Stays; walls of defence about a lady’s shape…

As mentioned in my last post side hoops and panniers moulded the lower half of the eighteenth century woman but stays formed the top half of the eighteenth century silhouette. The Snowshill example below dates from the 1770’s and is a good example of how the rigid garment would provide a solid foundation on which to create the desired form and fashion of the period.

This particular set of stays is a fine example of the skilled construction and engineering of the stay maker; it is heavily boned with 5 hip tabs made from Gloucester green wool twill and lined with linen. It is rigid to the touch and of such miniscule proportions by comparison to modern waists one can only imagine the discomfort suffered by its wearer. Closer study of this garment reveals small concessions to comfort; kid leather binds its edges so as to minimise abrasion when worn against the wearers skin.

The rigidity of such garments ensured the wearer kept a rigid posture, a very physical embodiment of uprightness and virtue that was a becoming facet of a lady. To add further rigidity to an already stiff undergarment stay busks were sometimes added. Stay busks were often worn on special occasions and presented as love tokens as can be seen with examples from the Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. LJ says:

    Another triumphant and informative piece, fantastic detail and leaves us, the viewer, on the edge of our seats eagerly awaiting the next instalment of this majestic series.


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