Thursday, December 11, 2008

Calling all history buffs

I'm spending a lot of time today researching women's undergarments from 1917, mainly because I need to know:

a) How hard would it be to get dressed in the morning? Would corsetry have been impractical for a woman who lived alone?
b) How common was it for women to live alone anyway?

I doing this because both these things bear on my screenplay (I'm in the throes of revision at the moment). Even though I'm OK with my story being historically anachronistic on some levels, I still like to imagine my characters' daily lives from the moment they get up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night. Plus, if one of my gals is wearing the Spirella Corset (above), she's going to have a lot of trouble running for the streetcar. I need to know these things.

Now I can't stop thinking about people in my favorite old-timey books, and wondering how they got dressed in the morning. How did Caroline Ingalls do it? Also, what about the New York City tenement women with five kids and nary a husband in sight? Who laced them up in the early mornings by lamplight as they readied themselves for a long day at the shirtwaist factory?

Anyway, if any of my readers has any insight into either a) corsetry for singles and b) the incidence of single, apartment-dwelling women circe 1917, drop me a line, would you? In the meantime, I go to the Google button on my internet machine.

Update: Speaking of digging through old stuff, The Nitrate Film Interest Group of the Association of Moving Image Archivists has a Flickr photostream of unidentified film stills; if you think you have what it takes, head on over here and help ID them.


Mariana said...

Everything you need to know about corsets you can find on this extremely informative and entertaining site.

Thanks to this site I discovered Hercule Porot almost surely wore a corset!

Levi Stahl said...

Though you can probably get better info from, say, a statistical abstract of the United States or a history of private life in New York, a book you might take a look at is David E. Kyvig's Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940.

Drawn from surveys, census data, and a variety of other sources, it's a data-based look at what daily life was like back then, and how things changed over those decades. Because the dailiness of the past is endlessly fascinating to me, I found it to be an extremely interesting book, and, knowing it covers issues like sex, marriage, and cohabitation, I think it may help you with these questions.