Have youever read a historical romance where the hero has his lady out of her clothes in about 3 seconds flat? How realistic is that? I can say from experience that getting dressed takes some serious time and effort. Getting undressed would take less time, but still a heck of a lot longer than a few seconds. Here is an example of what a noblewoman in England in the year 1530-1545 might be wearing.
Layer 1: Chemise. shift. This is the layer closest to the skin, so it should be easily laundered (unless you’re high nobility, and then the chemise will be loaded with embroidery)
Layer 2: Farthingale/hoopskirt. In the 1500s this shape should be a cone, not a bell like in the 19th century
Layer 3: Corset. This was not intended to give an hour glass shape like in the mid-1800′s. Have you ever tried to edge your hand inside the top of a corset or had your hero do that to his lover? Not as easily done as you might think, depending on how tightly it is laced. This is an actual corset from the late 16th century
Layer 4: Bumroll. To make the skirt stand out from the body and take some of the weight off the hips. A stuffed half-donut that tied around the hips. (no picture)
Layer 5: Kirtle (or petticoat and bodies). In hot weather or for casual dress (or the lower class), this could be worn alone.
Layer 6: Partlet. A neck covering for warmth and ostentation rather than modesty. Often plain black, but sometimes richly embroidered or lined with fur, edged with pearls or other small jewels. Later in the century it evolved into the back standing open ruff.
Layer 7: Forepart. A decorative panel of rich fabric that was pinned to the kirtle to show through the split in the over skirt. Often matched the lower sleeves. A woman with a couple of these could mix and match to extend her wardrobe. The black and white photo is of an actual forepart rom the period.
Layer 8: Gown. Sometimes the gown was one piece. More often it was a skirt that hooked or tied onto the bodice edge. (no photo)
Layer 9: Sleeves. In Tudor times, uppersleeves were stitched to the dress, but undersleeves were tied on underneath and could be changed to match the forepart. (no photo)
Layer 10: Coife. A small linen cap to protect the heavier, more expensive headdress from oil in the hair. (no photo)
Layer 11: Head dress. In Tudor Engand in 1535, this would have been a Gable Hood or a French Hood. These would have been ornate and decorated with pearls and gems.
Layer 12: Shoes and stockings. Stockings would have been made from fabric cut on the bias and sewn together. Knitted stockings were still another 20 or 30 years from being introduced. Shoes were often a Mary Jane style, with very square toes.
Layer 13: Jewelry. For the high nobility, this would have included necklaces, brooches, rings and girdles (belts made from strung pearls and jewels, or silk cords). But just about every garment was embellished with jewels, from the neck edges of the dresses, the edges of the split in the skirt, to the sleeve slashes. One of these complete outfits probably weighed a ton! Or at least 20 pounds.
I think the layers would have been similar in other times. The Georgians? Definitely. The Victorians? Oh, yeah. Maybe not the Regency period as much, but still layers.
So after reading this, how quickly do you think your hero could get his heroine undressed?