Medieval Renaissance Style Wedding Dress

The Time of the Medieval Corset

Medieval Corsets

Many things were happening during the time of the medieval corset. “Centuries of Roman rule in Western Europe came crashing to an end in 476. The emperor was driven from his throne by barbarian invaders from the north. Soon after, hundreds of tiny kingdoms began to form in once Roman lands. Subsequent invasions by Vikings, Goths, Moors, and infighting between neighboring kingdoms began to change the nature of European life”.   From Medieval-Life.net

Clothing Worn During The Medieval Period

The medieval time period is known as the Middle Ages, and the Dark Ages. This time period lasted from approximately 500 AD to 1500 AD. By all accounts, this was a thousand years of war, famine, rigid class systems and rampant superstition mixed with religion. These were serious times, and accordingly, women of stature wore serious clothes. The fashion attire had many layers which included, a smock, hose, kirtle, petticoats, gown and surcoat, girdle, cape with hood and bonnet.

Mary Queen of Scots lived and died in the 16th century, but her wardrobe style was still medieval. (Did the Renaissance skip Scotland?). Mary was a threat to the throne and a staunch Catholic besides. Mary was beheaded on the order of  Queen Elizabeth in 1587. She was reportedly wearing only her undergarments. These were said to have been a velvet petticoat, a pair of sleeves in crimson-brown, and a black satin bodice with black trimmings.

Question: Notice anything missing from these lists?
Answer: Underpants! That’s right, medieval women actually went commando.

Considering the sheer number of layers worn at the time, going bare from the waist down beneath the medieval corset and petticoats was a practical idea. There was nothing to get in the way of a quick in and out, with the cuckolded spouse none the wiser. After all, secret trysts by their very nature have to be brief.  Just think about how long it would have taken for the eager lover to peel off all those layers!

The Medieval Corset

Medieval women sometimes wore “cotes,”. This was made of two stiffened layers of fabric and worn as an outer garment. Sometime around 1300, women’s styles began to be more revealing; the medieval corset was still in use but changing. Clothing was beginning to fit closer to the body. Fashion changed, necklines were lowered and the desired silhouette now had more curves.

In the desire to show off the waistline, steel, wood, whalebone or cane, were slipped into the seams. This part of the medieval corset was the ‘busk’. A busk is a piece of hardware placed into the center front of the corset that could be made of steel, wood, whalebone.

These busks fulfilled another function, as well: they served as love letters. The wooden or bone busks were often inscribed or carved with messages of heartfelt love. These busks were then given as gifts from the men to their lady loves. The ladies returned the favor by giving the laces from their medieval corset to their lovers. So far, we’ve got no underpants, wood stays inscribed with sexy messages and long laces to work with – hmm. . .

Factoid: a 12th-century illustration shows a demon wearing a medieval corset.

The outerwear medieval corset would end under the breasts, whether the corset was a straight, bust-to-waist design or an outerwear one that had shoulder straps and looked like a tight little vest that laced beneath the bust. Fabric choices for the medieval corset grew so that women of stature could choose ermine, taffeta or brocade and colors such as crimson and purple which denoted aristocratic lineage.

Petticoats in Medieval Times

Petticoats – the more the better – came into popularity sometime in the earlier 1500’s. These petticoats, worn under massive skirts to expand them outward,  were often attached to the medieval corset by laces. 

Around this time, too, the farthingale became a popular shaper. The farthingale was a hoop skirt made of metal banding. This metal skirt served to expand the outer skirt being worn.

“The French farthingale was introduced in England in the late 1570’s. Modern costumers conjecture that it probably consisted of one or more large hoops with horizontal stiffeners which radiated from around the waist in order to produce a flat platter-like shape when supported underneath by the “bumroll” or “French farthingale”.  these rolls were made of: they were stuffed with cotton and rags and stiffened with hoops of whalebone, wire or ropes made of bent reeds. Buckram (stiff canvas) is the most commonly mentioned material. Other references describe the rolls as being starched with a form of stiffener.” (Wikipedia Farthingale, post-2018)

Eventually, this style led right into the increasingly, impossibly tightened waist. 

