Did Shakespeare’s Sister Wear Comfy Underwear?

Daniel Huntington (American, 1816-1906). The Sketcher: A Portrait of Mlle Rosina, a Jewess, 1858. Oil on canvas, 39 x 31 3/16 in. (99.1 x 79.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Transferred from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences to the Brooklyn Museum, 97.33

Daniel Huntington (American, 1816-1906). The Sketcher: A Portrait of Mlle Rosina, a Jewess, 1858. Oil on canvas, 39 x 31 3/16 in. (99.1 x 79.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Transferred from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences to the Brooklyn Museum, 97.33

At an event last week supporting the National Women’s History Museum, we learned about women whose major contributions to American history never made it into popular history books. This brought to mind Virginia Woolf’s clever literary representation of a missing, or untold, women’s history: “Judith Shakespeare”, The Bard’s would-be sister. Unsatisfied with the scant and depressing account of women in 16th century Woolf imagined how Shakespeare’s sister—if he had had a sister, and if she were as gifted as he—would have lived. Specifically, Woolf asked whether Judith could have garnered the financial independence and “room of her own” that Woolf concluded were necessary to write Great Works.

In 21st century NYC, happily engaged in the daily struggle for ready cash and a little real estate to call my own, I instead wonder whether Shakespeare’s fictional sister wore comfortable underwear. Can a woman run a business, a family, write a legal brief, or even a grocery list, when her undergarments, poorly designed or made, pull, poke and pinch in all the wrong places? Thank heavens for my 4811s!

-Clara

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Over 30 years ago, in 1977, designer Gale Epstein created a hand-made lingerie set for her friend, Lida Orzeck, crafted out of embroidered handkerchiefs. The original designs were the inspiration for the company name, Hanky Panky. Blending traditional with modern glam looks, Hanky Panky is a fashion favorite of countless celebrities.
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