Imagine you are a fashionable woman getting dressed in the nineteenth century. You might put on your clothing in the following order:
First, stockings made of silk, wool, or cotton. Hold those stockings up with garters above the knee. Then add shoes. If stocking and shoes are not put on first, you might not be able to fight through all the layers of clothing to don them once you are fully dressed.
Second, drawers, open-crotched for elimination purposes. They are often made of cotton, are knee-length, and button in the back..
Third, an undershirt or chemise.
Fourth, a short, knee-length petticoat.
Fifth, a long petticoat.
Sixth, a corset that begins under the armpits and goes all the way to the hips.
Seventh, a corset cover.
Eighth, as many extra petticoats as your fashion sense and budget allow.
Now that you have donned all the underwear, or unmentionables as they were then called, you will need to fix your hair and put on your hat before you put on your dress.
Because the sleeves of the bodice are so tight that you cannot lift your arms above your shoulders.
Who in For Want of a Father would wear all of the above? Aunt May, the society-conscious banker’s wife. Aunt Hilda, the minister’s wife would have fewer petticoats and dresses of more subdued colors. Aunt Hannah would wear even fewer petticoats and sometimes leave off the standard form of dress and wear bloomers.
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