A couple weeks ago, we had an interesting luncheon program here at the museum. It featured a presentation on underwear…Victorian era underwear to be exact. The Victorian period ranges from 1837-1901, beginning at the time of Queen Victoria’s reign and lasting until her death. When we think about this time period we often think about the big dresses but what we overlook is how much is going on underneath.
As the staff was thinking about this unique topic, our director decided this would be a great opportunity to display some artifacts from our collection that aren’t usually exhibited. So we pulled these four pieces from storage for the program and our blog readers will get to view a special bonus artifact not featured in the program!
Object #375/248: This bustle is a great example of a “man” made bustle from ca. 1880. During the late 1800s men realized that there was money to be made in the ladies undergarment business and thought they could create a better bustle. This spring bustle is made of the same springs that would be found in a bed or other furniture.
Object #7220/3075: This bustle was meant to create the “swan” shape that was popular towards the end of the Victorian era ca. 1890. It is padded with horsehair which you can actually see poking out in the image. These types of bustles were mass produced.
Object #4192/1928: These drawers date to ca. 1850 and are handmade. They are typical of the time in that the crotch is open but unique with the use of suspenders on the garment (drawstrings are more typical).
Object #11,838/1984.82: These undergarments were worn next to the skin to protect the outer garments from body oils and sweat. The frills and decorative nature of this garment was most popular during the 1870s.
Bonus: Skirt Supporting Corset
Object #4194/1928: Later in the Victorian era pieces of undergarments were combined into one piece, like this one. This particular garment from ca. 1870 acted as a corset and a bustle to add lift to the skirt.
The Neville would like to thank Leslie Bellais, curator of social history at the Wisconsin Historical Society for her entertaining presentation and her help in spotlighting the special history of these artifacts.