Tag Archives: 19th century underwear

A Brief Look at Women’s Underwear in the 19th Century

Aug 12, 2013

295px-La_Rigolade1909And yes, I realize that there are about a thousand reasons why that blog post title will get me in trouble.

So over the weekend I was working on final revisions of my novella, Sarah Sunshine. Sarah Sunshine is book 2.5 in the Montana Romance series, and as such it takes place in the fictitious frontier town of Cold Springs, Montana in the year 1896. Only by 1896 Montana wasn’t really the frontier anymore. It had transportation and industry like any other spot out west. Electricity and running water were becoming the rule instead of the exception. Everything was modernizing at lightning-fast rates.

Except women’s underwear.

Although that’s not exactly true either. Major changes in women’s underwear—changes that made it resemble the stuff we wear now—didn’t actually start taking place until late in the 1910s, and really more like the 1920s. “Victorian Secret” underwear models wouldn’t have looked anywhere near as sexy as Heidi Klum prancing around in a diamond-studded bra.

No, throughout the 19th century, as in many centuries before, women’s underwear served an entirely different purpose. Up top, it was designed to support and create a feminine shape. That’s where our good old friend the corset comes from. I believe I’ve talked about this before—as have many other historical fashion bloggers—but the corset wasn’t an insanely tight-laced torture contraption that too many people think it was. Corsets were practical garments that, if made correctly, kept everything where it needed to be. Continue reading