Chemise / undershirt

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While a woman’s heavy and expensive outer garments would most likely never be washed, her under garments or chemises would be changed every day. During the Renaissance, as a reaction to the many terrifying and little understood diseases and plagues that ravaged Europe, people began to believe that washing, particularly the communal steam baths favoured in the middle ages, would open the pores and allow airborne ‘miasmas’ into the body. Instead, linen was used to absorb all of the grime of the day, washing being restricted to the face and hands, and it was believed that very closely woven fabrics could actually keep out unwanted diseases. These long undershirts of fine while linen would often protrude from underneath a lady’s outer garments at the neck and wrists and would be a visual indication of her health and purity. At the same time a lady could show off her wealth and cultural refinement by wearing chemises with delicately embroidered cuffs

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