are from the 1820s, so you can how slowly the ideal silhouette became more of an hourglass figure. the 1830s kept this pattern going, as corsets continued to narrow around the waist:
the waists weren’t nearly tight enough to suffocate you or anything like that, but they did show off your curves! note the shoulder straps, too – some were attached directly to the body of the corset, as in that white one, and some laced on, as in the brown one!
moving on to mourning clothing! widow’s weeds is the general term for widows’ clothing specifically. not weeds like plants; the term comes from “waed”, the old english word for garment.
this is a subject i know much much much much much less about, so this took a fair bit of research. customs tended to vary a lot between cultures, too, so ??? people who know more than i do please lend me a hand here
the main point is, there were specific rules you’d have to follow, depending upon the period and region. the essence of these was modesty: simple fabrics, less flashy color and ornamentation. to cheat on any of these specifications would send a very distinct message – possibly that the widow was promiscuous, vain, or didn’t really love her husband. the rules began pretty simply in the regency era, and grew more and more complex until the mid-victorian era, with the influence of queen victoria taking hold over england and spreading to france in the way popular fashions tend to do.
mourning was broken down into stages, the length of which varied.
the first period, called full morning, lasted a year and a day for widows (i’ve seen this figure mentioned for both regency and mid-victorian customs, so it appears fairly constant, though both of those sources were focused on england). the only color to be worn was black. fanciful ornamentation was to be minimized as much as possible, if not cut out entirely, and it should only be black. shiny fabric wasn’t allowed; all fabrics should be matte. crêpe was the fabric of choice, though matte silks like bombazine were also solid options. here are some examples:
^ evening dress from 1817
^ morning dress from 1818
^ another from 1819
^ these two from 1837 – a few years past out era, but you get the point.
the two stages past this varied, and honestly confuse me quite a bit. i’m not clear on the duration of these stages in the regency era, but by the mid-victorian era, it seems pretty clear that the second stage lasted one additional year, and the final lasted 6 months. even the textiles – one website that focused mostly on the mid-victorian said that shiny fabrics became okay in the second stage, but a blurb for one dress in the victoria & albert museum says the lord chamberlain decreed velvets & shiny silks only okay for the third stage sometime around the death of princess charlotte in 1817. regardless of period, subdued colors other than black, such as white, gray, or lavender were allowed in first as small adornments, then as the color of a full garment. so uh ???????? here are some pictures, anyway.
^ evening dress from 1819 – this is one of the few ones i’m sure is from the final stage
^ the victoria & albert museum confirms this as a final stage mourning dress from 1823-1825
^both from 1827
^ late 20s/early 30s
the range of jewelry in the later stages also expanded to include lockets, pins, or brooches with the hair of the deceased inside, like so:
all of these rules were incredibly unfortunate for anyone without a ton of money, since new clothes were expensive. most people chose to try and rework some of their old clothes into appropriate mourning attire, dyeing dresses black, sewing in black linings to outerwear, or draping bonnets in black crêpe. if you were too poor even for that, you’d have to resort to finding any small black accessory, or even scrap of fabric to add somehow to your outfit. that or follow marius’ route of just only leaving your house at night so your clothes all look black.
that’s the best i’ve got to say, so the floor is 100% open to others!