Have you ever looked at old Victorian photographs, particularly of female subjects, and noticed how perfect the sitter looks? How their skin is perfectly creamy, their hair perfectly coiffed, and (most strikingly) their bodice completely smooth over their torso, not a wrinkle or crease to be seen.
19th century photography techniques would also have made the smoothing out of unsightly details, such as spots and frizz and wrinkles, a fairly easy matter, and photographers were even known to shave a few (or more!) inches off their sitter’s waists, perpetuating the myth of the 16 inch waist of the 1860s belle.
The thing to remember with all of this is that photographers and painters will only alter and improve what society and fashion already demands to be smoother or thinner or fuller or sleeker or rosier or paler or curlier or straighter as the fad may be, so, even without the photographers help, Victorian ideals must have called for perfectly smooth figures, with no creases and wrinkles in the torso. What was the fashion conscious woman to do?
First off, wear a corset. Corsets are fantastic for providing a smooth, hard base to keep bodices wrinkle free. Also, a properly fitted garment will be much better at staying in place and smooth (which will be partly why women in expensive dresses are less likely to be wrinkled). In addition the weight of the skirts must have helped to pull the bodices down and keep them smooth. Finally, bodices were often boned and held in place with hidden waistbands, which would have kept them upright and in place.
Whilst all of these do help, I still find that some of my Victorian bodices wrinkle and pull, or (worse yet), show clear lines where my bosom (or lack thereof) meets the top of my corset.
I’d worried and worked on this problem for a while, but couldn’t think of a way to completely fix it, until last week when I examined a garment (one of the fantastic wedding dresses) which may be the key to the ideal Victorian figure.