Monday, February 3, 2014

Preserving the Past through Fashion

Hannah of Just Peachy, Darling is presenting at The Saving Places Conference this week and she's asked several bloggers including yours truly to write about preserving the past and this is my contribution!

Growing up, history was always my least favorite subject. It wasn't until I got interested in vintage fashion and historical costuming. Now I have a passion for the past that I never thought I'd have.

One way that I love preserving the past is by rediscovering period methods of doing things. Period sources can only get you so far and it's not always possible to speak to someone who was alive during the time to ask. Sometimes a little experimentation is necessary.

Even as close as the 19-teens are to modern times and with the availability of photographs from this period, there are a lot of questions still left to be answered. One question I really had to investigate was the question of undergarments. Which ones did people wear and in what order?

Looking at period photographs, you'd think this was the norm:

However, personal experience tells me that wearing combinations or drawers under a long line corset means that you have to get completely undressed and take off the corset every time you have to go to the bathroom or risk a high probability of getting your, um, business all over your lacey unmentionables (even when your combinations/drawers are split!). Or hold it all day but that's not really a viable option for everyday life. So it's likely that combinations/drawers were worn over corsets and these Edwardian "pin-up" photos were not accurate to everyday life.

combinations over a corset

Another cool history experiment I did was try out an authentic 50s haircut and an authentic 40s haircut. Once I'd mastered pin curling, I wanted to see if the right haircut would take my hair styles the extra mile. It really made things a lot easier and helped me figure out what sorts of haircut features you'd need to do certain hairstyles. Just like you can't do all types of modern hairstyles with one haircut, the same was true of ladies of the past. Once I recracked the code, so to speak, I could add it to my blog posts and youtube videos to share with all of you.

unstyled middy haircut

In this way, all of us who love vintage fashion can participate in preserving history. We still have access to a lot of primary resources and people who lived through those decades we love. By educating ourselves in the historically accurate way of doing things (even if we don't choose to do them historically accurately all the time), we can preserve history for future generations especially.

So celebrate being a historian! Whether it's through loving and preserving vintage clothing, or through making up vintage patterns or through rediscovering how to do great vintage hair dos, we all play an important role in preserving history.


  1. Great post! I've always loved history and so that then spawned my love of vintage fashion. I agree, those pinup photos whether they are the Edwardian era or 1950s aren't accurate as to how things were properly worn. For a long time in the 17th to early 19th century many bloomers had an open crotch for those trips to the chamber pot. However I can't help but wonder how difficult it must have been for women during their time of the month. Another reason I am fairly happy I live in the modern era.

    1. Indeed! Modern feminine products are heavenly compared to what ladies used to have to use!

  2. When you wear your combinations as drawers, are they not split in this era? Because Splits under corsets is very comfortable and convenient. I don't do the teens era as a rule, but I would have though that they would continue to be split drawers and combinations to facilitate the call of nature!

    1. They are split but having them under the long 19teens corset makes a huge poof of drawers at the bottom of the corset which is hard to manage especially since the corset goes all the way down over your backside. (you can see the corset here: Having the combinations over the corset makes it much easier to maneuver when nature calls.

  3. Fabulous post! And great eye for mentioning details many forget about!


  4. Really enjoyable post, honey. Your final paragraph could be the official motto (or mission statement, if you will) for vintage enthusiasts the world over.

    ♥ Jessica