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September 14, 2010

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Frances Grimble

Of course, it depends on whether you are calling a specific style of separate, white bodice a shirtwaist. But when I was researching my book The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette, I discovered that the separate white bodice and contrasting, colored skirt were well established in the 1820s. Often the skirt was reccyled from a dress whose bodice had worn out.

Fran Grimble
www.lavoltapress.com

FIDM Museum

Hi Fran,

I'm interested in your discovery. To my mind, a shirtwaist is most commonly made of lightweight cotton, silk or possibly linen and is designed specifically to be worn with a skirt. It usually buttons up the center back or sometimes the center front. Also, it doesn't have any internal boning; this structure would be provided by the corset worn underneath.

The white bodices you found to be common in the 1820s, were they sewn specifically to be worn with skirts? Were they worn by a particular social class or in particular situations? You mentioned that the skirts worn with these bodices were often sewn from worn out dresses; was this the case with the bodice? Was it also constructed from a worn out dress?

Thanks for your comment Fran, I can't wait to hear more!

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