Annie Jenness Miller:
from Dress, 1888
Annie Jenness Miller, a famous lecturer and author on the subject of dress reform, was the editor of the alternative dress magazine Dress. What follows is the magazine's explanation of her ideas on under-clothing. The idea was to reduce bulk and weight, thereby making it easier for women to be mobile. By today's standards, the system is still cumbersome, but in the 1880s, it was revolutionary...
"OUR OWN SYSTEM.
And now we come to the single garment that takes the place of petticoats—the leglettes, and we are wholly prepared for the burst of surprise and horror with which this garment will be greeted by many—leglettes, a garment clothing each leg separately, as its name suggests—a name coined, by the way, in the modest anxiety not to encroach upon the masculine word trousers. And why not a divided garment for clothing woman’s legs as well as man’s? Were these useful members not given woman for the same purpose that they were given to man? Nothing in their anatomical construction would suggest any other conclusions; and why, then, clothe them differently when, by so clothing them, freedom and grace of movement are both sacrificed.
We anticipate, however, that it will be easy to reconcile the feminine world to leglettes when it becomes widely known that a celebrated actress wears her stage petticoats with a dividing seam stitched into them—a fashion which has had many followers among the social leaders during the past season.
And these leglettes are a most unoffending garment when
viewed with unprejudiced eyes. They clothe the legs easily and are made on a
yoke, fitting perfectly over the hips without semblance of band, pressure or
weight upon the waist. And are they attractive or ugly to look upon? That
depends. The Turkish leglettes, made of surah silk in dainty shades, a
material that wears well, is light and graceful, or in some soft woolen
goods, of well-chosen color, or even in cotton fabric, certainly gain in
beauty beside the petticoat, which is a most unmeaning and unnecessary
encumbrance to the lower part of the body; while the aggregation of flannel,
cotton, or quilted petticoats, worn one over the other becomes intolerable.
Moreover, the Turkish leglettes (or divided petticoat) are so full as to
defy detection when in repose, and are far more graceful in general outline.
Are the leglettes warm? Again, why not? They can be made with inner lining to suit the season, and reason assures one that any garment fitted properly to a member protects it better than when hung upon it; and in cold weather the air circulates under the petticoat so that sufficient protection for the legs can only be obtained by overclothing the hips and abdomen, while the leglettes furnish equal warmth and weight to every part.
And does not the shape of the body show through the outer
drapery? Truth compels us to confess that it does not, to the degree that
our artistic sense demands; in fact the difference to the eye between the
petticoated and legletted woman is so very slight that one needs to have
direct attention called to the change before it is suspected, in most
instances. But if woman’s proper shape were suggested through her drapery,
why should a wail of protest ascend to heaven over so desirable a result,
adding as it would to gracefulness of carriage, for just that exquisite
continuity of relationship between the upper and lower portions of the body
is needed to preserve the essential harmony of movement and general
Nothing could be more inartistic than the present fashion of bringing the upper portion of the body into great prominence, and disguising the lower part, nor more vulgar, according to correct canons of good taste. It is this very fashion that is responsible for the immodest and often indecent exposure of the upper part of the figure about which so much has been said in the society journals; and until proportion is admitted into women’s dress by successive steps in the right direction, each step directed toward restoring the human figure to its primeval shape, we shall be confronted by offensive violations of taste and decency in woman’s dress.
The gown form—the foundation upon which all drapery is designed—may be made of silk, silesia, or any firm, soft-finished substance suitable for lining purposes. This gown form is a waist and skirt combined, fitting the body smoothly without great tub-ness in the lower part, yet so arranged in shape that graceful drapery can be formed upon it, and the weight evenly supported by each member upon which it rests. Upon this correct foundation dresses of various styles of drapery and trimming can be adapted, and as the popular taste is educated to higher artistic forms, perfect detail will be added to perfect healthfulness.
Fig. 6 shows the model bodice which we have made to take the
place of the corset where one will insist on some sort of boned waist
(description and price–list can be found elsewhere), and Fig.7 is cut of the
bosom–support, patterns of which are for sale, since very few women could
afford the price of the finished garment, while almost any woman can make
one for herself from jean, coutille, or sateen. Either the model bodice with
bones, or the bosom support without, can be used for a slight support to the
form if one must have something, and in this way the entire system of
underclothing is provided for, with no decidedly objectionable features,
although we believe, from personal experience, that as a perfect system of
physical development comes to be part of the regular educational duty, and
healthful dress "gorm form," supports will be less and less required.
Fig. 6 shows the bodice which we have designed especially to take the place of the corset for those who desire to leave off that garment, and yet feel that they must wear some sort of boned waist. The shape, which depends wholly upon its curves, is that of a corset, and a very few slender, best-quality whalebones are used. The chemise–top has two uses, beauty and utility; the former is furnished by the dainty lace–edge and ribbon which finishes it, and the latter by the support given to the bosom from the shoulders. This bodice is kept in stock in two qualities of material, and in fourteen different bust-measures, from 28 to 44. We can also have it made to order in silk, sateen, or satin. Price Jean, $1.50; coutille, $2.00. To order Sateen, $3.50 ; silk, $5.00 ; satin, $5.00.