Chemise set

In the late 19th century, feminist ideas changed women’s fashion, both outerwear and underwear. Rigid bodices and full skirts were abandoned in favour of shorter, narrower dresses. Underwear evolved, too, from loose chemises and pantaloons to “combination” undergarments that reduced bulkiness and better suited the streamlined women’s fashion of the 20th century.


Collection Connections 

  • Chemise set

    Chemise set

    Europe: Western Europe, France

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  • Chemise set

    Chemise set

    Europe, Western Europe, France

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  • Chemise

    Chemise

    Europe: Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Denmark

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What does this chemise set communicate about 19th century France?

responded: Jan 23, 2012

Posted by Magda Opas

175
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France plunged into the 19 century in a whirlwind of radical political, social, and economic changes. The monarchy was destroyed; a new sense of liberty, equality, and fraternity replaced the feudal aristocratic system. This presented women with an excellent set of circumstances through which to bid for their own liberty and equality. And as was true in the centuries preceding this one, fashion mimicked the time’s socio-political events. As the working class rid itself of the oppressive royals, the women banished the fashions they endorsed. They replaced Marie Antoinette’s constricting panniers, rigid corsets, and extravagant details and decoration with loose, draped, high-waisted (‘empire’) gowns so reminiscent of the classical ancient Greek dress. As the Rococo was discarded, the neoclassical styles were embraced in an attempt at the liberation of the woman. The new style promoted the freedom of motions the corsets forbade; the light, loose fabrics used, such as muslin and silk, were flowy and sleek, to the point of even being see-through! This is where the chemise came in. It was made from cotton, was loose, and did not manipulate the body figure. It was the only undergarment worn, except for the petticoats or pantalettes worn in the cold season. The latter were of a rudimentary design: baggy drawstring shorts. For daywear, the chemise filled the low necklines of the dresses, however for evening gowns, the chemises that were worn also had low necklines. During the restoration of the monarchy with Louis XVIII in 1815, fashion once again proved to follow current socio-political movements. With the return of the monarch came the return of the corset, stiff ruffles, wide skirts, and elaborate decoration. A comparison of gowns: The first image is a silk gown of the late 18th century, complete with a bodice and pannier, flowers, ribbons, and tassels. The second is also a silk gown, of the early 19th century, with a coloured trim at the bottom.

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