I did a little experiment and I wanted to share the results, as they were more noticeable than I expected.
On a whim, a few days ago, I tried on the same outfit first with modern underwear, then with historical. I wanted to see if the clothing was convincing enough on its own and how much of a difference the historical stuff can make. After all, I put so much time and effort into making the historical set of underwear, was it worth it?
Modern underwear of the right, historical on the left. The biggest difference, to me, is the boobs. Edwardian women went to a lot of effort to have that “pigeon breast” look and we work just as hard to “lift and separate”. The second most noticeable thing is the waist. My corset doesn’t actually take that much off my waistline. Most of the shaping the corset does for me is to keep everything smoothed out. Wearing a corset is almost like giving clothes a rigid structure to hang on, rather than my squishy little body. The difference in posture is pretty noticeable as well. I’m standing up pretty straight and neutral in both pictures, trying to be relaxed overall. An S-curve corset will change how you stand, and I rather liked the effect.
The change in posture is much more visible from the side. Also, it’s easy to see how differently the skirt hangs without and with the corset. Like I mentioned before, I made this skirt out of material that was way to heavy. I didn’t learn that until it was almost done, and I was so happy with it that I decided to finish it. On the left, with modern underwear, it’s easy to see the weight of the skirt pulling it down in the back. The corset reinforces the torso and keeps the waistband level. It’s also obvious to see the ruffles on the corset cover doing their job to soften and lower the bosom. It was gratifying to see that “S” curve that I was going for.
I would never stop anyone from dressing the way they like. I’ve been tempted to wear this skirt as a part of a regular outfit, it’s pretty comfortable! I actually think it’s pretty cool when people will incorporate one or two pieces of vintage clothing into a modern wardrobe. However, if anyone out there is like me, and is curious about how to get closer to that historically accurate look, I think it’s pretty obvious that historical undergarments make a huge difference in the final result. If you are wondering if it’s worth your time to sew clothing that no one will see, trust me, it’s worth the effort!