Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles I'm Dr Annie Gray, I'm a food historian but I also worked here at Audley End for many years alongside the various Avis Crocombes. I wore clothing just like that of Mrs Crocombe in the Victorian Way videos but that clothing was in itself modelled on the very clothing that people at the time would have worn and that's what we're going to look at today. Let's start with the basics: underwear. The first thing that Mrs Crocombe would have put on in the morning were her drawers and then her stockings which were held up with garters. Elastic of course hadn't yet been invented. Then Mrs Crocombe would have put her boots on because it's very very hard to put your boots on after you've put your corset on, trust me! So here were have boots, and then this which is called a chemise. It essentially is a sort of night shirt affair, made out of linen which was very very absorbent so that all the sweats and all of the various bodily fluids that were inevitably being pumped out in the heat of the kitchen would be absorbed by the linen. It was washable, it would take a lot of hard punishment as well. Then on top of the chemise, as you can see, Mrs Crocombe's corset, the fundamental foundation garment of the Victorian woman. The corset's construction for Mrs Crocombe is fairly simple. If Mrs Crocombe had been Lady Crocombe, or Lady Braybrooke for example, her corset would have changed much much more throughout the decades of the Victorian era, following fashion. Those people like Mrs Crocombe who were below stairs though tended not to shift their figure in line with prevailing fashion quite so much. Down here at the front you have a thing called a busk which tends to be of metal and is very very tough. This gives you this nice smooth figure at the front, and then you've got whale bone all the way around the sides. You can buy plastic substitutes for whale bone, and that's what this one is constructed with. If we turn it round briefly you can see the way it works. There is a set of laces up the back, these stay laced all the time. And then at the front you've got these ties, these fasteners. The big advantage of an arrangement like this is that a woman like Mrs Crocombe could have done up her own corset. Naturally Mrs Crocombe didn't have anyone to help her dress but she could have got into this very quickly and easily by herself. Next up we need to add some bulk. The Victorian figure in the 1880s was one which had quite a wide hemline, again with working class women the basic figure didn't change that much throughout a lot of the Victorian period. Crinolines for example which came in for the upper classes in the 1850s which were big wire cages, were often forbidden for use in the kitchens. Mistresses of grand houses didn't want their cooks looking like they did. Some women wore many petticoats perhaps starched or with lots of pleats. This is a very practical alternative. Our Mrs Crocombe does have to operate in the modern world and get changed very quickly and do it all by herself often under stressful circumstances, so this is the kind of permissible cheat which women at the time possibly would have used and certainly is very very useful when you're interpreting history and food for the public. You'll note that nearly everything ties up. It's a very practical solution. Buttons burst, hooks come undone, but a tie like that is very very secure, will stay done up and is very easy to do up as well. And more importantly perhaps, at the end of a 14 hour work day it's very easy to just let it all drop to the floor, spring open your corset and breathe a sigh of relief as you crawl into bed. Once this very simple petticoat is on it's time to put the outer layer on: the gown. In houses like this there were not in the 1880s necessarily uniforms for staff apart from those that appeared in front of guests: housemaids, butlers and livery for the footmen. Below stairs in areas like this though where servants were not seen it was much more common to have something like a print that perhaps the lady of the house would give to her servants at Christmas as their Christmas gift to make into their gowns. We know that sometimes zones were colour-coded as well. The reason for this was not just because it looked pretty, but also so that the senior servants, the butler, the housekeeper or Mrs Crocombe the cook, could look out of their window and immediately identify any member of staff who was where they shouldn't be. This gown does up with a mixture of the Victorian favourite, the hook and eye, and buttons. Because Mrs Crocombe was the cook, and therefore of rather higher status than her maids, it also has a level of detail that you might not find if you were to look at the maids' gowns. For example, she has this rather sweet lace collar which could be removed and washed separately. Very very important to always think about the practicality of washing. One of the biggest bugbears in women's fashion today is that things don't have pockets. Well, Mrs Crocombe being a woman of some means has put a pocket in her dress. She might use it for example to keep her spectacles in. Finally of course Mrs Crocombe always wears a cap, as indeed did many other women. Certainly lower status women would always tie their hair up. Her hair which would have been relatively long would have been centre-parted, taken back behind her ears and then tied in a bun at the back of her head. That bun was very important as it meant that the cap would stay on with judicious use of a hairpin. Once more, the number of pleats on the cap reflects Mrs Crocombe's status as the cook. If you were to look at one of the lower maids, they probably wouldn't have quite as many pleats, certainly not as carefully sewn and not as well starched. The final thing Mrs Crocombe needs is something all cooks keep in their belts at all times in the kitchen: a handy cloth, again made of absorbent linen and again very washable. It's absolutely vital in a 19th century kitchen like this because these cloths not only act as general wiper-uppers and hand towels, but also as oven gloves. It's doubly vital when working as our Mrs Crocombe does in an environment which is conserved like this. Spills of red wine on the floor or things that are inappropriate on surfaces need to be wiped up as quickly as possible, so from a practical point of view a cloth like this is vital because it means that smears of choc-ices on furniture and cherries up the wall can be removed as soon as possible so that we can continue to preserve this Victorian kitchen for future generations. Excellent. Mrs Crocombe is dressed and ready to go!