It’s impossible to even consider attending a Romantic era re-enactment without first understanding the importance of linen in Romantic era clothing. Linen, made from the flax plant, has long been an important fabric. Throughout history it has been know for its versatility. In the romantic era, from 1825 to 1835, linen was used in many different types of clothing, particularly undergarments.
Linen pantalettes were the undergarments of choice for the ladies of the Romantic period. Unlike drawers, pantalettes were longer. Usually they came down to the woman’s knees. They were also commonly decorated. Those who could afford it sometimes had silk pantalettes, but linen was the material of choice for the lower classes.
Another linen item, which a lady of the Romantic era would wear, was a stay. Stays, which are also known as corsets, came back into fashion in the Romantic era, because more emphasis was placed upon the shape of a woman’s waist. Stays were made from multiple layers of cloth, usually linen, with whalebone in channels in between the layers. Romantic era stays, unlike their counterparts from other time periods, were not meant to crush a woman into a false shape. They were only designed to draw attention to a woman’s natural figure. In fact, Romantic era linen stays had gussets at the hips, giving them a rounded appearance, rather than trying to flatten them out.
Depending on the time of year, a woman’s wardrobe changed. Over their linen stays women wore linen chemises and waist petticoats, which were also usually made of linen. However, in winter or outdoors women wore multiple linen petticoats for extra warmth and to support the weight and shape of their over garments. Over garments were generally made of other fabrics, such as wool. Since wool is scratchy to the touch, linen provided a layer of comfort.
When considering Romantic era linen in costumes, we can’t forget the gentlemen either. Men in the Romantic era often wore linen undershirts, for similar reasons to women. Linen was warm, comfortable and easily cleaned. Men’s linen shirts of the time were typically bleached white. Sometimes the shirts were made of muslin, but that was generally reserved for higher classes. Over their linen undershirts, men sometimes wore roll collar vests. Such vests were sometimes made out of linen as well, although they could also be made out of wool, muslin or silk.
So, whether you are looking for Romantic era costumes for men or for women, keep linen in mind. A lot depends on whether you want to portray more common folk or higher classes. No matter what you decide, you’ll be sure to find linen fabric to match your re-enactment project at www.fabrics-store.com