Women’s underwear the subject of museum tea




If you go

What: Sixth Annual Women’s Tea and Luncheon: Staying the Corset, a look at women’s underwear from 1790 to 1950.

When: 11 a.m. Monday.

Where: Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St., Vancouver.

Cost: $35 for museum members, $40 for nonmembers.

Information: Reservations required. Call 993-5679 or email info@cchmuseum.org. On the Web: http://www.cchmuseum.org.

There’s a good chance most women gave little or no thought to what’s beneath their clothes today. Underwear, bra and maybe for some pantyhose or a slip.

But rewind time about 150 years, and you may be hard pressed to find a woman who didn’t have undergarments on her mind. It was a big deal then. Literally, with hoop skirts that stretched up to 6 feet in diameter and corsets that pinched and pulled women’s figures to the view of perfection. Even members lower class who couldn’t afford the frills, may have daydreamed of petticoats in the same way we ogle a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes on Pinterest.

Thumbing through history via the perspective of women’s undergarments isn’t as silly as it may sound at first blush. What women have worn under their dresses has been directly tied to the political, social and moral landscape for centuries. That’s why Clark County’s Rebecca Morrison-Peck will give a lecture on the topic at the Clark County Historical Museum. The annual Women’s Tea and Luncheon will be held at 11 a.m. Monday.

Morrison-Peck is a historical costume expert and designer. Her lecture will focus on the late 1700s through the 1950s and span everything from the corset to the commercial bra.

“The appearance of a woman’s body has always been dictated by the ideal that men had at that time,” she said.

Just in case your breadth of women’s undergarment knowledge doesn’t go deeper than Playtex ushering in an era of comfortable bras, we interviewed Morrison-Peck and put some interesting highlights of her lecture into a quiz, as seen below.

Study up. Mixing up Victoria’s Secret and the Victorian era could get you in trouble when it comes to women’s lingerie.

Undergarments quiz

  1. In the Civil War era, a woman’s waist size was expected to be what?

A. 21 inches.

B. ¾ that of her hips.

C. Her age.

D. Her mother’s.

  1. How much could the lingerie of a woman dressed like Scarlett O’Hara weigh?

A. 40 pounds.

B. As little as possible to help slim their figures.

C. 15 pounds.

D. 12 pounds.

  1. Hoop skirts and petticoats were dangerous why?

A. The fabrics attracted bugs.

B. A stray spark would quickly catch a dress on fire.

C. When hopping on trolleys and trains the skirts could get caught.

D. Women were injured putting them on.

  1. During the Victorian Era (a straight back brings straight morals!), what is the youngest age some children begin wearing corsets?

A. 5.

B. 2.

C. 10.

D. 8.

  1. In what part of the U.S. did the rigid standards of Victorian Era undergarments get ousted because of practicality?

A. The South.

B. Alaska.

C. The West.

D. New York.

  1. In the 1860s, shopkeepers may have limited the number of women allowed in their stores because of this.

A. It was improper for a male clerk to be in the company of women.

B. Women’s hoop skirts would knock items off shelves or displays.

C. Women often didn’t have money to pay for goods.

D. The crowds were too overwhelming for female shoppers.

  1. World War II rations impacted women’s lingerie how?

A. Cotton was readily available for women’s underwear.

B. Metal and nylon shortages impacted production of bras and stockings.

C. With gas rationed, fewer women could travel to stores to shop.

D. With so many young men off to war, women stopped wearing lingerie altogether.

  1. Historically, who has designed women’s lingerie?

A. The upper class.

B. The working woman.

C. Maids.

D. Men.

  1. Lingerie items such as corsets and petticoats were laundered how?

A. Seldom, wiped with a rag.

B. Dry cleaners.

C. In a river.

D. Daily in wash tubs.

  1. During World War II, a stain akin to today’s sunless tanning lotions was used for what purpose?

A. As a vitamin supplement to boost morale.

B. To replace perfumes.

C. To create the tan, nude look of nylons.

D. To help panty hose slip on easier.

Answers (no peeking!)

  1. C 2. A 3. B and C 4. B 5. C 6. B 7. B 8. D 9. A 10. C