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Historical Fiction Discussions > Clothes: in what period and culture do you find women’s clothing the most utterly feminine, sexy or outrageous?

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message 1: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments For example: The hourglass corsets of early 20th century in our own culture just over 100 years ago: The high collar, S bend corset, trained skirt and lavish hat all had an effect on the posture of an Edwardian lady and gave her a swaying grandeur. In Barcelona 1900’s , the S bend was dubbed: “Cop de Fuet” meaning: Crack-of-the-whip.


message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 617 comments For me, it's all about those wonderful dresses of the late 1930s and early 1940s, with the fitted bodices and wide skirts. Comfortable, but they enhance the female beautifully.


message 3: by Katharine (new)

Katharine Edgar | 33 comments I write about the Tudor period and as a former re-enactor I'm very conscious about the nuances of clothing during the period and I do find the dress of the exact period I'm writing about (1530s) the loveliest - it has a natural waistline, unlike the high waists of the early 16th c and artificially long bodies of the late Elizabethan period, there's headwear that doesn't hide all your hair (French hood instead of gable) and no silly ruffs. Very, very sexy.

When it comes to the 18th c it's a similar thing - the natural waistlines of the mid century are much prettier than the long bodies of the early 18th c or the Regency high waists. Though Regency muslins do have the advantage of lightness and naturalness.

I agree about the fitted bodices and wide skirts of the mid 20th c, though thanks to clothes rationing it's the late 40s rather than early 40s in England where things get really beautiful. I used to follow some amazingly talented vintage dressmakers online who would make the most amazing repro clothes from vintage patterns, but it took far too much fabric and hard work for me to ever have a go myself, though I've done some nice simple 50s style dresses.


message 4: by Michele (new)

Michele My favorite are the gorgeous, elaborate Japanese Kimono, yards long sashes and sleeves, and all the fancy little trimmings that went along with them.

I also really like the Gibson Girl look with the loose tucked bodices, tiny waists, bell skirts, and a pompadour hairstyle.

I wonder how many Regency women actually dampened their dresses - and then got pneumonia.

The most ridiculous has to be riding jodhpurs with those little wings that stick out - they just look silly.

Oh, I like those bathing dresses from the turn of the century, with the little caps.


message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments Any views on the following: What about the surprising dresses of the women of ancient Minoa (Crete, Greece. 1600 years BC)? Very tight fitting tops, ample skirts and breasts completely bare?


message 6: by Laura (last edited May 03, 2015 11:53PM) (new)

Laura Gill | 152 comments Jonathan wrote: "Any views on the following: What about the surprising dresses of the women of ancient Minoa (Crete, Greece. 1600 years BC)? Very tight fitting tops, ample skirts and breasts completely bare?"

The evidence suggests Minoan women only bared their breasts for religious ceremonies; all the pictorial evidence of bare breasts is religious-based. Besides, Crete gets really cold in the winter, and you don't want to go around bare-breasted in January. And the flounced skirts were very heavy (I've done some experimental archaeology with this type of costume) and very impractical for everyday wear.

There are examples in the art of what women probably wore everyday, but you have to really look for them.


message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments Hi Laura. I don’t claim to be a specialist (at all) on ancient Crete. You mention that it’s very difficult to find examples of everyday clothes. Does this go to show that bare-breasts get a lot more attention, and this is why women (particularly European ones) who defend freedom causes often go bare-breast?


message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments PS. Laura: Some web pages on the subject indicate that it is thought that women covered their breasts upon marriage. This made it things very simple, because one could see at a glance who was available, and who (in theory) was not. Do you agree with this assessment?


message 9: by Laura (last edited May 06, 2015 04:33PM) (new)

Laura Gill | 152 comments Jonathan wrote: "PS. Laura: Some web pages on the subject indicate that it is thought that women covered their breasts upon marriage. This made it things very simple, because one could see at a glance who was avail..."

No, because there's no evidence of what the Minoans thought about marriage or how they went about distinguishing married women from unmarried ones. We know almost nothing about gender relations or social norms, so to say that women went about bare breasted to attract attention/potential spouses or to make some political statement can't be supported.

Also, the women of Thera seem to have differed in custom from the women of Knossos/Crete. The Cretans had a short-lived colony on Thera, but the available evidence suggests that the Minoan culture seems to have been a Minoan/indigenous Theran Cycladic hybrid.

I'm not sure what sources you're drawing on, but they sound a bit iffy. When I was writing Knossos I had to wade through a lot of misinformation about the Minoans.


message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura Gill | 152 comments Jonathan wrote: "Hi Laura. I don’t claim to be a specialist (at all) on ancient Crete. You mention that it’s very difficult to find examples of everyday clothes. Does this go to show that bare-breasts get a lot mor..."

No, it's because most of the examples of Minoan art feature women in a religious context. You shouldn't try to tie what women did 3600 years ago to what they do today. The only Minoan/ Near Eastern practice that can arguably be said to have survived in some form to the present is bullfighting/bull vaulting.


message 11: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments Hi Laura:
I’ve been giving some thought to this. Would you agree that the expression a woman’s sexuality in reference to clothing, far from converting her into a sex object is the outward symbol of inner and social freedom? Is it correct to say that woman in ancient Minoa had a strong and equal voice in daily affairs and that the relation between clothing and condition is not coincidental? Can the mini-skirt be considered the clothed expression or forerunner of woman’s lib?


message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura Gill | 152 comments There's no evidence to support your hypothesis. You keep wanting to tie the Minoans to contemporary culture, and you simply can't do that. The Minoan culture was alien in thought and practice from modern Western culture, just as Egyptian and Sumerian culture was. In order to understand ancient peoples, you need to drop your assumptions and modern biases and look strictly at the evidence. Read academic journals. Stay away from New Age hype.

The clothing evidence is tied to fertility cult, not everyday attire. There are examples of Minoan women wearing dresses where their breasts are covered, as well as veils.


message 13: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Kitchen (melissammk) | 8 comments Right now, I'm a big fan of the 1920s flapper looks. So different from much of what preceded it. I love the look, and I find its meaning and significance to the period very interesting.


message 14: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Daifuku (barcelona1906) | 25 comments I couldn’t agree more…. Happy-go-lucky… Anything is possible… The stock market roaring… Fast cars… and of course a great set of clothes to go along with all of it…


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