What did EdwardianVictorian women do when they had to use the bathroom

Dave Hudson

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Apr 15, 2011
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Hello Everyone!

I was at school today and suddenly struck by this question which has plagued me all day!!!

What did Edwardian/Victorian women do when they had to use the bathroom? Did they actually undo all of their petticoats, corsets, etc., only to redo them minutes later? Would attendants have been placed in ladies restrooms for that purpose?

This goes for the men as well. Were zipper flies invented yet? I thought that zippers themselves were fairly new in 1912 and probably not on clothing. What did the men do?

I have some other questions regarding this offbeat, but I'll wait on them.

David
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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David, I was told by my Edwardian relatives that they didn't wear anything like panties or briefs or boxers (although I'm sure that's not altogether true! After all, I've seen pantaloons!) That it was like wearing kilts, which made body functions easier to deal with.

Kyrila
 
J

John Meeks

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Ha!

I'm not supposed to be able to answer this - being a guy! But...my Grandmother once let me in on the secret!

Crotchless drawers, old man...crotchless drawers...!

Also, as a boy in the 1950's, I remember 'button' flys, myself. Awful things. But you couldn't have the same nasty accident I once had with a zip...!

Better I leave it at that...!

John M
 
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John Meeks

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It just occurred to me....

Are you old enough for this stuff?

John M
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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So far as women go, corsets did not go down that far, so they would not have needed to have been "undone". The petticoat(s) could simply be lifted up and out of the way along with the skirt. The underpants themselves were kind of a long legged affair to about the knees, I think and I believe that they had an open slit between the legs for convenience. Randy or Shelley, if they are following this thread, can tell you more exactly about the style of women's underwear at the time than I can.

Men's pants had a button fly....haven't you ever see a pair of Levi's button fly jeans? I think they still make them. I don't imagine that negotiating the rest room was all that different for men than it is today.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Zippers are a particular fascination of mine (oh dear)- patented in 1893 by a man named Judson, they were exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair. They didn't work too well and he only sold 20 of them to the US Postal Service for use on canvas mailbags. They were called hookless fasteners. In 1913 Mr. Sundback improved the design a bit and sold some to the Army-they tended to rust shut however. Goodrich (he of blimp and rubber fame) bought up 150,000 and put them on rubber galoshes. And so they took off from there around 1923. Then there's the velcro story- but that is NOT an Edwardian thing.... so button flies on Titanic. And still seen in some sailors' Navy!
 

Kris Muhvic

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Sep 26, 2008
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David-

Your question is not silly; a very practical observation, considering the complex nature of garments at this time!

John mentioned "crotchless" drawers...yes, although they were advertised as "open" back then. Corsets could pose a daunting task, however, most had hook-and-eye or button closures in the front (lacing in the back). Stockings ended at knee or thigh level, with the help of garters. Other than wrinkling the skirts, I do think the...procedure, with practice, could be done with limited mishaps.

OK- I hope I stated that in the most delicate manner! One thing I notice, regading chamber pots, is they usually have handles. I wonder, never using one myself, if they were not...held in place...as opposed to just sitting on it(!).

As far as men were concerned, yes buttons on trousers, and on union suits (then the predominant form of male unergarments) in the strategic area, would place "nature's call" ...er...within reach(!!!). Of course, let us not forget the back-flap...

I'm red! Hope this helps!

Kris
 
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John Meeks

Guest
Here's another thought prompted by David's question which really does have me scratching my head. Perhaps the ladies can assist...

How do you cope with this problem when you're wearing a "hobble" skirt...?

Extremely puzzled

John M
 
Nov 22, 2000
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John, I think it came under the heading of "bladder & bowel control" hence the pained expressions on the faces of many a fashionable lady of that era.

Geoff
 
May 8, 2001
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Shelly. I recently started to (slowly) collect Columbian Exposition memorabilia. Started out with the commemorative fifty-cent pieces, then a spoon, a token, an article, a small booklet, newspaper, and finally a very large hardbound colorized book. (The coinshop owner smiles when he sees me walk in!) When I dig this out of my safe, I will have to see if there is any mention of it, or maybe even a painting of sorts. Any idea what building he was in? To think that the beautiful Ferris wheel was sold for $1800.00, but no one could get it dismantled, and they finally blew it up with 300 pounds of dynamite in 1906. (Interesting Link about it… www hydeparkhistory.org newsletter.html)
Colleen
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Going to my grandparents' house in the backhills of Kentucky was like going back in time. I remember using my mamaw's chamber pot because I was too scared to go to the outhouse. Of course, I was small enough as a child to actually sit on it, but it wasn't that big, and I'm sure the grown-ups had to hold it in place.

As for hobble skirts (sigh!), the things we women have had to put up with to be beautiful for you men!

Kyrila
 

Dave Hudson

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Apr 15, 2011
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Look at what I've started!

Interesting information. That's all I'll say...interesting.

I was puzzled to hear that a chamber pot had to be held, and that led me to wonder how it was used, but on later consideration, I've decided to not even ask.

Okay, here's my other question that may raise even more eyebrows:

Was toilet paper invented yet? And if not, what was used? This leads me to the eternal question: what on earth was toilet soap? (do I want to know)

What did they do? What DID they DO?!

David
 
May 8, 2001
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David. Sears and Roebucks catalogs worked very well. (This, according to a few family members who lived through the depression and said they were lucky to have a pot to pee in.)
smile.gif

Colleen
 
Apr 11, 2001
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David- we have been down this road before under domestic life on the Gilded Age topic, but heck- I'm always delighted to extoll Mr. Crapper and Company. Please run-do not walk to the Virtual Toilet Paper Museum- which has everything you never wanted to know about the evolution of the "bathroom tissue" with beautiful graphics and spectacular ROLL pix over the decades. Enjoy. Don't squeeze the Charmin Mr. Whipple.
http://www.nobodys-p erfect.com/vtpm
 
May 9, 2001
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The picture of "Creation" had me wiping the tears from my eyes! ROTFLOL!

From my dad who was a farmer for many years in West Texas back in the old days: 1920 - 1950

Corn husks
Corn cobs
Cotton (left over from harvest)
and yes, sometimes your hand and a bucket of water.

Considering that Titanic didn't have a cesspool holding tank onboard, I can only imagine what might have been left floating in the ship's wake.
Needles to say, I wouldn't want to go swimming around in the river after Titanic steamed past on her way out of Southampton.


Yuri
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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David H., toilet soap simply refers to soap used for washing oneself. 'Toilet' is used in the old sense of the business of getting clean, dressed, hair done and so on. It later became a euphemism for what the English called a lavatory or a water closet. You'll notice WCs on drawings of Titanic.

Chamber pots were best used in a commode chair, which is a large chair with a round hole in the seat. I believe such things are still around for the use of the infirm.

A fine old custom in England and maybe elsewhere was to paint pictures of unpopular politicians on the inside of the chamber pot.