Archives for posts with tag: Women

Triangle factory, photo in workshop of shirtwaisters

The 8th of March has just been and gone. Pre-packed sprigs of yellow mimosa in the supermarket and tacky adverts…. I have never liked this ‘celebration’ of women. It’s sad and, yes, even slightly insulting. But I am bringing the topic up because I have been thinking about – and wearing – white shirts quite a lot recently. The link of course is the Triangle factory fire in New York city back in 1911.

On the 25th of March that year the blouse (or ‘shirtwaist’ as they were then known in the States) factory that we can see in the image above, went up in flames. The doors were closed, the workers locked in. 123 women died and 23 men. A tragedy. Many of these women were immigrant family bread-winners. Their death sparked unionist and female political activism across America and beyond. The 8th of March is dedicated to them but sadly few women today are aware of this.

The shirtwaist was worn by all women at the turn of the century. Rich and poor alike. The two young women below were approximately the same age but even the simple blouses reflect the very different social status and economic possibilities.

J.Singer Sargent, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard,1888,Amon Carter mus texas

John Singer Sargent, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard, 1888, Amon Carter museum, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Pelizza da Volpedo,Dolore, Acc Car Berg

Pelizza da Volpedo, Suffering, 1900c, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy

In fact, the simplicity of the white blouse caused sartorial difficulties in certain respects: it was wonderfully modern and easy, you could match it up with anything. It was democratic, plain cotton for everyone. But in the world of haute couture this was not always a good thing. Distinction was needed. And this, in terms of the white blouse, came via the use of lace. White lace blouses had the same ‘function’ as the cotton ones but they were obviously more dressy and definitely more expensive – and suitably delicate for the ladies of leisure of the Belle Époque.

camicia pizzo di Vernon, Scandinavia, 1915-17c

Vernon lace blouse, 1915-17c, Scandinavia

 

Some were in between on the social scale there were

female students:

Mrs Gray s group,1909,McCord mus

Canadian female students, 1909, McCord museum Canada

Actresses:

opuscolo settimanale,1902,Fondo Gnecchi

tumblr_lwv280UAe31qj185so1_500

 

And sporty types:

divided skirt for cycling, USA 1900c

American lady in blouse and divided cycling skirt, 1900c

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Lady paddling or rowing, 1900c

But who started off such a wide-spread and long-lasting fashion? It all began in the 1850s and not up, or down, but in the middle. The white blouse is one of the most sensible middle class inventions ever!

It was first worn by middle class teenage girls under jackets (often in velvet) and with a silk skirt. This would have been part of a ‘set’ comprising different bodices for different occasions. This was a mix and match concept. A clever way to get good use out of a silk dress, an ‘investment’ buy in those days. In the image below, the girl on the left wears her rust coloured silk taffeta skirt with a black jacket and the white blouse. (The skirt seems too long, but that is just because she is not wearing her wide, fashionable crinoline as she is in the countryside visiting her friend).

W.Gale, The confidante, 1857, Tate B

W.Gale, the confident, 1857, Tate Britain, London UK

Older generations soon followed: by the 1860s the blouse was worn by most women on a daily basis. In hot climates and on very informal occasions such the one in the image below, the ladies would remove the jacket of their two-piece suit (a concept straight from the male wardrobe – but that’s another story)

S.Lega, Il canto di un stornello,1867, Pitti

 

Silvestro Lega, the song, 1867, Pitti gallery, Florence, IT

In the two portrait below we can see how the blouse was also worn under the one-piece dress. The reason for this is practicaityl: hygiene (the white cotton blouse would soak up the sweat and could be soaped and boiled up innumerable times. Women had several of them).

foto,Amalia Oieri,CRAA

Italian lady, 1860c

P.A.Renoir, donna 1868

 

A.Renoir, woman in the garden, 1868c, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

The model in the Renoir painting was Lise Tréhot, a dressmaker. She probably made her own white blouses! And here she is in a photo wearing a white blouse

Lise_Tréhot_in_1864, model for A.Renoir, dressmaker

(For more on the white blouse see my post from October 1914 on World War I fashion)

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vogue swimwear bathingsuit 1941

