Living History

In Character Part IV: Undergarments

photo 3Okay, I confess! I cheat just a little when it comes to period undergarments, just because no one is going to see them (well, unless I blog about them….)

The photo to the left shows me in my winter undergarments, right before Dickens of a Christmas. This involves a lot of time outside in the cold, so for events like All Hallows Eve and Dickens, I modify my usual wardrobe to include a long sleeve tee shirt and fleece tights or leggings, in place of the knee high or over the knee stockings I would usually wear.

My chemise is actually a Levi’s sun dress I found at Marshalls for $7.99 last summer. It was so perfect that I couldn’t pass it up. There is actually built in slip under the dress, and it has ties at the neckline and a couple of small buttons. It’s perfect.

Over this goes a corset. I have three in my collection. The newest is a black satin underbust from Orchard corset that is the perfect shape for 1860s wear. That one will be debuting at Steampunk Symposium, after I’ve gotten it broken in.

Typically, I wear a steel boned, under bust costume corset. The one I was using previously is not the right silhouette for the period, but it helped with my posture and carriage.

If you have questions about corsets, their use, or how to select a corset, then let me know and I can do a post about it but for right now I’m just going to sum up with the fact that corsets can be wonderful both in and out of costume, but the most important things are fit and quality. If you can’t get either of those, then you are best steering clear of them completely.

Over this goes 1 petticoat with a draw string waist, and my hoop skirt. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I might throw on a second petticoat, but I don’t usually do that in the summer. (Sh! I sometimes skip petticoats all together and just wear the chemise when it’s hot out!)

Things I like:

1. I love the chemise. It’s perfect for my uses, and looks surprisingly period. The fact that I didn’t have to make it AND found it on the cheap was a win.

2. Despite all of the layers, the entire outfit really isn’t that bad to wear in the heat.

Things I want to change:

1. My petticoats still need work. Petticoat 1 (for under the hoop) needs a better draw string. I have the material, but haven’t made it yet. Petticoat 2 needs adjusted; there is too much bulk at the waist, which interferes with the skirt. I need to adjust the panels so that it is more cone shaped.

2. Eventually, my stockings will be hand made. 🙂

3. I hope in the future to graduate to an over bust corset, but I still need to get used to wearing the under bust on a regular basis again.


Just an FYI, this video illustrates why you will never see me arrive at the village in full costume. I always arrive either in street clothes or in my undergarments as pictured above. I never drive in my hoop.