Young women of the Regency era were luckier than their Georgian, and Victorian sisters who lived with the constriction of boned corsets to enhance their unnaturally small waists, and correct posture. The ‘natural Female form’ influenced fashionistas in the Regency era, much to the relief (I should imagine) of the women who lived in this time.
Ancient Greece was in vogue, and as such, the minimalist approach was in. Column dresses with a delicate ruffle, rather than being swamped in yards of fabric, and thick uncomfortable lace. Waists were high, (just under the bust) hoops were gone, and petticoats reduced. Skirts fell in a long straight line to the floor.
Of course it was still important to wear a support garment, however the change in style dictated a shorter corset. Gone was the heaving bosom style, once so popular that went from bust to hip, hooked at the front and laced at the back, with shoulder straps to help keep the sleeves of a dress in place. In it’s place was a corset that could be worn separately, and in some cases used as the dress itself. It was worn over a chemise. Stoc
kings were knee or thigh high, and held in place with garters. In earlier years, petticoats and panniers would be worn over the top, but this changed in the Regency era, and the petticoats were down to just one layer, and only if necessary.
Chemise – this was cotton or linen (easily washed unlike the dresses). Worn next to the skin. Usually short sleeved, with a loose drawstring neck.
Stays (corset)– worn over the top of the chemise for cleanliness. Without this a woman could look flat-chested, as often the gowns had little tailoring to enhance the figure. Could be fastened front or back.
Petticoat – These were often hemmed with lace, so if seen, along with a well turned out ankle, the lace was on show.
Stockings – Tied at the thigh or knee and made from cotton, silk, or wool. Held in place with garters that tied, buckled, or hooked.
Drawers/pantaloons – Until 1806 women wore no drawers! (scandalous) They came to just below the knee, but were not worn by everyone and often the wearer was thought fast!
Men in the Regency era had their own selection of underwear. The undershirt was a relatively new thing, as were men’s drawers. Before this, men simply tucked the long tails of their shirts into their pants. When drawers arrived they were like shorts with a drawstring and flaps that buttoned at the front, and tied below the knee. Often men still went commando rather than having this cumbersome garment under their trousers. Wool or cotton stockings completed the men’s wardrobe, and sometimes he would wear cotton stockings under his silk ones to reduce the appearance of hair.