How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Centuries: Watch the Very Painstaking Process Get Cinematically Recreated

We live in an age of convenience, and one getting more convenient all the time. Few comparisons between past and present underscore that quite so much as the morning routine. Hot and cold running water on demand, properly appreciated, can seem miraculous enough, let alone more recent developments like the availability of high-quality coffee on every city block. But consider clothing, the change in whose outward appearance over the past 700 years or so goes along with an equally dramatic change in use. We still wear clothes for all the same basic reasons we did back then, of course, but what it takes to wear them has diminished to comparative effortlessness.

These videos, one on getting dressed in the 14th century and one on getting dressed in the 18th century, offer detailed, narrated, and cinematic looks at what the process once entailed — or at least what the process entailed for English women of a certain class.




The average man in those periods, too, had to deal with much more hassle putting on his clothes in the morning that he does today, but the female case, with its shift, stays, petticoats, pockets, roll, stockings and garters, gown and stomacher, apron, and more besides, required not just a great deal of discipline and concentration on the part of the dresser but assistance from another pair of hands as well.

You can find more such videos on the finer points of women's dressing routines of yore, including further explanations of such elements as pockets and busks, on this playlist. The social, technological, and industrial stories behind why it has all become so much less complicated over the centuries has provided, and will continue to provide, the driving questions for many an academic thesis. But despite the enormous reduction in the labor-intensiveness of putting them on, clothes have not, of course, become a perfectly simple matter for we dressers of the comparatively ultra-casual 21st century. Still, after watching all it took to get dressed those hundreds and hundreds of years ago, many of us — male or female — might arrive at the thought that we could stand to put just a little more effort into the job.

via Boing Boing

Related Content:

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Century Armor?: A Surprising Demonstration

An Online Trove of Historic Sewing Patterns & Costumes

The Dresser: The Contraption That Makes Getting Dressed an Adventure

1930s Fashion Designers Predict How People Would Dress in the Year 2000

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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