Victorian life: How on Earth did they go to the loo? People ask a lot of questions about the way women used a toilet in those long and puffy dresses, with crinolines and bustles. Actually, there were a few tricks. See for yourself.
This is the secret – split drawers. Evolved from pantaloons, they were commonly worn from probably about 1840-50 till the end of the century, replaced by joined drawers in the 90-ties. Usually made in cotton or linen and consisting of 2 legs joined by a waistband, they were comfy, hygienic, and provided, ahem, an easy access…
Drawers were worn either with chemise inside or outside. Both styles are evident in sources. From my experience, chemise outside is easier to deal with. Remember that if you wear modern knickers under these, the job becomes almost impossible.
Crinoline cage fashions
Crinoline cage on – the metal hoops are very flexible!
And the trick here – approach from the front! The drawers, open at the crotch, are not in a way. Chamber pots are still in use too.
Let us have a go in a full dress – 1852 day dress here. Grab the hoops through the fabric and lift. Hold with one hand while the other arranges the drawers / chemise. Even easier with a chamber pot. More discreet too! The flexibility of the cage makes it even possible to use the toilet in the “usual” way.
Here an 1876 winter dress. Enter bustle cage – boned with metal boning, the cage folds up like a harmonica! Let’s put it on. Sitting is not a problem – either straight on or by swinging it a bit to the side (recommended for a big train for example). With the bustle front approach is recommended as well. Ditto – chamber pot is even easier. The “usual” approach is still possible, though more awkward. Simply fold the cage upwards and move it with the bulk of the skirts to the side.
And it was only then I noticed my overskirt was partially folded under the whole time. Oh well, am not shooting this craziness again!
Funnily enough, the front approach to the loo is nowadays recommended for bridal dresses.
(c) Prior Attire