Vogue USA, 1941

The first official summer weekend is round the corner and I want to celebrate it in true fashionarchaeology.com style:

Summer associations: water, beach, sun, sea, swimming

G.Barbier, il bagno, 1925-6

 

George Barbier, 1925

The elegance of Barbier’s work is always breath-taking, but it’s not just his artistic talent, it’s the overall stylishness of the age he lived and worked in. One of the men in the image above is naked.  Male nudity for swimming had, of course, been the tradition in England until women started frequenting beaches and pools in the second half of the nineteenth century. British men put up  great resistance to swimwear,  demanding instead that beaches be sectioned off, with screens behind which women were segregated. By the first world war they had to give up their demand to the right to nakedness in public – women had actually taken up swimming , not just bathing. One question remains: why is the man naked but wearing a red, probably rubber, swimming cap on his head?

These are the grandparents  of a friend on the italian Riviera back in the 1920s-30s. All three figures are inherently stylish – it’s the toned bodies, the elegant poses, the latest hairstyles and of course the newest trend for unisex swimwear.

 

For the ladies who did not fancy the clinging and revealing  knitted swimwear, Parisian fashion houses were offering cotton fabric alternatives too

giornale Art Gout Beauté, costumi mare,1927

Art Gout Beauté, swimming fashions, 1927

bikini, 1945

Bikini, 1945, USA

Jentzen bikin,1953,mus of lon

 

Jentzen cotton bikini, 1953

and even a playsuit!

vintage swimwear bathing suit Vogue  1952

Vogue USA, 1954

Cotton fabric swimwear continued to be ‘the’ fashion, until lycra and other wonder fibres  offered acceptable, stylish alternatives. But that’s another story. Best beach wishes to you all!

journal des dames et des modes, moda femminile,1913

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Paris, 1913

This post wants to investigate the ‘rise’ (literally) in fashion of the collar for women during the period 1913-18. As we saw in the last post, by 1914 the negative effects of the war had driven French fashion designers to invent a new style and to promote it assiduously in the hope of reviving interest,  sales and more importantly, an industry which gave work to 1000s of people.

28830-elizabeth-branly-1916-elegant-parisienne-hprints-com

La Baionnette, 1916

The new  war silhouette, with its full but short skirt was young and dynamic, cheeky yet elegant .  Corsets had practically been forgotten, replaced by more comfortable brassieres. The waistline positioned slightly above natural level. The collar of coats, jackets and blouses became a new focal point: rising up high to frame the neck, elongating the line from head to bust. The new haircuts – kiss curls framing the face while the long tresses were pulled up high behind the head to look like they had been cut (that was only happening in the most bohemian of circles around 1915).

Paquin, manteau de ville, 1915

Les Modes, Paris, 1915

These high rise collars were particularly suitable for winter fashions. They stood high thanks to a stiff lining or, as we can see above, thickened by the addition of fur. They framed the face perfectly and kept the neck warm.

They remained popular for several years.

Alvaro Guevara,Mrs Fairbairn Nancy Cunnard,1919,NGV Melbourne

Alvaro Guerara, Mrs Fairbairn (Nancy Cunnard), 1919, N.G.A. Melbourne, Australia

There was something masculine in this way of pulling the collar up around the ears, maybe yet another influence from uniforms to be seen everywhere in Europe during those years. The heavy, thick wool greatcoats buttoned right up and worn with the collar turned up for extra protection from wind and rain.

australian soldier, WW I

Australian soldier, WW I

WAAC army auxiliary corps, greatcoat wiith fur collar

WAAC  – female army auxiliary  corps, WW I,  in wool greatcoat with fur collar

More masculine/feminine fashion contaminations in the images below:

cover les modes

Les Modes, Paris, 1915

28872-piere-colombier1918-aviator-la-panne-au-chateau-airplane-breakdown-hprints-com

La Baionnette, 1918

The shirt or blouse for women of this period deserves a closer look too. It had remained popular from the previous decade but  was totally revised in shape. New influences were at work on the imagination of the designers.  The blouse, which  had of course existed for decades (since the 1850s to be precise) now also became an interesting mix of feminine and masculine.

Premet, 1914 L.M.

