For the last year, I’ve been participating in a living history group, complete with 1800’s clothing. I even bought a new sewing machine and tried to make my own ‘southern bell’ dresses. Surprisingly, I managed to do that, quite successfully. I even made my daughter an 1800’s wedding dress.
I’ve had my picture in our local newspaper during a weeklong festival we have here. Me, in all my get-up, trying to stay cool in August, close to 100 degrees outside, and me, in my fancy ‘hooped’ dress with a minimum of 9 layers underneath. Staying cool was a challenge but the biggest obstacle I had? Keeping my corset up and in place! I kept um…falling out…of it. LOL I wasn’t cinched up tight enough!
I’ve read many historical novels and never thought much about the garments those heroines wore but now that I have my own, historically correct, I might add, I have a new appreciation for those ladies from days gone by. The corset, something everyone has heard of, was more torture device than anything, in my honest opinion. Not only is it uncomfortable, you can’t ‘bend’ at the waist. Those ‘bones’ won’t allow you to do so. They’re so tight you also have no choice but to stand, shoulders back, head held high and holding that posture for longer than an hour, strains in ways you feel for hours later. If you want to sit, it’s on the edge of a chair, back straight, otherwise you can’t get back up without help!
I complain while dressing but once I have all those layers on, you’re ‘made’ into a new person. I visited Boone Hall Plantation last November and got a chance to walk the grounds with others in our big dresses and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I imagined what it would have been like 100 years ago, strolling along the Avenue of Oaks, the tails of those dresses swishing alone the road. There was a ‘Ball’ that night and the dances were those performed back in the 1800’s. It’s a learning experience as well as an opportunity to teach a bit of history. I love it and hope to do it for many years to come…corset or not. Here I am in another of the dresses I made. Ignore my slip hanging out! That’s not very lady-like at all.
I find myself reading historical novels with a ‘new eye’ now. I know what’s correct and what isn’t and the situations I see those heroines in, knowing what they have on under their dresses sometimes make me lift a confused eyebrow wondering, ‘Did they just fall out of their corset?” It’s not possible most times to do the things they do while in that get-up but I love a great adventure so I ignore more often than not. Is there anything in a book you’ve read that made you think, “That’s not possible!”