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Utah Centennial Studies


But Mom, I Have Nothing to Wear Packet A


Antique clothing captures grace of yesteryear
excerpt from Deseret News, August 29, 1993
by Ann Whiting Orton - Deseret News special writer

Rigid bones keep Victorian dresses in place. S.L. shop specializes in white linens.

Helen Whittman knows more about bones than an orthopedic surgeon, but her bone collection lies outside the body. She collects Victorian costumes that hold their shape with a series of constricting bodice, waist and hip bones.

"A typical bodice, though it may look loose and flowing on the surface," Whittman explained, "is underlined with rigid layers of bones. And that bodice layer covers a corset filled with bones. With a costume like this, a woman couldn't even lift her arms."

She described the fashionable encumbrances that weighted women down in the turn-of-the-century dressing.

"When women finally parted with the 40- or 50-pound hoop skirts and bustles," she said, "they were grateful for a tiny 'fanny pad,' two unwired petticoats and a little boned corset."

With a lacy Victorian white tea dress, another period costume, the fashionable restrictions of the time were all but eliminated.

Barbara Fegley, owner of Distelfink Antiques in Sugar House, specializes in the delicate Victorian paper white linens. Meticulously handmade laces accent bodices, sleeves and hems in the vintage dresses.

"The people of this period were very social," Fegley explained. "They practiced tea time, stopped to visit neighbors and left calling cards. The social regimen required exquisite dress."