Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guest Blogger Thursday: Colonial Influences by Becky Hatch

Growing up, I was flat out obsessed with all things to do with weddings. Mainly, at 5, I loved the gowns. In the late '80s and early '90s, the big poofy Princess Diana sleeves and gowns were all the rage, meaning wedding dresses (as glitzy, glammy and beaded as can be) looked a lot like the big southern belle style dresses worn in "the olden days", as I liked to call them. When I realized that I had a lot of living left to do before I could get married (finish second grade for instance), I moved on from Princess Di and my aunts' wedding videos to reading Gone With the Wind. And so my Scarlet O'Hara influenced craze began.

Although I would no longer call myself obsessed (it would be inappropriate to wear a prom dress to work every day), I am still incredibly passionate about all things to do with Colonial and early Victorian fashion. The more that I learned about these time periods in high school and college, the more I realized reality was a lot less romantic than the image I had in my head. For instance, I had no idea how heavy a lot of these dresses were. For most women, gowns were made out of wool and the undergarments made out of linen. Women wore at least three to four layers, even in the summer - with no air conditioning mind you. Hoop skirts, petticoats and crenolin gave them the ballgown-like skirts, which were often held up by suspenders. They also wore corsets (or stays), made from hard materials such as whale bone. In the practical sense, these corsets helped with posture and acted as a sort of back brace when carrying heavy items such as children or buckets. For the wealthy, these corsets also helped to give them the desired sillouhette of a cinched waist line. For Ms. O'Hara, she would probably have at least three outfit changes a day, including a morning dress, an evening dress and a walking outfit. Her dresses were also made from silk, brocade, velvet, damask, chiffon, etc. Most women, however, only owned three or four dresses in total, meaning they barely got to change once a day. Bathing-also not very popular. I guess I'll take my 21st century existence over life on a plantation after all.

Lucky for us, corsets are no longer a health hazard (fainting), and have become a special treat! We now have more modern shape-wear that helps give us the figure we want and we can save corsets for feeling sexy and beautiful-while still being able to breathe. For those of you who are getting married (or just want to treat yourself to something special underneath your t-shirt and jeans), check out Beneath the Gown. This store is located right near the Jennie Fresa Beauty Library in Clinton, CT and features fine European lingerie. Contact Josie or pop in to have her help you find exactly what you're looking for!



  1. nothing like a dress made from green velvet curtains!

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