Edmund-Leighton-God-Speed-medieval fashion

The Dark Ages

“Medieval times often evoke images of knights battling on muddy fields, dank and dreary castles, hunger, plagues-in general, a lot of rather depressing scenes. But these Dark Ages also witnessed the birth of a romantic movement. 13th Century conventions of chivalry directed that men should honor, serve, and do nothing to displease ladies and maidens. 

Secret rituals of Romance developed where women-long the loser in a double standard of adultery condoned among men-found champions who would fight in their honor. Courtly love became the subject of some of the most famous medieval poems, and where we get today’s word, “Courtesy.” Through these centuries, Europe was slowly waking from a harsh slumber, and begin to sow the seeds of a Renaissance”. Medieval–Life.net

Scotland Medieval Castle
Medieval Renaissance Style Wedding Dress

Burlesque Dance Costumes

What are burlesque dance costumes? Is it some kind of Middle Eastern dance costume you ask?

Well let me give you a little insight:

1840 London, England:

Close your eyes for a minute. Imagine yourself in the year 1840 in the city of London. It is late, and the night is dark. You find yourself walking down a small alleyway off a busy street. Finally, you spot a red door, therefore you have arrived at your destination.

You knock and the door is opened.

You are escorted by a host to a dark room inside. There is a small stage against one wall. Scattered around the room are small round tables with 2 or 3 chairs at each. You choose your seat and wait.

Now skip ahead to later on in the evening. The room is full of boisterous people, laughing, smoking and drinking alcohol. Suddenly the lights dim dramatically and conversations stop.

Lively music begins to play from the side of the room. A spotlight comes on and a lady in a brightly colored outfit moves seductively towards the stage.

She slightly drags her foot in time to the music as she begins to sway and then skip onto the stage.

Her outfit has many layers, some heavy and opaque and others transparent and flowing. Her makeup is bold and somewhat gaudy, accentuating her facial movements.

She begins to speak. Her remarks are witty and sexual, her skits entertaining. She pokes fun at Shakespeare and opera and can pull laughter from the biggest sourpuss.

Burlesque Dance:

Burlesque dance can be dated back to 17th century London. It began as a way to poke fun at “serious” theater productions. It was promoted to an art form early on and continues in that tradition today.

The working class now had a way to poke fun at the upper class through laughter and lust. Using their social habits and traditions they ‘spoofed’ in a bawdy way. The distinctive look of burlesque costumes and the sly satire of the dancers’ routines are unique.

Famously performed in Paris at the Moulin Rouge theater, the burlesque dance began. There, dancers combined elaborate costumes with detailed stage sets to establish their own unique identities.

Burlesque in the United States:

Burlesque dance evolved and migrated to New York in the late 1900’s. Singers, comics, acrobats and a motley crew of other entertainers shared the stage with the fetching and scantily clad dancers.

In the 1920’s burlesque became known as the modern-day striptease show. Some performances started with an exotic dancer and ended in a boxing match. In New York City the boxing match performance was banned for a time. As a result of the ban, it stopped completely.

Did They Get Naked:

Historically, the style of burlesque costumes and how much a dancer removed depended largely on what she could get away with. Sometimes a little stripping was involved, and sometimes the performer removed all of their clothes.

The obvious fakery was used to suggest nudity. This led to a comic effect. And sometimes the dancer really did remove much of her costume, one piece at a time.

Burlesque dance costumes are ornately designed to titillate and tease. Most of them are based on a corset.

First of all, the dancer may choose a flirty little skirt, opera gloves or mesh stockings. Many dance performances include accessories like top hats and cigarette holders. Furthermore, the dancer can then choose which items to remove in an arousing manner.

Why Corsets:

Corsets as the foundation of burlesque costume served a different purpose. They give the burlesque dancer that classic, hourglass shape.