Les Modes, Paris, 1914

The collar was wide and kept well open, supported beneath by the stiff collar of jacket or coat. When worn with a light fabric dress only it was probably starched stiff and well ironed into shape.

E.L.Kirchner,Erna e Gelda, 1913c

E.L.Kirchner, Erna and Gelda, Germany,  1913

The earlier blouse was distinguished by its femininity denoted by plenty of lace and ruffles. The neck was closed in as it was not proper to show skin during the day.

hairstyles

Journal des Demoiselles, Paris, 1900c

At the same time though, it must be noted that a new kind of female was emerging, the educated middle class young woman who worked. She was more likely to wear a ‘masculine’ style shirt + tie. She was after all claiming her new space in a male centered society.

Mrs Gray s group,1909,McCord mus

Female student,s 1909, Canada

By 1914

Lewis, 1914 L.M.

Les Modes, Paris, 1914

The new blouse was not mimicking men’s fashion. It was taking its linearity and transposing it into the feminine sphere. A perfect blend to represent the new generation of women to emerge from a devastating war, when for the first time they will be expected to ‘wear the trousers’ in a Europe that will have lost most of its young men.

camicia pizzo di Vernon, Scandinavia, 1915-17c

Vernon lace blouse, 1915-17c, Scandinavia

32101-fabien-fabiano-1916-war-modes-fashion-illustration-hprints-com

La Baionnette magazine, France, 1916

In this post Fashionarchaeology wants to pay its own (thematic) tribute to the memory of World War I.

“A century on, the events of 1914-18 are still difficult to comprehend. The first truly global conflict, the war’s toll in human terms resulted in over 9 million soldiers and 6 million civilians killed and 21 million wounded”

These are the opening lines of the catalogue to a very interesting exhibition currently on in London, “The Great War as recorded through the fine and popular arts”

http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/morley_gallery/whats_on/2057_morley_gallery_the_great_war_as_recorded_through_the_fine_and_popular_arts

In her opening text, historian and art specialist Sacha Llewellyn  immediately brings home the ultimate reality, the sheer number of lives involved. Reading this was, well, shocking. A term which came to mind was ‘discomfort’ and this set me off thinking about the dichotomy comfort/discomfort that was actually very much alive in the fashion discourse during those years.

1914 Paris: Fashion had been living a true revolution for a few years, since the debut of designer Paul Poiret who, in 1907, decreed a change in silhouette and abolished the S-shaped corset of the previous era. He took The word ‘comfort’ and made it fashionable, whereas up until then it had been synonymous with lower class practicality.

Agnes, 1914 L.M.

Les Modes, Paris, May 1914

As we can see in the fashion magazine photo above, both day wear and evening wear were softly draped and not too binding of torso and hips. Heels were moderately high, hats reasonably sized. Both outfits seem quite comfortable.

But then war broke out and began to affect everybody’s lives in one way or another. Women found themselves in a new predicament: working class women were called to work in those jobs that had been left vacant by men. Manly jobs that required them to wear trousers for the first time ever (see the blue overalls bellow : a little belt added for fashion’s sake). These women were to feel the effects of this new lifestyle deeply well beyond the war.

28876-paul-iribe-1917-ouvriere-workwoman-ww1-hprints-com

Paul Iribe, woman factory worker, 1917

At the other end of the social spectrum, upper class women were not expected to work (although some did, as nurses), they  were used to defining their role in society through their use of the latest fashion from famous designers but now they began to  feel some ‘discomfort’ regarding fashion. Was it right to spend time and money on clothes when one’s husband or son was at war? The moral dilemma was strongly felt. The effect of this and of war in general on the fashion world – in France first of all and subsequently everywhere else – was disastrous.  Sales dropped and the industry nearly collapsed.

