The importance of underpinnings in creating a period silhouette

Today in the mail I got a parcel from Historika, the modiste who has been making my Regency ensemble in the U.K.  In it were two packages done up in tissue paper and pink ribbon. You know, it’s funny how a little touch like that can make a girl feel special.

And of course, I had to run out the door to a meeting. You may imagine my impatience.

When I came home, I donned them with the mockup of the short stays that Jill’s Corsets is making for me.  Then, because I knew you would be curious, I took a series of photos. One with the chemise, short stays, bodiced petticoat, and the dress. One with no undergarments, save a slip. (The dress is quite sheer.) And one with modern undergarments.

Now we’ll play a game and you may guess which is which.

You can see the difference that having the right underpinnings makes in getting the appropriate silhouette for the Regency period. Well, actually, for any period since fashions on the ideal body change.

It did become clear to me, pretty immediately that dressing would never happen in a hurry and that I will likely need assistance to tie the bow in the back of the dress. I’m also very happy that I went with the heavier weight petticoat because, as I mentioned earlier, this dress is sheer.

For the launch party of Shades of Milk and Honey, I’ll also have a green silk spencer to go on top of the dress and headpiece that is somewhere between turban and beret.  What’s wonderful about this dress is how flexible it is in terms of style so that I can add different ribbons or a top as accessories and change the look.

Because I know at least one person will ask (You know who you are), here are some detail photos of the pretty things I got in the mail today.

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9 Responses

  1. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Did you guess? The first one is the one with all the period undergarments.
    2nd has a modern slip only.
    3rd is a modern bra and slip.

    In a pinch, I could shorten the straps on the bra and get a pretty good period lift.

  2. stina

    ding! i win! 😀 although, i’m kind of a ringer since i’ve lived around costumers for a good part of my adult life. (lucky me!)

    your outfit is gorgeous. go you!

  3. Catherine Shaffer

    Well, I had a bit of trouble with it, but now that I’ve got them properly sorted, I can see what a difference your undie technology makes. 8P Love the details. Now I am thinking I would like one of these in silk. Did they typically use silk, or was it always cotton?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      They did silk for ball gowns and it was VERY tempting to have a silk dress made. I decided to go with the lawn because I could wear it as a day dress as well as an evening gown.

  4. -e-

    Oh, very fun. I got all 3 right pretty easily. Can’t wait to see it with the other elements…. must check out that turban pin I mentioned.

  5. Delia

    Well, it would have been harder if you hadn’t presented the pictures in the order described. Still, the difference between 1 & 3 is pretty dramatic (although not as dramatic as the difference between 2 and everything else). Anne Hollander (Seeing Through Clothes–do you know it?) describes the early 19th C. silhouette as “a bolster with breasts.” Although I think she had the earlier, heavily-petticoated styles in mind rather than the airier reaches of the Regency this gown reflects.

    Cam I just say, I’m as jealous as jealous?

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