A corset defines the ultimate femininity. They are sexy, glamorous, and cheeky without being tacky or vulgar. They have attracted the eye of the socially elite man from past centuries to modern times.

This opened the door for burlesque dancers to appear on the arms of noblemen, artists, and the aristocrats.

The Artists:

Many talented women have donned their burlesque costumes and taken to the stage. Often actresses got their start in burlesque, including Mae West and Fannie Brice. The 1930’s saw the emergence of such iconic dancers as Gypsy Rose Lee and Josephine Baker.

It often provided a path to respectability for women who were having a rough time of things. For some, it enabled them to earn their way out of harsh circumstances and hobnob with society.

 

Burlesque Timeline-1920’s-1940’s:

In the resurgence of the early 1900’s, the chorus girls of the Ziegfield Follies skirted the edges of burlesque. They performed in fabulous costumes that showed a lot of legs.

By the late 1920’s we were entering the industrial revolution. The rising popularity of movies had burlesque stage shows shut down and more women arrested for indecencies and revealing their breasts.

It took WWll in the 1940’s to bring back the burlesque shows. The servicemen needed entertainment! It faded a bit again after the 1940’s. The resulting moral arguments against it began to have a suppressing effect.

 

Burlesque Today:

At the beginning of the 1970’s, the dance began to regain its popularity. Today it is enjoying a full resurgence. Perhaps the most famous performer of the modern style is Dita Von Teese. Ms. Von Teese knows exactly how to work burlesque dance costumes and props with stunning effect. Corsets, stockings, hats, gloves, and her trademark pale skin and raven hair are instantly recognizable.

 

Play your Part:

Does the style and sass of burlesque appeals to you? Join the revelry!

You do not need to be a professional performer to join in the fun.

At Sultry Lady Corsets, we can make the perfect custom corset for you. Play out your private fantasies of flirting and teasing in the glare of the footlights.

Medieval Renaissance Style Wedding Dress

The Impact of Industrialization on Fashion

garment factory workers

 

What has been The Impact of Industrialization on Fashion today? There is no historical record of the name of the first woman to drape herself alluringly in the skin of an ancient beast, but she seems to have started something. Humans have been adorning themselves with clothing, paint, jewelry, and fabric ever since. She wanted to make a statement.

It is self-evident that until modern times all clothing was made from natural products. The skins of animals, their hair and wool were used.  Plant elements like linen, cotton, and silk have also been available to humans for millennia.

The prehistoric artists pulled their materials into a corner and went to work with their pots of pigment, dye, and paint, printing early art forms. A few quills, a few feathers, and a few shells later, fashion was born. Early garments were typically made from rectangles that were draped and tied, held together with pins, or roughly sewn with needle and sinew.

The Skills needed for making and embellishing materials were several steps ahead of construction techniques. The early technicians learned to spin fiber, then weave or knit it into a fabric. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the use of curved seams finally gave clothing a more fitted look. Buttons and laces which came later provided more sophisticated closures.

Early Fashion:

Clothing and fabric cloth continued to be almost exclusively handmade by individuals for their own use until the Industrial Revolution. In the 1700s, the lower classes made durable fabric clothing out of homespun fibers. They had neither time nor money to waste. Garments were patched, resized, remade and handed down until there was nothing left to use.

The upper classes had access to luxurious imported fabric, intricate adornments and the labor of skilled artisans. Fashions became ostentatious, with hoops, wires and stays for the women and matching three-piece suits for the men.

The fabric corset was part of a woman’s wardrobe during the 1700s, but it was rather practical. It provided back support and gave the breasts a cheeky lift. It didn’t interfere with breathing or comfort of the fabric at that time.

The Industrial Revolution:

The Industrial Revolution changed everything. It ushered in the factory production of textiles and clothing. Machines could produce knitted and woven cloth that was a finer gauge than most women could produce with home methods. The invention of the sewing machine enabled the rapid, high volume manufacturing of fabric clothing.