The problem was faced head on. A committee was set up (led by Paul Poiret) by the French government and an ingenious solution found: totally new fashions were launched for winter 2015. The new war ‘style’ was characterized by a natural waistline, a short skirt and very high heels. The new proportions required women to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Umberto Brunelleschi, La bersagliere, 1917

Umberto Brunelleschi, La Bersagliere, 1917

35154-gerda-wegener-1916-elegantes-parisienne-place-de-la-concorde-teckel-dog-hprints-com

La Baionnette,1916

Magazine illustrations tended to exaggerate these new elements, especially the length of the skirt which in reality does not seem to have been worn as short as the above images.

stivaletti cuoio con ricamo,1917-18c,texas

Leather and bead embroidery boots, 1917, Texas museum, USA

1948.59_CAM

Afternoon dress by Estelle T.Hart, 1915, Cincinnati Museum of Art, USA

The media was extremely supportive as we can read in the article published in Les Modes on November 1915

f18

Les Modes, Paris,  Nov 1915

The new fashions should be bought and consumed as a war effort by women. Especially those women who were not expected to do manual labour. Wearing these fashions was also about patriotism and ‘keeping up appearances’ despite the difficult times.

These new fashions received great media coverage and even satirical magazines like La Baionnette (published between 1914 and 1918) represented them exquisitely.

46593-gerda-wegener-1916-greyhound-sighthound-hprints-com

La Baionnette, 1916

The magazine even dedicated a whole issue (August 1915) to the topic of fashion – in satirical terms of course. “Elegancese Berlinoises” was the title, each image representing German women in old-fashioned, shapeless clothes. Their figures far from the fashion ideals of Parisian couture.

17187-soulie-1915-elegant-parisienne-hprints-com

La Baionnette, Aug 1915,      translation: “German fashion from now on will not follow French taste”

A last word should go to hats of this period. This was one of the most creative and darkly inspired moments of the history of millinery

f15

Lewis,2,1917

both from Les Modes,Paris , 1917

feather hat, 1915, Met NY

Feather toque,1915,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, N. Y

toque, fur, 1912-18, met ny

Fur and embroidery toque, 1916c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y.

In conclusion we can say that World War I fashion was a comfort in the discomfort of the times. A true effort was made by Paris fashion houses, followed by the rest, to keep alive an industry and ultimately (however frivolous it may sound) to keep up morale through exterior female beauty.

Apart from the high heels, it actually looks very comfortable indeed.

 

millais-siddal-ophelia

Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-2, Tate Britain, London   UK

An exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings just opened in Turin (Italy) http://www.mostrapreraffaelliti.it/ , which promises to investigate the movement’s “utopia of beauty”. Fashionarchaeology.com is very excited as this has been a favorite topic since 1984, when the Tate Gallery in London staged a major exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Seeing it was a powerful and deeply impacting experience. The dress, beauty and politics of the women involved in the PR movement became the topic of my degree dissertation. However, I then moved on to other dress and textile obsessions. Until today.

In this and the following posts,  I wish to muse over a few ‘issues’ that have come buzzing back to me after all these years.

As a dress historian I am naturally often concerned with the concept of beauty. Why and when is a person considered beautiful or not so? All eras have their canons of beauty. In terms of PR beauty standards, what is interesting is that they were not actually the same as those of contemporary Victorian society. In other words what the PR Brotherhood deemed ‘beautiful’ was not aligned with the  ‘ideal’ beauty represented in fashion magazines of the time.

giornale moda 1840s

Fashion magazine, 1840s

The work of these (initially, in 1848) young artists, reveals a deep understanding of Italian Renaissance aesthetics, a great concern with women,  and a desire to look for beauty in the unusual. They were shying away from the banal, the mass-produced, that anonymous beauty found in fashion magazines, which we can easily relate to today.

If we can ascertain a difference between the real and the represented we may be able to understand what PR beauty was all about. Photography comes to our aid as we now try to understand what these women, the models, looked like in real life.

J.M.Cameron,foto Marie Spartali as Hypatia,1867

Julia Margaret Cameron, photo of actress Marie Spartali, 1867

If we compare the above photo of actress Marie Spartali with a portrait made shortly after by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, we begin to see how he (as unchallenged leader of the group) had devised a ‘style’, a way of beautifying his female subjects to fit in with his specific ideals of beauty. By the end of the 1850s he had devised a set of facial connotations that came to represent PR beauty. He curled the upper lip of his female sitters and elongated their neck, while tilting the head slightly to one side.

VIC120692093  01

D.G.Rossetti, Marie Spartali, 1869c

It becomes even more evident in the numerous works executed by him featuring the model  Jane Morris. In fact, although Jane could be the instigator of this ‘type’… as we can see she really did have a long neck and full, curly lips.

