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Doctor Curmudgeon® Fashion and Misery

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

In the evening, when the family gathers to relax, chat and watch television, we find ourselves drawn to PBS dramas of the Victorian Era.

We can escape our own time and immerse ourselves in a different period.

We can lose ourselves in character driven plots, opulent designs, and juicy dialogue.

As I sit here in my baggy sweat pants and almost-matching baggy top, I allow my mind to wonder about the clothes of that era.

The Bustle!

From Wikipedia:

A bustle is a padded undergarment used to add fullness, or support the drapery, at the back of women’s dresses in the mid-to-late 19th century.[1][2] Bustles are worn under the skirt in the back, just below the waist, to keep the skirt from dragging. Heavy fabric tended to pull the back of a skirt down and flatten it. As a result a woman’s petticoated skirt would lose its shape during everyday wear (from merely sitting down or moving about).

Why, on earth, did this piece of fashionable torture appear on the scene?

Before the fashion tyrants gave birth to the bustle, there were huge skirts shaped like bells. Women wore big hoops under yards of fabric. In these hoop skirts, mobility was severely restricted.

And so, it was around the 1870s that the bustle reared its ugly head. It was theorized as being less restrictive than the cage that nestled under a woman’s skirt.

A man by the name of Alexander Douglas patented this ridiculous contraption in 1857. But it took many years before the fashion industry took notice.

We can place some of the blame on the bride of President Grover Cleveland. Frances Folsom married the president in 1886.

One of the most celebrated fashion designers and arbiters of these times was Charles Worth. He was an Englishman who had created a well-known house of fashion in Paris. It was called, of course, Maison Worth.

Since this was the first presidential (and only) wedding to ever be held in the White House, a world famous designer was required to dress the bride.

With the First Lady wearing this weird device, it became more popular. And Worth then popularized it even more by using it in his designs.

It is beyond my imagination to think of a woman traipsing through streets of the day, dragging her heavy skirts through muddy streets that were sprinkled with detritus and horse manure.

I lean back in my comfortable chair, my baggy sweat pants equally comfortable and I wonder….. How can you sit down on your bustle?

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.

Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.

SERMO www.sermo.com “talk real world medicine”