I may have mentioned that I write Regency Romances. Published nothing so far, but come pretty close a time or two. Under and assumed name so my sister won’t be ashamed to acknowledge me in public, I am writing erotica. I have a fun scene where the hero dances the heroine outside and into a hedge maze, and does unspeakable things to her. That’s why I wrote it down, instead of making a recording.
One reader was amazed that the hero could simply pull her sleeves down her arms a bit, and all her glorious bounty lay exposed before him. “Didn’t they have bras?” she asked. No. No, they did not.
I’ll let Uncle Wiki fill you in on the history of the brassiere. Suffice to say bras were not used until the late 1800s, and the Regency era really slipped into the Victorian era about 1820. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_brassieres
What did the women do to keep the “girls” in line? There were several options. Much depended on the social status of the woman. Regency women dressed like an onion, in layers. First there was the chemise, also called a shift. Often this was the nightgown, too. Over this light and easily washed shift, would go the stays. https://mantua-maker.com/Corset_Patterns.html The breasts were lovingly placed into the stiff cotton twill garment, and a wooden (usually) busk (yardstick) is inserted in the front, in a pocket designed just for that use. The stays were expected to flatten the stomach, but lift and separate the bosom. This is more flattering than the Georgian flat from neck to toes style, and much more comfortable than the Victorian corset.
The shoulder straps, as you can see here: http://www.songsmyth.com/underthings.html can be undone from the front and tucked in the back, if your ball gown had a wide neckline. So my hero could easily have pulled the stays down the slender heroine, with no impediment.
Shall we finish dressing our Regency Heroine? Why not! Over the stays, her ‘tiring woman or abigail places the petticoat. The bodice of the petticoat would be of a cheap, coarse fabric, and the had open sides for eas of dressing. Strips of fabric tape tied it all closed. The chemise would not be ankle length, but the petticoat was designed to fill out the shape of the dress, so that the wearer’s legs could not be easily perceived under her gown. It went to the hem and had at least one ruffle, properly called a flounce. http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/why-petticoats-and-chemises-were-worn-under-regency-gowns-jane-austens-world/
Drawers, you ask? Oh, no. Only fast women and prostitutes would wear drawers! http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/ladies-underdrawers-in-regency-times/
But that’s a step backward. Here are a few more wonderful links on the subject, and next Thursday we’ll look at the outer layers, and that wonderful hobby, laundry! Have a good week.