- If anyone is interested in learning more about the murders by knowing more
about what women wore, about.com has an essay on dress on their 19th century
history page. Go to:
From that page, just out of curiosity, I clicked on something about buying 19
century clothes and I thought this paragraph was interesting in light of how
fat Abby is always described:
"I also can't stress enough how near to impossible it is to find Victorian
clothes in any size bigger than about a four. We have to remember that women
in the late 1800's wore corsets much of the time, including at times, to bed.
Waist sizes 20" or smaller were common and the fitted clothing reflected this
fact. People were also generally shorter during this period, the average
height for a woman falling closer to 5". If you find a Victorian piece in a
wearable size and good condition, think seriously about buying it, if only
for investment. "
All the women can (literally) breathe a sigh of relief that we don't have to
wear corsets to bed!
Pat in NY
> "I also can't stress enough how near to impossible it is to find Victorianwomen
> clothes in any size bigger than about a four. We have to remember that
> in the late 1800's wore corsets much of the time, including at times, tobed.
> Waist sizes 20" or smaller were common and the fitted clothing reflectedthis
> fact. People were also generally shorter during this period, the averageWhile I would agree about their height (not only women, but men were also
> height for a woman falling closer to 5".
much shorter than today), I would have to disagree regarding waist size and
general dress size, at least for the 1890s. In my late teens and early 20s,
when I was a dress size 11, my family collected antique clothes, ranging
from the early 1800s thru the early 20th century, and I could fit into
almost every garment from the 1890s, without utilizing a corset.
And while women earlier in the 19th century may have gone to bed wearing a
corset, by the late 1880s and well throughout the 1890s, there was a growing
movement for 'healthier' corsets, and indeed the forgoing of corsets
altogether (which wouldn't generally be accepted until the 1910s...) for
health reasons...schools were starting to encourage girls to partake in
exercise and sport, and in such activities the wearing of corsets was
discouraged, if not outright banned...
While a 'wasp waist' was still considered attractive, if you look at
photographs of the era, especially of women considered great beauties of the
era, you will see women who would be considered fat by today's
standards...and rarely do you see in those pictures waists of 20 inches or
While such waist sizes seemed to be the norm up through the mid-1860s, by
the 1870s one finds garments that an average-sized woman today could fit
And keep in mind that most antique outfits one finds today are
special-occasion wear...something worn only once or twice and carefully put
away. One rarely finds, say, an everyday about-the-house dress that was
worn to wash the floors and beat the rugs in....and for weddings and balls,
a woman may have squeezed her waist down to 20" or less, but not have
endured such torture for normal daywear...
BTW, not only did we collect outer garments, but the 'nether wear',
also...and I never had a problem fitting into 1890s-era drawers, chemises,
petticoats, and yes, even a corset, which did not constrict my waist down to
20" (or less)...
Now, a wedding outfit we had which was circa 1815-1820 was another
matter...it was the complete outfit, not only gown but veil, undergarments,
and shoes. The girl couldn't have been over 5 feet in height, and the gown,
and especially the shoes, looked like something an 8 or 9 year old today