Improved transportation meant that this clothing could be shipped cheaply and easily. Improved communication allowed women and men to see what the fashionable set was wearing in their own country and abroad. All of these factors made manufactured fabric clothing desirable and widely available at an attractive price.

A number of interesting developments occurred in the world of fashion in the late 1800s. Corsets took on their familiar tightly laced hourglass shape, and mass-produced versions began to arrive in the stores.

At the same time, though, women began to be sporty. Their newfound interest in sports did not mesh well with tight fabric undergarments. A second style was needed. Those clothes were made of lighter more flexible fabric.

The Arrival of Haute Couture:

Haute couture made the biggest splash in the fashion pool of the 1800s. Introduced by Charles F. Worth, haute couture was born in Paris. Worth was the first to show a collection on live models, allowing private clients to choose a style and have it custom made to suit their bodies and their tastes.

This sort of handmade, bespoke clothing with unique adornments, custom fabric, and impeccable quality is still the standard of luxury today.

Fashion Today:

As fashion has continued to evolve into the 21st century, discussions of quality and craftsmanship have come to the fore. There was a time when almost every woman owned a sewing machine and knew how to use it. They often created beautiful, one-of-a-kind, fabric garments that could last for decades.  The pendulum has now swung to a time when women embrace manufacturing. The general population now prefers to buy inexpensive, disposable clothing that allows them to follow the latest trend.

Recently, we have also seen a return of a timeless style. Women are again beginning to value quality over quantity. Some search for vintage couture in resale shops, some are learning to sew, and some are seeking out skilled tailors and seamstresses for bespoke apparel.

A few pieces, such as an embellished evening wrap, a tailored wool jacket or a perfectly fitted corset, will always have a place in any woman’s wardrobe. These classic garments are worth the investment in fine fabric and skilled construction that come with custom tailoring.

The sophisticated woman knows the secret pleasure of wearing beautiful clothing that was made just for her. Inexpensively manufactured clothing has its place.  But the firm fabric, soft linings, finished seams and exquisite fit of bespoke garments have undeniable superiority.

 

Medieval Renaissance Style Wedding Dress

The Victorian Corset

The Female Form And Corsets:

southern plantations and corsets

Women’s figures have always been subject to the whims of fashion from the voluptuous statues of Venus to the sylph-like figures of flappers. For centuries the desired silhouette has been the focus of attention. Uninteresting clothing can be transformed into something spectacular by a corset that can mold the body and give shape. The shape of the corset has also changed many times over the centuries. Some early corsets or stays simply flattened the breasts and created a long, lean, triangular torso. Conical corsets and steel cages were designed for wear during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Sometimes the breasts were even displayed wantonly over the tops of the stiffened bodice. The Victorian corset, however, created the hourglass shape that women and men alike have secretly envied for the feminine form.

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The Victorian Era:

Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 and this began the Victorian era. The world transformed during the Victorian age, as science, technology, and medical knowledge exploded. In the world of feminine fashions, Europeans were confident and optimistic in their dress.

victorian corsets

The natural waist reappeared in the 1820’s with the Victorian corset. These corsets featured a classic hourglass shape. The metal grommets and lacing eyelets used made the donning of undergarments easier. Most of them ended shortly below the natural waist. Then in the mid- to late 1800’s, petticoats, also known as crinolines, dropped from favor and dresses became tighter-fitting. Women began to demand more ample coverage from their corsets. Although earlier corsets typically had straps to better support the bust, these eventually disappeared to the sidelines. Support for the corset was provided by stiff boning. The corsets also became longer to cover the stomach and hips.

The Tight Laced Victorian Corset:

The tight-lacing corset used during the Victorian era compressed not only fat but also organs and bones. The female internal organs were pushed out of their natural positions to obtain the hourglass shape they desired. When this happened, the ribs developed S-shaped deformities, and the vertebral spine would often be misaligned. Medical doctors began to express concerns about the long-term health risks of tight-laced corsets.

