1908 Ladies’ Edwardian Clothing Fashions – Part 2

In Lightning on the Levee, it was 1908 when Molly B O’Connor was abducted while out for an afternoon walk with her friends. When she arrives in our current time, she’s dressed in the same beautiful Edwardian Afternoon Dress she was wearing then. You can see a photo of the dress, a gift from her father, HERE.

I talked about the other clothing choices that were important to her, and to her friends in 1908 here: “1908 Ladies’ Clothing Fashions – Part 1”. But that’s not all – I promised you more! So here in “1908 Ladies’ Clothing Fashions – Part 2”, we’ll talk about what an Edwardian or La Belle Epoque woman went through just to get ready for her day.

Getting Dressed to Face the Day in Edwardian Times

Night Chemise

This is the garment that a lady of 1908 is wearing when she arises in the morning. The equivalent of our nightclothes, it’s usually made of cotton. Sometimes it’s made of finer fabrics such as silk, but always has the same exquisite hand detailing that her other clothing has.

In Edwardian times, lingerie such as the night chemise and the peignoir was called “déshabillé” (“undress”), and was worn only inside the house or around immediate family.

Edwardian Night Chemise
This lovely silk night chemise from 1910 features panels of handmade filet lace, delicate floral lace, and silk ribbon rosebuds. Image: vintagetextile.com

Molly B’s night chemise probably isn’t silk, but cotton, as she is not yet married. It’s likely that she has one or two beautifully detailed silk night chemises in her trousseau.

Peignoir / Morning Gown / Combing Jacket

An Edwardian lady slips her peignoir over her night chemise to provide a bit of warmth or modesty as she begins to move around the house after she rises in the morning. This garment is used like our bathrobe, but is delicate and beautiful and partially covers the nightgown or chemise.

Edwardian morning gown
This exquisite 1905 morning gown is made from white cotton tulle with floral appliques of iris and lilies of the valley, edgings and insertions of Brussels lace guipure, bell sleeves, and a train! Image: augusta-auction.com

“Peignoir” comes from the French “peigner”, which means “to comb the hair”.

The morning gown is the floor length version, and “combing jacket” is the name for the hip length version. I think we should help this lacy pink silk Edwardian combing jacket escape from the boudoir – I’d love to wear it with skinny jeans to some event!

edwardian combing jacket
This delicate Edwardian silk combing jacket features rows of inset lace and pleated tulle edge ruffles, with a wide satin ribbon and ribbon flower. It closes in the front with a hook under the ribbon flower. I’m positive that this item is in Molly B’s trousseau! Image: vintagetextile.com

Undergarments (“Lingeries”)

Edwardian ladies wore a mind-boggling amount of underclothes. Every lady, Molly B included, had a selection of knickers, day chemises, camisoles, petticoats, and stockings, but usually had only two corsets – one for summer and another for winter.

Knickers (Pantaloons)

Knickers (pantaloons) were the panties of the Edwardian era. In fact, our word “panties” is derived from the word “pantaloons”. Knicker styles have generally conformed to the silhouette line of an era, and in 1908, the silhouette had slimmed and shortened considerably from the Victorian period.

These slimmer, closer fitting knickers – called the “Directoire style” – have a drawstring waist. They are above knee length, with the last few inches being lacy frills.

Edwardian ladies underpants
I’m starting to think they liked pink ribbons on everything. Images: metmuseum.org

Unlike these two beautiful knicker examples, the crotch was frequently split, a holdover from earlier years, so women didn’t have to get undressed when nature called.

Day Chemise

Next comes the day chemise, which is basically a slip. Its purpose is to protect the corset (which comes next) from body oils and perspiration, and to give a little protection for the woman from the bones in the corset.

The lacy chemise also looks pretty peeking out from under the top of her corset.

Edwardian ladies' day chemise
More pink ribbons 🙂 on this Edwardian day chemise. Image: metmuseum.org
1908 Edwardian ladies' day chemise.
1908 Edwardian ladies’ day chemise (slip). Image: metmuseum.org

Corset

The popular corset in 1908 was the “Health Corset”, which forced the woman’s body into an S shape, and was thought to be healthy. (I’m sure many Edwardian women would debate that claim.)

It was longer than previous corsets, coming down almost to the thigh, giving women a slimmer line than was popular in the Victorian period. The top of the corset ended just below the bust. It also had low-hanging clips to hold stockings up.

Edwardian Health Corset
Young Edwardian woman wearing Health Corset. Image: thelingerieaddict.com

Here is an actual Edwardian antique corset from 1908, made of unlined cotton mesh for the summer. It has 20 steel bones! Can you imagine how comfortable that was NOT?

Warner's Corset 1908
Image: corsetsandcrinolines.com

This corset has a busque almost a foot long. The busque is the stiff center front piece of the corset which is supposed to keep the corset (and the woman who wears it) straight and upright. It has something similar to hooks on one side and eyes on the other, which make it much easier to take on and off. Lacing up a corset may look romantic, but it was a time-consuming chore.

Check out the four ornate stocking suspenders.

The ribbon trim on this corset isn’t pink!

Made by Warners!

Corset Busques
Here are some busques, which were inserted into pockets inside the front of the corset. Image: wikimedia commons

And this image is just for fun:

magnetic corset
I’m certain that absolutely nothing could go wrong with a battery operated corset. Image: wikimedia commons

Corset Cover (Camisole)

Next comes the corset cover, or camisole. Many times the dresses or blouses were of delicate fabric or lace, so women wore beautifully detailed camisoles to keep their corsets from showing through.

Edwardian corset covers
Left: Linen and silk Edwardian corset cover. Image: metmuseum.org. Right: Lightweight white cotton Edwardian pigeon breasted corset cover with beautiful hand crocheted drawstring neckline. Image: raleighvintage.com. These would look great with jeans!

Stockings

Every Edwardian lady wore stockings every day. She would have two types – cotton for day, and pretty embroidered silk stockings for the evening.

Edwardian stockings
Hosiery ad from 1905. Image: flickr.com user christine592

Stockings are usually knitted, and have a seam up the middle of the back. They reach to just above the knee, and are held in place with the stocking suspenders that are attached to the corset. It was only considered taboo for the lady’s ankle to show if her skin were exposed, so every lady wore stockings every day, as her ankle area would be exposed when she walked, danced, or climbed stairs, especially when she was wearing dress slippers.

White or black cotton stockings were generally used for day, although colors and patterns were very common. A lady liked for her stockings to be pretty, and to match her dress. Solid-color stockings often featured pretty woven or embroidered decoration on the front of the foot and ankle.

Edwardian stockings
These fancifully embroidered stockings date from 1890-1910. Embellished stockings were worn for special occasions or by ladies of leisure. Image: thepragmaticcostumer.wordpress.com

Evening and special occasion stockings were generally fine silk, beautifully embroidered on the front of the ankle area.

Petticoats

1908 petticoat ad
1908 petticoat ad. Image: Period Papers on amazon.com

Finally came the petticoats. Every woman had to wear at least one, and maybe two or three. (It was believed that a mass of underwear was hygienic.) The petticoats were made of beautiful taffetas and organdies, so they would rustle as the lady walked.

The petticoats were fringed with lace, so they would form an enchanting foam around the ankles while walking.

Edwardian petticoats
I have to say that the one on the left makes my eyes hurt. Images: metmuseum.org

Now that she has all that done, Molly B can finally put on her outer clothes.

Let’s talk about the outer clothes next time – I’m tired from putting on all that underwear!

Which of these pieces of Edwardian lingerie would you like to wear today? Tell me about it in the comments below!

 

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