Ya ever worn an 1860's corset, sweetie???
Don't be so eager to step back in time! I was a (American) Civil War reenactor for about 7 years; did it nearly every weekend from April-November. I actually dressed like that, in 100+F degree heat for 3 days at a shot! You wear:
1. A chemise
6.Under-petticoat (under the hoop)
8.Sometimes, ANOTHER #7
9.A dress, which has about 8 yards of fabric in it
11.Gloves (both #'s 10 & 11 even in hot weather)
As I didn't camp out, I had to drive to events fully dressed, sans the bonnet, gloves & shawl, of course; sometimes 200 miles. You get some mighty funny looks at the Turnpike toll booths, I can tell you!
Seriously, it wasn't all that bad; my corset was a lightweight, comfy model that I made myself. However, I am glad I don't have to wear all that gear daily! When I would get undressed after a reenactment, I literally had to peel the chemise folds out of my flesh (your corset compresses the excess chemise fabric into your skin, and then you sweat). It's like removing the biggest Band-Aid in the world from your skin! Oh, and the X-marks from where the corset laces left their imprint on your spine...such fun! And when the stays start poking through the top or bottom of the corset, and scratch you all day long. Give me sweatpants and t-shirts any day!
Also, people didn't not bathe nor wash their hair as much as we do; look at period pics of women's hair. Know why it's so shiny? NATURAL oils--get it? Yep! They also had no deodorant, nor did they change outer clothing much (you had much more underwear, which you would change and launder, but dress fabrics were usually wool or silk or a mix).
Despite all that, I felt very pretty in my dresses.
Now, DH and I are doing 1776 reenacting (as Continentals, not British or Loyalists--don't tell my British mother, please!
). We must be crazy--we're hand-sewing all our clothing to be authentic--the sewing machine was not invented until the 1840's. Thankfully, women's clothing is simpler in construction, and I think, much prettier than 1860's (you still need a corset, called "stays" then, which is worse than the 1860's model. It's meant to make your torso into an inverted triangle, and push up your "girls", not indent your waistline).
Despite my love of history, and love of reenacting it, I'm a 21st C. girl. Life is far, far better for us now than in any other time period. The "good old days" were not they were cracked up to be. Food is a good example. We take it for granted that we have fresh veggies and fruit year-round. Not back then. You could go for months basically living on starch, with perhaps a tiny bit of nasty meat once in awhile. Scurvy was rampant, due to lack of Vitamin C.
I won't even talk about the lack of dental hygiene...