Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Tale of Two Petticoats

Be still my beating heart... a post about underpinnings in my favourite decade of the 19th century: the 1820s!!!! So maligned, yet utterly beautiful in my opinion.

To my mind, the 1820s (the early to middle section) are the best of both worlds; we have the elegant, long line of the Regency in the skirt, and yet the waist begins its descent from the giddy heights of the under-bust, which continues into the Romantic period of the 1830s, leaving the viewer with a more flattering view of a lady's waist, and the welcome departure from shelf boobage.

I could quite happily continue about the stunning dresses and pelisses (oh, those pelisses!) of the 1820s, but first, we have to consider the underpinnings, don't we?

Wondering about what went on underneath dresses of the 1820s led me to a discovery in The History of Underclothes (C. W. & P. E. Cunnington, 1992), and that in turn on to the wonderful Platt Hall Costume Gallery, in Manchester City Galleries UK, where the petticoat mentioned and photographed in the book resides, along with ANOTHER 1820s petticoat!! 

Cotton Petticoat 1828-35 {Manchester City Galleries}
This beautiful cotton petticoat has embroidered net and moravian insertion lace frill around the neckline, piped armholes, 15 rows of cording or piping on the lower section of skirt, then a deep scalloped hem with open-work embroidery.

There are drawstrings at the top of the neckline, and at the waist. These fasten at the back, with 2 Dorset threaded white buttons, possibly Blandford Cartwheels or Cross Wheels.

The skirt section is made up of 5 panels- some are flared, some straight. They are gathered to the waistband.

There clearly aren't many examples of late 1820s and 1830s petticoats, as this one is mentioned in 4 books of mine. The dates of the petticoat vary with the printed dates of the books of course, but late 20s and early 30s seems spot on to me. This would have been worn with sleeve plumpers, chemise, stays, and small bustle, perhaps the 'Jean' bustle.

I have had much more trouble trying to find details for the second petticoat below:
Cotton Petticoat 1825-30 {Manchester City Galleries}

Here again the neckline is trimmed with open-work embroidery, and the petticoat has a drawstring at both the neck and waist, which presumably fastens at the back. The short sleeves also feature the open-work embroidery again, as does the hem of the petticoat.

There is a slit in the seam each side, for pockets.

I did wonder when I first saw this if it was an under-dress (due to it having the sleeves), which would have a net or sheer dress worn over the top, but most of those were made in silk.

I was trying to see what the deep band along the hem is, then found this paragraph in English Women's Clothing in the 19th Century (C. W. Cunnington, 1937)- 'An evening petticoat of muslin, with an attached bodice in the stomacher front style; short puffed sleeves. Above the hem, which is four feet wide, are seven narrow tucks.'  Could this be the one? The width of the hem (48") looks about correct to me.

The first, slightly later petticoat is just a dream. I could easily wear that as a dress in its own right! This is on my long list of 'one day I will try to make one for myself.' I have no underpinnings for the middle to late 1820s, having at present either Regency, or jumping straight into the 1830s, when the waist was at almost natural level again, with waisted, half petticoats. Wouldn't it be wonderful to try to make this one day?

with love,
Naomi