Think it takes too long to get dressed? Be glad you weren’t alive in 1857.
If you ever find yourself lamenting how long it takes to make yourself look presentable these days, be glad you weren’t alive in 1857. A woman who goes by @sewn.by.ellen describes herself on Instagram as a “fashion historian and historian costumer” recently posted a video captioned “Getting dressed in 1857,” and suffice it to say, the process was much lengthier and more complicated than whatever you have going on these days.
Next is the corset, which @sewn.by.ellen says “creates the correct shape for the time and also supports the bust and makes my posture so much better.”
If you’re already feeling sweaty, hang in there, we’re just getting started!
Next comes the “steel crinoline” which is perhaps the most unusual-looking piece of this outfit, given that it looks like a cage more than a garment.
But evidently, the steel crinoline was an improvement for ladies of the day who were used to creating the exaggerated shape afforded by the crinoline with a multitude of petticoats.
“The skirts in the 1850s were large and supported by several petticoats, sometimes up to 7 at once, so when the cage crinoline was introduced in 1856, it was a big relief for women. It’s made out of a connecting series of steel hoops and as you can see, it’s very light and foldable,” she explains.
Then she puts on a petticoat, just one, which fits over the cage crinoline, and then sleeves (the sleeves of the dress are their own separate garments because why not) and then the skirt of the dress and then the bodice followed by a bonnet.
By the end, there is very little flesh showing—pretty much just her face—and she cuts a gigantic, one assumes very fashionable for the time, figure.
The video went viral, having been viewed 5.3 million times. Commenters had a lot of questions, many of them having to do with how to handle the call of nature. “How in the world did they go to the bathroom?” asked suematkins2
“All I can think is by the time I got that all in [sic], I’d need to pee and I feel that would be quite a challenge, but it’s a beautiful outfit. I love the old fashion style!” said shannon_mcbroom.
Other commenters couldn’t help but wonder about how hot the getup might be.
“I’m grateful to live in more casual times. It looks kind of hot and restricting,” wrote cynthiaparbury. “I can’t wrap my head about [sic] women in that day having hot flashes w/ all those layers!” said duggbar
“What about the summer – so many layers of clothes” wrote danielline.philipine.
And then there were those who commented on how long the whole getting dressed process must have taken. “I would be late for work every day,” theghostofmisswillmott said. (Some commenters replied that women likely weren’t heading off to work in these days.)
“Makes you appreciate how easy we have it today in terms of easy-to-wear clothes. I don’t like taking longer than two minutes to get dressed,” said myladyscribbler.
“By the time she finishes she has to put on her nightgown,” said shivashab. “I am from 1850, and I am still getting dressed for work,” quipped sinneahartmusic.
The historically accurate dress was made by hand by the creator who has degrees in fashion studies and museum studies and who says she sews both as a hobby and for work. The video and its popularity serve as a fascinating reminder that having to pull it together to look presentable for your Zoom call when all you want to do is sit around in your pajamas, you know, hypothetically, is really not all that bad.
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