Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989 Page: 8
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Women's Clothing in the
by Pamela Ashworth Puryear
W^ Queen Victoria came to the throne
of Great Britain in 183 7 and gave her
name to the period of her reign in
America as well as the British Empire.
She was an influence for a return to moral
values and family life after a rather loose and
rowdy Regency period. The clothes reflected this
change as well. For women, thin, diaphanous
Empire styles with few undergarments gave way to
tight corsets, much boning, drawers, and many petticoats.
The hallmark of women's clothing in the years 1837-1901
was the invention in the 1820s of the grommet, which
led to the invention of the corset. Grommets were the metal
reinforcements around the lacing holes of the corset which
allowed several generations of women to have hourglass figures
-whether they wanted to or not. Sometimes we speak of
Victorians as being "straitlaced," and in the case of the
majority of women, they certainly were, both literally and
The middle class Victorian woman wore more clothes pound for pound
than a modem woman of nylon underpinnings and light fabrics can
imagine. First she put on her drawers, which were introduced in 1840.
A_^jjig'- These were knee-length knickers of plain cotton and tied around the
waist. What was worn before 1840 probably comes under the same
category as what Scots traditionally wore under their kilts. Next, our
-=~_- woman donned her cotton chemise, or knee-length slip. It was very
commodious, and adjusted with a tie at the bodice. Then she could put
8 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1989
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 1989, periodical, Summer 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45431/m1/8/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.