Under Where?

Next time you try to pull on one of those lightweight, modern-day wonder-fabric girdles over your bulges, just remember this: In Victorian times, women’s undergarments — at least those of self-respecting, well-appointed fine ladies — typically weighed seven to ten pounds, and women often wore up to thirteen layers under their high-necked, hourglass-shaped dresses.

“First came the drawers, then a chemise was pulled on over that, a corset over the top of that, a petticoat over that, and then there was a bustle,” says Kelly Rasmussen of the Molly Brown House Museum, who adds that the corsets, characteristically embedded with whalebone, were suffocatingly cinched up tightly enough to create a nearly impossible yet coveted eighteen-inch waist. Then the bust spilleth over — or at least one would hope so. And like the rest of us, Rasmussen, who curated Victorian Unmentionables, a show of cast-iron underwear from the museum’s collection, seems just a little bit perturbed by that.

Tour the exhibit — which also includes a smattering of men’s union suits and undershirts (for perspective, perhaps?) and general tidbits of undergarment history — and enjoy the rest of the museum, as well, through April 21; the Molly Brown House is located at 1340 Pennsylvania Street. For details, log on to www.mollybrown.org or call 303-832-4092.
Jan. 21-April 21, 2009

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd