Program

Diane Woolever - The 1880s

We were treated to a fashion show … for our great grandparents.

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Diane and Rollie Woolever are in the business of making and displaying men’s and women’s garments from the 1880s. They presented not only the garments people in that era wore but explained how the garments reflected human behavior that existed at that time.

Diane and Rollie were dressed in urban costume but they brought along “Lefty” McGregor; authentically dressed as a Western ranch-hand complete with spurs, chaps and guns.

 

The men had it better in the 1880s. Both Lefty’s and Rollie’s garb was not too different looking from garments worn in more modern times. Lefty’s western outfit was totally functional. Rollie’s suit was practical and comfortable.  Despite being made of wool the design provided for sufficient ventilation so that the suit could be worn in hot climates.

Women’s clothing was another story altogether. Not comfortable, not practical and dictated by the period’s perception of modesty, propriety and fashion. The typical garment worn while out in public consisted of layers upon layers of material. Starting with bloomers - then the under-petticoat, the over petticoat, the under skirt, the over skirt, the camisole, the corset, the corset cover and finally the bodice.

Diane discreetly acted out the difficulty women had at the outhouse. Layer by layer, one by one, Diane lifted all of those outer garments until finally getting down to the bloomers – a very modest pair, indeed. She had her hands full just holding all the outer garments up and out the way. The prospect of dealing with the bloomers without letting go of the outer garments looked impossible. So what did a real 1880s women do next? The solution - crotchless bloomers! Similar to the men’s one-piece underwear solution – the trap door.

One aspect of women’s clothing seemed particularly interesting. Girls started wearing very tight corsets at a very early age. Meeting the standard acceptable adult waist size of eighteen inches required the waist and ribs to be compressed to the point of being permanently deformed. As a result the lungs were also compressed to the point of reduced lung capacity. The inability to breathe properly caused women to experience fainting spells called the “vapors” and required smelling salts to be revived.

Visit Diane and Rollie’s website at www.1880setc.com to learn more about their clothing line and accessories.