Same story from a few days ago? WTF!
I obviously am not reading enough BB these days I did not see it the first time. Now to see if the comments the first time around managed to resist discussions of networked vibrators because despite the fact I know it is a juvenile reaction to such a title it is still the first thing that popped into my head.
“…given to corsets?” I think not! The Georgian era which preceded the Victorian, was very much in favor of natural figures, not some laced-up travesty. A tunic and loose pants would do very nicely, a la Bloomer, or perhaps a simple unfitted dress with sash. The only sticking point is that we don’t, nowadays, wear things that are loose enough, preferring several tight layers rather than one or two relaxed ones. Having dressed up as the divine Ada, I think I can speak from some authority…
As a picker up of unconsidered trifles I have to point out that respectable married women did not wear underpants, which were considered garments appropriate to courtesans and prostitutes.
At the same time in polite society this facilitated affairs because women could easily have sex without needing to undress at all. A NSFW search for the work of Johann von Nepomuk Geiger will repay the curious (he was a very respected court painter but around 1840 he had an episode of unrespectability.)
Also, didn’t Ada Lovelace die of metastasised breast cancer, not cancer of the uterus? Breast cancer is one of the worst cancers because it robs us of so many women just as they reach their maximum power to influence society.
Georgian fashion still required a corset, you’re thinking of Regency fashion. You could get away without a full corset during the Regency period, although “short stays” were popular for the larger-busted woman.
Although Ada was born in the middle of the Regency period which is kind of the transition into the Victorian era. The tail end of the Georgian but usually counted as it’s own mini-era.
I can’t answer to the specifics in her case, but considering medical knowledge at the time, they wouldn’t have known that cancer metastasizes to different parts of the body (and there are some common pathways, depending on the cancer of origin) but is still considered to be an outcome of the originating cancer. A common pathway for breast cancer, for example, is to metastasize to the lungs, but this doesn’t make it lung cancer.
Well, exactly. I have read her account of her mastectomy, pretty horrifying. I’ll take the 21st century with all its disadvantages, thank you, if it means women don’t go through that and then die anyway.
Umberto Eco has written about this and how thinkers (monks, priests and academics) have traditionally worn loose fitting clothes while people with a public role in society and positions of authority wear tight ones (soldiers, police, and so on.) When women began to be emancipated in the 19th century in Europe, one of the symptoms was “rational dress” as proposed by Mrs. Bloomer. By the mid to late 20th century all that was left was bra burning, which turned out to have its downsides as Western women tend to have large boobs.1
It’s a bit depressing therefore that Steampunk seems to be so fixated on “clothes as uniform”.
1In the Royal Navy, when a ship was merely working (on a voyage or refitting for instance) officers would wear more or less the same clothes as the other ranks - loose fitting workmen’s clothes. But, in a battle, they would wear dress uniforms despite this making them targets for musketeers.
I was at the Costume Museum in Bath some years back and learned that tight corsets were a product of the Bessemer steel process. Before then the tension on a garment was limited by the use of whalebone. Steel is stronger.
Material science also led to the relaxation of dress. The invention of latex core elastic thread and fabrics in the first half of the 20th century meant that form fitting clothing could be comfortable. It also meant death to the garter.
It’s easy to overlook the interplay of technology and dress. After all, clothing has been women’s work since way back when, so the technological breakthroughs tend to be ignored.
P.S. With regards to military dress, officers had to stand out so that soldiers could tell who to listen to for orders. This is one of the big differences between a rabble and an army. Once the guns started firing there was so much smoke no one could see anything at any distance anyway. Once smokeless powder was developed officers started wearing plainer cloths.
I was thinking about the whole steel corset outfit, not “short stays” as
you put it. As for wearing bifurcated clothing on one’s nethers, I was
thinking about what might make her more comfortable than, say blue jeans, a
cropped top with 3/4 sleeves, a camisole, a vest, and a scarf to keep warm.
At least the pantaloons a la Turque would at least look familiar, if not
“proper” clothing. Or for that matter, given half the chance, maybe a
George Sand outfit?
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