Watch How Women Got Dressed in the 1800s... Exhausting!
A full outfit for any well-to-do woman of the 19th century consisted mainly of four parts: the linen shift, the corset, petticoat(s), and a fine silk gown. On top of that, they had to put on even more accessories, including padded waist rolls, stockings, garters, separate pockets, and kerchiefs.
Women who were less well-off wore basically the same thing, except made from cheaper and simpler materials. Most wore a linen apron or pinafore on top of their dresses, to help keep the outfit clean while they worked.
During the First World War clothes became simpler and more practical, even for the rich. By World War 2, most servants joined the military, and wealthy women left at home were forced to contend with their own clothing and hair.
The video below was a project by costume curator Pauline Rushton, in collaboration with the Liverpool Museum. She put together a detailed video reenactment of what it was like to get dressed in the 19th century – from linen shift to silk gown.