Unlacing the Victorian Lady, at an Historic Girls’ Night Out

    Today, the women of Rye happily conduct their business on Purchase Street and attend parties wearing anything they please, from gym gear to runway fashion. They are even allowed to laugh aloud.  

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Published March 23, 2012 4:29 PM
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Today, the women of Rye happily conduct their business on Purchase Street and attend parties wearing anything they please, from gym gear to runway fashion. They are even allowed to laugh aloud.

By Soldi Foster and Liza Bainbridge

A&EgirlsToday, the women of Rye happily conduct their business on Purchase Street and attend parties wearing anything they please, from gym gear to runway fashion. They are even allowed to laugh aloud.

Our Victorian predecessors, however, would’ve been demurely teetering along the same street looking pale, breathless, and fashionably ailing.  Tightly laced into their corsets, trying to achieve the impossible 15-inch waist, many women endured a displaced or prolapsed uterus and a permanently deformed skeleton.

We learned all of this at a recent Rye Historical Society girls’ night – the first in a series of fun, informative evenings especially for the women of Rye. Surrounded by an impressive collection of exquisite Victorian dresses, corsets, undergarments, and accessories from the Square House collection, we sipped wine and mingled.

Dressed for the part in a beautiful silk Victorian gown (and laced into a corset of course), Sheri Jordan (Director) and Jennifer Plick (Curator) delivered a fascinating, humorous, and insightful presentation about the lives and more specifically, the fashions of the Victorian Lady. We went from the outer layer of exquisitely beaded and embroidered evening gowns to the steampunk corset, petticoats, and hoops — down to her unmentionables.

We look forward to more of these enlightening and enlivening evenings. They’re a great way to get a glimpse into Rye’s rich history and the lives of women who walked these streets before us.

At the next Girls’ Night Out at the Square House, April 19 at 7:30 p.m., the Rye Historical Society will focus on the Edwardian Woman, and the period leading up to World War I. That’s “Downton Abbey” days — but from an American view.

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