The clothing of the Victorian era tended to be lacy, frilly and ornate. The torsos were slim and close-fitting while skirts flared away from the body. Most muslin undergarments were topped with petticoats and flounce to achieve this effect. It was a common practice for women to cinch their waists tightly using corsets. This was to create the desired silhouette. By the mid-1840’s, crinolines, and later bustles, appeared. These bustles created more eye-popping curves. These waist-whittling creations remained a fashion necessity for many years.

dressmakers

The Invention Of The Sewing Machine:

In 1846 came the invention of the sewing machine. Corsets soon became mass-produced in a greater variety of designs. In fact, one of the first mass-produced garments in the apparel industry was the corset. As sewing machines became more refined, the quality of the corsets was better as well. The expense was less as they became more readily available.

Still, these health concerns alone might not have been enough to dissuade women from this popular trend. During the latter part of the 19th century, women began to take more of an interest in sports. Unfortunately, the corsets were very restrictive. The ladies needed more flexible, lighter weight garments.

By the turn of the century, another big change was also on the horizon: haute couture. Private clients could have live models display a selection of clothing. The garments would then be custom-made to their specifications.

Whereas many women simply could not afford the luxury of custom-made garments, they now had new affordable options available to them. Thus came the introduction of new designs. Many styles had front-fastening busks that made it easy to dress and modeled the curves of the natural lines of the body for greater comfort.

 

The Fashions of Today:

Using garments to create a breathtaking hourglass figure seems well within reason compared to some of the historical trends.  Today corsets and waist cinchers are made with beauty as well as an eye-catching and breathtaking appeal.  Many are elaborately decorated and are worn on the outside as the primary garment.

Fashions come and go, but the corset has had surprising durability in the style world. Women’s clothing has come a long way from the stiff and highly structured styles of the mid-19th century. But many women still gravitate towards that seductive hourglass shape.

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Bras and shapers can only do so much when it comes to lifting and supporting, and are often sadly inadequate for creating a specific look. A very curvaceous silhouette can be achieved with waist-cinchers or classic corsets.

Beauty has historically not been for the faint of heart. In ancient Egypt, both men and women ground up lead to creating kohl to line their eyes. In ancient Rome, women would dab cinnabar, or ore of mercury, on their cheeks to create a rosier appearance. Both of these beauty routines could have disastrous results.

The custom corsets of today are designed for function, comfort, and beauty, as much as for their unique eye-popping appeal. Furthermore, they still create that delightfully curvaceous shape that has been so highly prized for decades. Although the basic design has not changed much, the custom corset still offers plenty of support and style.

 

Medieval Renaissance Style Wedding Dress

What Is The History Of Washing Clothing

What is the History of Washing Clothing?

Wash Day on the Farm

So What is the History of Washing Clothing anyway? Since people began wearing clothing, we have needed a way to wash and clean the clothes they wear; for hygienic reasons, if not to keep down the body lice and distasteful smells. The commoners throughout history were accustomed to the mutual bad smells among themselves.  The wealthy upper class however at least attempted a modicum of dignity by masking those smells through candles, rosewater, potpourri, and handkerchiefs scented with perfume. But how did we go from river banks with rocks, to an electric washing machine?

Clothing of the Early Time Periods:

From 1400 to 1500 A.D., wool was sheered from sheep to be woven into lengths of cloth. This was the most popular fabric used for clothing people at the time. It provided warmth and protection while not creating a suffocating barrier from the elements. This also meant that the fibers retained smells, and would hang on to stains.

Following this was linen, made from the fibers of flax and hemp plants. Cotton pulled from a cotton plant was also used, but the process for making fabric lengths was much more detailed and time-consuming. These natural fibers have the ability to allow air to pass through, or “breathe”. This does cause them to shrink from their original size easily, however.

