The Lingerie Look

When I was growing up, it was common knowledge that you did not wear white before the first of April. Now we often see white worn during any time of the year.

Much of the 1800’s saw dresses year-round in mostly dark colors of brown, black, dark greens and blues, and darker reds, leaving white to special evening wear, the rich, and underclothes. There was a practical reason for that. White was too doggone hard to keep unblemished looking for a woman who must cook, clean, and pluck chickens.

The late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw a special resurgence of white in what were knowns as lingerie dresses and waists (blouses). These are pretty much what they sound like. Made of thin materials—chiffon, lawn, batiste, organdy—they were sheer enough to show what lie underneath, either giving the appearance of all white or with colored underslips.

The October 29, 1906 issue of The Southern Merchant describes it this way: “A feature of many of the lingerie dresses is the quantity of work on some of the more expensive ones. Yards upon yards of dainty edging and inserting, either of lace or embroidery, and frequently combinations of both, are employed by the designers. Not only the waists, but the skirts are elaborately trimmed. Despite the fact that often so much trimming is seen on one gown, it does not give the effect of being overdone, but of simple quiet elegance.”

Decked out with lingerie hats made of embroidery, lace, and various trims, along with parasols, these women appeared the untimate in softness and femininity.

The dresses were much lighter than the heavier materials women had been wearing. But in being lighter and sheerer, they were also more vulnerable to tears. Women wore them during the summer to daytime events such as garden and tea parties. Can you imagine what would happen if you caught such delicate material on a rose bush thorn?

As an aside, in Amanda Cabot’s post on Tuesday, she talked about costume research and mentioned a furbelow. Okay, I’ll admit I had not heard the term before, so I went to the dictionary. It’s a flounce, a frill, a ruffle—some kind of showy trim on a petticoat or dress. Seemed to be lots of furbelows in lingerie dresses.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a comback of sheer materials meant to be worn over camisoles. Although, the new fashions don’t compare in beauty to those created one hundred years ago, it goes to prove that there is “nothing new under the sun.”


Is there a particular fashion era that you would like to see revived? Why?


As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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