Tag : chemise

Amazing Historical Underwear: Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chemise

There are numerous undergarment relics to be found around the world. One of these can be seen in Warwickshire, England, at Coughton Court. This manor house is the seat of the famous English Catholic family, the Throckmortons, who have been in residence there for six hundred years.

The relic is purportedly the chemise worn by Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots during her execution on February 8th, 1587. This Catholic queen was beheaded in Scotland on the orders of her Protestant cousin Elizabeth I, due to various plots by Mary which threatened her seat on the throne of England as well as her life.

The queen’s death was anything but clean and precise. Her beheading required three attempts before it was achieved, and the whole spectacle was a very grisly end to the life of a woman and an aristocrat.

Considered to have been worn for the occasion, the long white linen chemise was worn as an “underdress”.  Low in the collar and wide across the shoulders (which, if genuine, might explain the absence of bloodstains), it has been carbon dated to the year of the Scottish queen’s death in 1587, and it is stitched with the words, “of the holy martyr, Mary, Queen of Scots”. It has been taken very seriously as a genuine relic by devout Catholics ever since the sixteenth century.


Whether the chemise is genuine we will never know – though that likelihood is somewhat questionable. Not only due to the absence of any stain. Contemporary reports stated that her undergarments were all crimson red – to represent a Catholic martyr. Whether this is true of fabricated is a mystery.

There are also reports that everything connected with the execution was ordered to be burnt – from the block and the scaffold to the queen’s clothing. Yet it is not a stretch to imagine that loyal supporters would not have secreted away whatever they could to be kept as relics of the event.

We will never know. Personally, I think it more likely that, yes, the chemise was owned and worn by the Scottish queen – just not on that last grisly day when she lost her head.

Where Have All The Petticoats Gone?

Like other undergarments, petticoats have a long and illustrious history, the story of which we will embark on another time. But the question for today remains: where have all the petticoats gone?


 A petticoat goes by many other names: chemise, slip, camisole if covering only waist up, half-slip if just covering the waist down. True petticoats are often puffy and layered; slips or chemises are sleek and more fitted.


Once a staple of everyday wear, with many of them in every woman’s wardrobe, a petticoat is traditionally an underskirt. The petticoat or slip was, even thirty years ago, considered by many to be an essential wardrobe item for any well-dressed “lady” while wearing a dress or skirt. Whether a dress or skirt was sheer or not, a lady was not considered to be fully dressed unless, like stockings or pantyhose, she was wearing a petticoat. Many older ladies continue to view a petticoat as a daily essential item of clothing.


 Oftentimes a petticoat was required to give outer clothing its shape; layers of tulle petticoats were common under full skirted designs in the 1950s. Today, these garments usually have the required petticoat sewn in permanently as part of the whole.

 images petticoat

Slips were also very handy in disguising the lines of bras, underwear and stocking suspenders. Coloured underwear worn under paler clothing was not an issue either, when a slip was worn.

Today, the fashion of wearing petticoats or slips for daily wear, which was common in the 1950s and 1960s, has passed.  But while the fashion has changed, and many women (particularly younger women) have the philosophy that “less is more” when it comes to wearing a slip or petticoat, there are still times when almost every woman will be glad to have at least one of these garments in her wardrobe:

  • A slip allows a dress or skirt to hang smoothly
  • Warmth: want to wear that summery dress but it’s just a tad chilly? That extra layer underneath, while thin, can make the world of difference
  • Wearing a slip makes one feel just that little bit more put-together
  • If you want to wear a full-skirted dress and minimise your waist, wearing a layers petticoat is the perfect way to achieve the look.
  • Sheer dresses or skirts often just need a slip – for modesty and, let’s face it, to look ideal. Wearing a slip is simply classy.
  • Many fabrics can be uncomfortable or chafe against the skin; solution: wear a slip!
  • A slip will protect your clothing from perspiration in hot weather – the downside is that it’s another layer to wear. A cotton slip under synthetic clothing is, however, cooler and more comfortable in the heat than synthetic against skin.



While most of us might not regularly wear a petticoat or slip, they are readily available – and are an investment every classy woman should have in her wardrobe!