Dante G.Rossetti, Jane Morris seduta, V&A

D.G. Rossetti, photo of Jane Morris, 1865, Victoria and Albert museum London UK

D.G.Rossetti, Jane Morris,,pc

D.G. Rossetti, sketch of Jane Morris, p.c.

If we explore their professional and personal relationship, we discover that D.G. Rossetti had actually been deeply struck by Jane on first seeing her (he was walking in Oxford with artist William Morris). For Rossetti it was love at first sight, she embodied all the aesthetic ideals he’d absorbed from Italian Renaissance artists. But Jane ended up marrying William Morris in 1859. Rossetti became a close friend and she modeled for him very often, revealing what seems to become an aesthetic obsession, if not a full-fledged love affair.

By the 1860s all of Rossetti’s sitters seem to receive the ‘PR beauty treatment’.

Fanny Cornforth photo 1863

Photo of Fanny Cornforth, model and long term lover of D.G. Rossetti  from 1858 onwards

Monna Vanna 1866 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882

D.G. Rossetti, Monna Vanna, 1866 (model F.Cornforth), Tate Britain, London UK

In the end it may just be that the famous Rossetti lips were those of Jane Morris. The one who ‘got away’. His true love.

woman-washing-her-hair

Women washing their hair appears to be a constant subject matter in the history of art, chosen by artists worldwide over the centuries.

So why did (and do) artists return to this subject matter again and again? I may not have the answer here and now, but I have noticed that some artists prefer to show the face, others to hide it. This is a relevant aspect as it ultimately gives us a clue to the cultural context that the work is coming from.

Male artist/female model  is the predominant scenario we are faced with. When  the artist decides to hide the woman’s face, he is acting as passive onlooker . In this case,  we as viewers, are invited to share a voyeuristic,  peep from-the-keyhole moment with the artist. This leaves me (as a woman) uneasy with the work of art, however beautifully produced. The word ‘objectification’ comes to mind…

In many works however we do find a different perspective. Male artist/female model, but the model’s face is visible, occasionally even turned to look at the viewer. In this case we – male or female onlooker – are invited to watch the private ritual taking place. The turn of the head can make the difference between consuming the image and willingly sharing the moment. A moment which can be of sheer beauty (the fluid curves of the body and the pure sensuality of the tactile experience, the fingers running through the strands of wet hair) mixed with the intimacy of the act, all make for a beautiful  aesthetic experience.

A.Allori,affresco,donne al balcone che lavano i capelli, 1589, loggetta di Palazzo Pitti FI

Alessandro Allori, frescoed ceiling,1589,  Logetta of Pitti Place, Florence IT

The above image is probably the first truly celebratory representation in western art of women washing their hair.  Before the Italian Renaissance, female hair had been literally hidden from sight. It was taboo to show it, let alone represent the washing of it. Allori seems to have been very taken with women in this private and informal state, he is inspired by it for a religious painting of the following year where the Madonna is shown with her hair down and a linen towel still draped across her shoulders as though caught in the act.

A.Allori,madonna incoronata da bambin gesu, 1590,Palazzo Pitti FI

A. Allori, the Madonna crowned by Baby Jesus, 1590, Palazzo Pitti gallery, Florence IT

Documentary evidence tells us that during the 1500s high-ranking Italian ladies used to reserve a day of the week for hair washing.  A strictly female, informal, moment where women socialized and relaxed, as well as washed their hair. The hair would be dried in front of the fire while chatting the time away. The image below represents just such a moment

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, c.I. art lon UK

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, Courtauld Institute,  London UK

The fact that Guercino is there, observing, brings us back to the question  of why artists wanted to represent this subject matter. The need to know the secret, to know what really happens during this all female ritual? Or does it become an excuse to draw the female body in such an interesting position?

