Thursday, April 25, 2013

How to Get the Middle Victorian Look: Dressing to the Nines Part 1- Becky

I have posted this "Get the Look link" when I was organizing the blog some time ago. You can get my suggested patterns on the link, but I will only be concentrating on the clothing line up.

And so, now you have trained your eye and saw large and small differences an era can have. You might even see similarities between fashion from 70 years a part! Aspects of fashion were reused and thought of as "new", but in reality, it was used back then too!

Now lets move to your clothing line up: Dressing to the nines!

Ever wonder what "the nines" meant? I searched for the classic saying's origin and found this:
"The first example of the use of the phrase that I can find in print is in Samuel Fallows' The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language, 1835. In his entry for the phrase 'to the nines' Fallows gives the example 'dressed up to the nines'..."

How appropriate!

It was how many layers a woman would wear in the Victorian Era..
.. Lets look!
  1. Chemise
  2. Socks
  3. Shoes
  4. Drawers
  5. Corset
  6. Under petticoat
  7. Hoop (or skirt supports)
  8. Over petticoat
  9. Dress
Brooke showing off her new chemise.
Lets start off with what you wear first! The Chemise is a loose, shirt like undergarment, that protects the skin from possible pinching from lacing the corset and it absorbs sweat, protecting the dress. They also maybe tucked into the drawers or "loose" and used as a modest petticoat (underpetticoat) at its appropriate length near the knee. Chemises were made of cotton, muslin, linen, and pima cotton.

Socks are self explanatory. Socks could be as short as mid calf to over the knee. You could wear plain, plaid, or clocked socks shown below.
Found at Jas Townsend & Sons
Remember when I mentioned that I wear all the appropriate underpinnings? But of course I do! Drawers were introduced near the 1830, but before then women had no type of underwear. The reason for this was that women didnt need them. The purpose of underwear is to protect the clothing from natural body oils and fashion before 1830 were of loose skirts. Drawers became more essential to wear as the clothing became closer to the skin. However, during the time of the month, women would tuck, and use the drawers as extra protection.

The interesting thing about drawers are the fact they do not have a crotch. They are split! I see many new reenactors who are very modest and would not touch split drawers for that reason. But you would wear a underpetticoat to cover up! I find that split drawers are VERY useful when "visiting the lollielocks". I couldnt imagine fussing with the layers between under the petticoat, above the corset and then to put the drawers back in place. It is defiantly a time saver! Drawers were also made of cotton, muslin, linen, and pima cotton.

Believe it or not, shoes, are the next thing you put on! Once you put on your corset, you will not be able to touch your toes easily. I have done this more than I would like to admit! Fugawee and Robert Land are my personal favorite and they have also been compared in a VERY long list of forums. You can find decent black shoes at thrift stores too! I advise saving up for the wonderful, comfortable shoes of Robert Land or Fugawee.
Robert Land  

I cannot stress how much a corset is essential to getting the right look! It is more important than a hoop or a dress! A corset forms the body to the shape of 1860 and supports all of the petticoats and hoops! Can you imagine your hips carrying all the weight of the skirts and dresses? Their called "skirt supports" for a reason! Don't be discouraged about the price of a well fitted corset or the many parts to make one. Save your money for an experienced historical corset maker, or take your time making one. If they are fitted well, they are more comfortable than a bra! 

Here are three wonderful examples of a well fitted corset on  ANY body shape!
Myself, Becky

If you wish, take some time looking at these wonderful corset makers as I take a break from your clothing line up!

All women do custom corsets.


  1. So if your chemise was long enough you wore it untucked and in place of a underpetticoat? Or would you still wear an underpetticoat?

    I love these posts! Please add more soon! :)


    1. Yes, if it's long enough you could do with out an under petticoat (that's useful for really hot days). It's you're choice to wear it which way!



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