One of the great puzzles of the Victorian era for me has always been the enormity of the apparel that was required for women to be considered appropriately dressed. Outer clothing was just the window dressing; the real burden was in the great multitude of undergarments to be donned.
The day-to-day wardrobe of ladies of quality required, from the skin out: a chemise, stays or corset, corset cover, drawers, first petticoat, second petticoat, bustle, third petticoat, and more. Up to seven layers of petticoats were considered necessary to ensure modesty, entomb a lady’s limbs, and restrict mobility, which was an important aspect of clothing for the upper classes. Only people of wealth and substance could afford to be so immobilized by their clothing that they had to be aided in nearly every ordinary function of life. Sometimes that even included breathing. Cue the swoon.
Women, however, were not the sole sufferers. Well-to-do men also commonly wore corsets through the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
Someone noticed the freedom of movement enjoyed by the working classes in their simpler clothing, and the seeds of rebellion were sewn. Men soon shed their stays and other restrictions. Women were slower to change, and midcentury fashion produced crinolines and metal bustle frames that only added weight, more constraint, and laundry. That may be because there was yet another reason for burdening women with such garments: prudery.
According to some fashion experts, the psychological purpose of all these garments was not so much to protect the body as to prevent the mind from dwelling on it. But the more women piled on undergarments, the more the men noticed. It turns out that propriety has an appeal all its own! Sensing this, sly mavens of fashion alternately lowered and raised necklines, offering glimpses of skin and then quickly hiding it away again. They hemmed petticoats with flourishes of lace to peep out from under skirts, and ankles became the stuff of dreams . . .
And that is the true Victorians’ secret.
About Anyone But A Duke
The youngest of four spirited American sisters, Sarah Bumgarten has studiously avoided her mother’s attempts to find her a titled husband among London’s aristocracy. Now, after an earl’s very public rejection, it seems her ideal mate will be anyone but a duke, a marquis, a baron, or a viscount.
Thankfully, there are no noblemen in sight at Betancourt, the country estate where Sarah takes refuge. Its rightful owner, the Duke of Meridian, sibling to Sarah’s brother-in-law, has been absent for years. Accompanied by her bevy of beloved animals, Sarah delights in refurbishing the once-grand property. But even a self-assured frontier heiress needs help when greedy tenants are threatened by her presence.
Out of nowhere, a stranger jumps into the fray when ruffians attack. Nothing about “Art,” the roguish interloper—now recuperating in the ducal bedchamber—smacks of nobility, with his brazen sensuality, worldly knowledge, and deeply seductive voice. Yet could he be the errant duke? If so, Sarah soon realizes this homecoming promises to be filled with unexpected challenges and passionate possibilities.
About The Author
Betina Krahn is a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty historical and contemporary romances. Her works have won numerous industry awards, including the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Historical Love & Laughter. Visit her on the web at BetinaKrahn.com.