Monday, March 28, 2011

Honeymoon Shopping Spree, Part 2: "Delicate Convent-Made Underwear"

"And the darling little bonnets that were not really bonnets at all, but flat little affairs worn over one eye and laden with fruits and flowers, dancing plumes and fluttering ribbons!  (If only Rhett had not been so silly and burned the false curls she bought to augment her knot of Indian-straight hair that peeked from the rear of these little hats!)  And the delicate convent-made underwear!  How lovely it was and how many sets she had!  Chemises and nightgowns and petticoats of the finest linen trimmed with dainty embroidery and infinitesimal tucks.  And the satin slippers Rhett bought her!  They had heels three inches high and huge glittering paste buckles on them." 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLVIII

Today we're back with the second installment in our Honeymoon Shopping Spree series, where we take a look at some of the fabulous goods Scarlett purchased (or had purchased for her) during her honeymoon in New Orleans. Last week, we explored bonnets and up next is lingerie, an obvious honeymoon staple of time eternal, it seems. So what kinds of delicate underthings would a fashionable 1868 bride like Scarlett have tucked away in her trousseau?

To help answer that question, we've gathered some helpful pointers from articles appearing in 1868-69 editions of Godey's Lady's Book that describe the latest trends in ladies' undergarments. With MM's description as our guide in this matter, it's of course safe bet that Scarlett had the very best of everything, especially if Rhett was actively involved in the selection process as he likely was. To round out our overview, we also found a full-color fashion plate that illustrates the latest French lingerie fashions from 1868. Go ahead and check it all out. 

A bridal trousseau should include at least 18 sets of undergarments.
"As it is often a difficult matter for young ladies to know what articles to get in purchasing a trousseau, perhaps a few hints on the subject would not be objectionable to our readers....In all purchases care should be taken to remember that it is better to have one really good article than two of an inferior quality. In under-clothing a dozen and a half of the principal articles is a fair quantity, and not too much."

What undergarments should include tucks, puffs, and ruffles? Why, all of them!  
"Tucks, puffs, and ruffles, adorn all underclothing, and, since the advent of sewing-machines, the labor of making them is small, beside the endless stitching formerly done by the hands, with such detriment to health and eyesight."
For chemises, use the finest linen and have matching drawers.
"The imported chemise of finest linen is made in the sack shape, with sleeves and skirt in one... The fall should be richly trimmed and made deep enough to reach to the waist. A cluster of tucks above the hem is the only trimming admissible on the skirt. Drawers are buttoned at the sides, and worn narrow and short, reaching just below the knee. They should be trimmed to match the chemise."

Night-dresses are enchanting when adorned with elaborate lace and silk details.
"Night-dresses can be had most elaborately trimmed; we have lately seen some fronts composed almost entirely of one broad piece of Valenciennes lace made on purpose, and stitched in with a band of jaconet muslin. This was of course lined with colored silk, and was very elegant."

Corset covers look lovely with several inches of trimming about the neck.
"Corset covers, or under-bodies, have short darts in front, and are sloped over the hips. The trimming around the neck is two or three inches deep. The sleeves are a single short puff, or else entirely formed of trimming."

Imitation lace? Perish the thought!   
"One word of advice— never purchase imitation lace. The plainest linen collar, and plain hemmed handkerchief are more to be desired than the best imitation lace ones that can be bought."

Petit courrier de dames, 1868.

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