Care must be taken with the washing that isn’t just simple surface cleaning.  The fibers that we have available today are numerous and varied. The original natural fiber sources still remain the favorite among fashion designers and wearers alike though.

 

Wash Day From The Past:

Before the time of washing machines, the project of wash day was often done in rivers. At that time it was considered “women’s work”.  Because it was associated with women in the home, it often became a group activity complete with children playing. Laundry could be found draped everywhere to dry. Women could be observed heading to the river bed, manned with boards to scrub on and sticks to pound the cloth with. These laborers headed to the stream to beat the offending articles into submission. If they didn’t leave with a better smell they would hopefully have less crawling pests.

Clothing was often rubbed, twisted or hit against rocks. Sometimes a wooden bat called a washing beetle, combined with a washing tub, would be used to get the dirt out.

When the washing board was invented in 1797 it became the “more sophisticated” way to clean for a time. People then began boiling water above a fire and pouring it into a tub that they would then use to wash their clothing (tub washing). This was often accompanied by soap and homemade lye to bleach the clothes white and remove the ever-present grease.

The Making Of Soap:

Before the invention of today’s laundry cleaners, soap was made from boiled animal fat and lye to clean any clothing. Salt could also be added to form rough pumice like the texture and to produce bars easier to store and handle. Not surprisingly the laundress suffered the plight of chapped itchy hands and possible blisters because of it.

In areas where wood was plentiful, lye was made from water poured through wood ashes until it became “frothy”. People would often soak their clothing in lye to clean their white or off-white clothing. The process of soaking clothing in lye to dissolve the grease and loosen the dirt was called bucking.

Starch and bluing were also available to use for nicer clothing and linens to remove the stains, bleach them white again, and give them a good stiff gloss.

A sizing solution made from plants was also used on fabrics like cotton that wrinkled perpetually. This added body to the fabric where heavy stiffness was not wanted. This was a luxury however as the process was quite time-consuming.

Washing For Sanitation:

Enter the 1800’s and the discovery of germs brought about greater awareness and concerns about diseases and sanitation. This increased the desire for clean clothes and regular bathing. Quality dressing, and thus cleanliness, was the priority. It became associated with a higher social status as well.

In the western frontier towns of America, the women available to do laundry services were few and far between. And on the eastern shores of the country crowded apartments or confined dwellings prevented easy wash days. This was a drawback in the larger cities of the eastern shores.

At this time many Chinese immigrants were fleeing the Taiping Rebellion that affected their country and coming to America. This money making the trade was available. For the first time in history, cleaning clothes became a business opportunity.

The Invention Of The Washing Machine:

By the mid-1850s, steam-driven washing machines were being sold in both the United States and England. The person washing the clothes still had to ring out clothing by hand until the ringer machine was created, however. This ringer used two rollers to squeeze as much water as possible out of clothing. They were originally operated by hand but were eventually created as a power attachment above the washer.

Later, after the development of electric motors, came machines called extractors that spun clothing to remove excess water. Eventually, this became one device, known today as a washing machine.

Gas and electric dryers that we use today were invented soon after. No more tedious trips to and from the clothesline.

Dry Cleaning:

Dry cleaning is a cleaning process that uses chemical solvents rather than water to clean the garments. This method was used as early as the 1800’s to clean clothing that would shrink dramatically from water washing. Due to the loosely woven fabrics of the time, this was often a major concern.

 

In past history, those who could afford it hired a washerwoman, servant or laundry service to do the laundry. Today most people use modern washers and dryers to clean their clothes. Some people take their clothing to a dry cleaner for more professional looking results.

Because of industrialization, clothing is more affordable and easily accessible than it was in the past. In this day and age, people are known to replace their clothing more often. The museums of today dedicated to historical clothing that has been preserved for our knowledge leave a legacy of the history of society.

Without the care and preservation of those garments, we would be at a loss for what they looked like, and how they were worn on an everyday basis to shape civilization. This can lead us to the conclusion that a better-made garment, of proper fit and appropriate care, will last for generations.