Yes, 8 or 9 Layers

Several of you were surprised that women wore so many layers of clothing. Yes, they did!

It started with a thin layer that would have been like underwear and a camisole and a slip all in one.

The next layer would have been a corset. They were made of steel and whalebone. Remember under wire bras? Multiply that from hip to breast. Tighten that up with string that tied you in so tight you had trouble breathing. It was not uncommon for women to faint.

Over that was a petticoat. “Proper” women wore 3 or 4 petticoats, the top one being fancier and made of lace. Sometimes she wore “Pantaloons” as well.

The next layer would have been the skirt or dress.  They were usually lined. (We are at 8 layers including that lining.)

Over that was a  type of apron that would protect the skirt of dress.

If the weather was cold or wet she would have worn a coat. Very least a shawl.

And…. women wore fancy collars and under sleeves. Of course women also wore hats.

And thank god I am allowed to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt!

17 thoughts on “Yes, 8 or 9 Layers

  1. My most rewarding thing on a daily basis is getting my bra off. How did those women live n those days? Just more thrilling ideas from MEN like spiked high heel shoes.

  2. OMG! I get flustered just wearing a bra. Can you just imagine wearing all those layers in the hot boiling summers of the old wild West?

  3. I once wore a surgical corset after spinal surgery. It was hell. That was tied up with laces to haul everything in, and it had two metal bars down the back that were about the width and thickness of a ruler. It was designed to make me sit up/stand up straight. I hated it and I was stuck with it for nearly two years.

  4. I feel panic just reading about all these layers. I tend to run hot and even in the winter I wear the same tops I wear in the summer. I just have a sweater or shrug on the back of my chair at work in case I was chilly or had a formal meeting. I wouldn’t survive a day wearing that stuff!

  5. I think that’s why men thought women were so weak because they fainted from having to wear all those tight clothing and they couldn’t move around much wearing all that stuff. I’m not adverse to a nice pair of spanx but I draw the line at whale bones!

  6. I’ve often wondered which, if any, of these layers came off at night except for the outer ones.
    How did they ever manage to have sex?

  7. holy moly. i never thought of all that. i can’t imagine. i’ve reached the age where my bra comes off at the first evening moment. it comes off and i fling it!


  8. Indeed! I suppose we would have been used to it, if we’d been brought up that way, but I can’t imagine having to carry all that lot around with me all day, every day. The impoverished did not dress like that, of course, they’d have worn softer, less restrictive (and cheaper) versions. As you say, women would often faint if they did anything much, or simply in the heat. Nobody could have worked very hard in one of the tight-laced, boned versions, so I personally believe the corset was only for ‘ladies’ whose main job was looking decorative. Are there any historical resources about clothing for the poor and the working classes?

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