Japanese artists have often returned to this theme in art:

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-68, MFA boston

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-8, Mus of Fine Arts Boston, USA

And early 20th century Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo:

Hashiguchi Goyo, woman washing her hair, 1920, MFA Boston

washing the hair…

Goyo_Hashiguchi-No_Series-Woman_Combing_her_Hair-00034149-110225-F12

combing the wet hair through…

Russian émigré artist Aleksander Yakovlev:

Aleksandr Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn mus NY

Aleksander Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn museum, New York USA

And London artist Walter R. Sickert who paints a french model in Paris, but decides not to show us the head at all…

Woman Washing her Hair 1906 by Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942

This post is dedicated to His Royal Highness the Royal Baby (George Alexander Louis) who is really quite lucky to be born in present times rather than in past centuries – in terms of his public image.

Kate e William e baby 

Royal Baby will, of course, be followed 24/7 by the press for the rest of his life, but his parents have done a great deal to ensure that his public image will not have to be so elitist and unreachable as the previous generations (thus allowing him to feel more “normal” and part of society). In the photo bellow we see just how informal the royal couple can be (!)

Kate e William

and I am sure we will see some very “realistic” family snapshots in the press in the future.

Of course it hasn’t always been like this and not just for royal children. It took philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau, in the last decades of the 18th Century, to convince cultured western society that children were not adults and that their own dimension (“child sub-culture” ?),  should be respected. Above all, children should interact with their parents as this was the natural way of the world. If we look at family portraits from the 18th Century we have confirmation of this evolving attitude of western society towards children.

From dressing children like miniature adults as soon as they could walk and keeping them at arms’ length in the pictures

J.Kneller,Harvey family,1721,Tate

J.Kneller,Harvey family,1721,Tate Britain, UK

to a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere of the upper class portraits of the late ’80s and 90s of the 1700s

anon,woman e child,1795-8c,met NY

anon,woman e child,1795-8c, Metropolitan  Museum, NY

In this portrait the mother shows all the “natural” instincts encouraged by J.J. Rousseau. She probably breast-fed the child too. The quality of the painting reveals a wealthy patron as does the fashion the lady is wearing : crisp white cotton or linen muslin, in the simplest of styles suitable for the “actively involved” mother. The simplicity of her hairstyle and  the lack of make-up should also be read as part of this constructed or “styled” appearance. She wants to charm with her purity of spirit (and no expenses spared – imported textiles, fine silk shawl and ribbon)

more on the construction of the image of motherhood coming soon!

Before you think I am weird go see the previous blog and you will know what this is about.

So what happened in Europe once Christianity arrived, did they or didn’t they wear underpants? well things get difficult for the dress historian here due to the proximity of underpants to genitals and the reproductive organs. Anything to do with sex quickly became taboo, which means we are very short on images and even written evidence on the wearing of underclothing.

But here is something interesting. Have a really good look at the figure on the far left, inside the hut ( and while you are at it the guy sitting next to her).

Yes she is not wearing underpants and yes her genitals are on show. The question is WHY?.  Possibly a reference to staying indoors during the winter months, keeping warm and having sex. But back to underwear: with the use of long linen undershirts women did not generally wear underpants (except at that time of the month). The T shaped undergarment  was enough, it hid the woman “shame” and absorbed sweat and body odor. Linen could be boiled in hot water or scrubbed on riverside stones, unlike wool or the silk used for outer clothing by the higher classes.

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tre Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

 les-tres-riches-heures-du-duc-de-berry-fevrier-february-detail
Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc Du Berry

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

Ok they are in bad shape despite excellent conservation, but they are an amazing find (found with other underwear) and they are from the same period as the above image.

So in conclusion we can say that some women did and some women didn’t wear underpants in the middle ages.

 

mosaic at Piazza Armerina, Sicily

mosaic at Piazza Armerina, Sicily

girl's leather underpants, museum of London

Its THE question which comes up in history of dress lectures year in year out… morbid/fetishist student interest for this topic aside, it is a GREAT question.
As children we all looked under our dolls’ dresses to see if there was underwear there, as adults we tend to look at the exterior first and usually dont think about what is underneath at all. But as all dress historians know, what really makes an outfit is what is worn under the clothing to shape the body.

SO this will be a key topic at FASHIONARCHAEOLOGY

For women in Ancient Roman times we have evidence of underwear: the famous sicilian mosaics (image 1)  which also address the important topic of women and physical exercise in the past  and  the hugely important Roman London find – a pair of girl’s leather underpants (image 2, now  in the Museum of London)  physical/matrial evidence to support the visual material. Amazing!!