Originally Posted by p.s
Also, European clothing from the 1600's...shoot, before the 1920's, was uncomfortable. I love my Italian driving moc shoes, but would not want to wear the corsets, unpadded heels, or muff like things that Europeans wore.
Whoa, now, veering off-topic, but the fashions in Europe between the 1600s vs. at least the late 1800s were really very different. I am no expert, but I've spent plenty of time in 1580s-ish European working-woman's wear, and I find it extremely comfortable. Europe at that time was in a mini-ice-age, which means their temperatures were usually below 70 degrees, and it made sense to wear underlayers of linen (very comfortable) and outer layers of wool. Where I live this is not practical in summer, but is very comfortable in fall, winter, and spring.
In fact, the other day I had on a long-sleeved shirt underneath a loose thin-wale cotton corduroy jumper, with one of my long (simple) costume aprons, and I had to laugh at how much I probably looked like a woman from the early 1600s, at least at a distance. (I also love the over-the-knee rolled socks that I wear with my costumes). And I was SO comfortable. I love wearing long skirts - and, as a person who chronically wipes her hands on her skirts, I find long aprons to be extremely practical, and wear one whenever I think of it. Linen is wonderful for undergarments, and wool is wonderful for outerwear.
This was before corsets hit the working class, though. A good fitted (boned) bodice can be as comfortable or more comfortable than a bra.
I will give you this: shoes have made a big improvement, with rubber soles and arch supports. And I do like wearing underpants, but not everyone even these days does!
I would generally agree with those who feel that several hundred years ago, average working people were not necessarily feeling any more oppressed by their lifestyle than we are now. I think it's common to say "what we are used to is the superior way," but I would imagine a woman of several hundred years ago would find many of our
cultural norms and expectations oppressive.