Novelist Deeanne Gist presented at the annual Romance Writers of America conference on the intricacies of Victorian underwear, and the futility of ripping bodices (there's more shirts underneath 'em):
It took an hour for Ms. Gist to squeeze into a dozen layers that a lady would have worn in the 1860s--stockings, garters, bloomers, chemise, corset, crinoline or hoop skirt, petticoats, a shirtwaist or blouse, skirt, vest and bolero jacket. By the end, workshop attendees were skeptical that seductions ever occurred, with so many sartorial barriers.How to Undress a Victorian Lady in Your Next Historical Romance (via MeFi)
"How did they ever have hanky panky?" asked novelist Annie Solomon.
With great effort, it turns out. Women wore blouses under their corsets--making actual bodice ripping fairly pointless. Corsets fastened in front and laced up the back and couldn't be undone in a single passionate gesture. "You'll see pictures of corsets on bare skin. That's completely historically inaccurate," Ms. Gist told her audience.