We’ve all heard about the grand 19-century balls. But how did the ladies dress for a ball at that time? Today, we are going to see how a lady in 1865 was preparing for a ball. What garments did she wear? We will see if she needed help with dressing up, what pieces of clothing she could skip, and even what tricks she used to spend less money but look fashionable and beautiful. So, let’s get started.
Chemise, stockings, and drawers are on – the corset is next. The corset, made with cotton and baleen provided a comfortable support, that is needed for a night of dancing.
Since the invention of a split busk, it was perfectly possible to lace the corset oneself, quite easily, too.
The hair has already been done – since hairpieces were widely available, it took just a few minutes to make a simple but elegant hairdo.
Next – an elliptical crinoline cage, the latest fad in fashion. Standard round cage evolved so that the emphasis was on the back. The cage is boned with steel boning, encased in cotton tape. The boning can be adjusted slightly to form the best shape.
Next layer: petticoats. 1 to 3 were commonly worn, hiding the sharper edges of the cage.
Often, women used old round petticoats with the elliptical crinoline cage. At that time, old clothes were reused a lot. They could take 1 or 2 petticoats of round shape and 1 of elliptical shape – the last one covered the too-short layers neatly.
Skirt next – silk satin here, with a modest lace decoration.
Usually, at that point, a corset cover would be next.
A matching silk bodice with an elaborate bertha (the neck decoration piece) is the final layer on the body. The bodice closes at the back with laces, and the bertha closes at the right shoulder with hooks and eyes.
The lady arranges the chemise so that only the delicate lace peaks out a bit.
One mustn’t forget the gloves. Since the lady will be dancing with many partners, gloves will keep her hands clean and decent. To fit well, the gloves have tiny buttons at the wrist.
A fan is a must, too. It is used to cool the lady down and send signals to the suitors.
But it is not the end. The same foundations and a skirt will form a day outfit, too.
The skirt can be paired with a blouse and a Swiss waist. A hat and a parasol, as well as light gloves, keep a lady safe from the sun.
If it is cold, a Spanish jacket with lace will add some protection.