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Corsets

Page history last edited by Cara Prendergast 7 years, 5 months ago

 

 

 

 

Corsets in the Eighteenth Century

 

 In the Eighteenth Century, what we today call a corset, was more commonly referred to as 'stays' or 'a pair of stays'.

 

The OED defines a pair of stays as : A laced underbodice, stiffened by the insertion of strips of whale-bone (sometimes of metal or wood) worn by women (sometimes by men) to give shape and support to the figure. The use of the plural is due to the fact that stays were originally (as they still are usually) made in two pieces laced together.

 

Stays in this context are derived from the Old French estayer (modern French étayer ), meaning to prop up or support. 

 

Below are reference to 'Stays' or 'A pair of stays', made throughout the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Highlighted entries are those specifically from the Eighteenth century.

 

1608   T. Middleton Trick to catch Old-one i. sig. A3v,   Stay, (a thing few women can do..therefore they had need weare stayes).

1682   London Gaz. No. 1762/4   A pair of hair-coloured Sattin Stays.

1697   J. Vanbrugh Provok'd Wife ii. 18   With nothing on but her Stays, and her under scanty quilted Petticoat.

1707   G. Farquhar Beaux Stratagem iii. 22   Come, unlace your Steas.

1714   J. Gay Araminta in R. Steele Poet. Misc. 90   The rich Stays her Taper Shape confine.

1831   Ann. Reg., Chron. 26 Apr. 67/1   The Jury..returned a verdict, ‘that the deceased died of apoplexy, produced by her stays being too tightly laced.’

1843   J. W. Carlyle Lett. I. 231   Her improved appearance in a pair of stays and a gown.

1846   F. W. Fairholt Costume in Eng. 267   The men's custom of sometimes wearing stays.

1846   Dickens Dombey & Son (1848) iii. 23   Susan..had suddenly become so very upright that she seemed to have put an additional bone in her stays.

1867   J. Hatton Tallants iv,   His enemies said he wore stays and slept in gloves.

1885   Truth 28 May 850/2   The stays..displace the bust, pushing the bosom up almost to the neck.

in figurative context.

1824   Byron Don Juan: Canto XV lxxxv. 47   But Virtue's self, with all her tightest laces, Has not the natural stays of strict old age.

1826   Scott Jrnl. 29 Oct. (1939) 257   Beauvais is called the Pucelle, yet..she wears no stays—I mean, has no fortifications.

1842   Tennyson Talking Oak xv, in Poems (new ed.) II. 67   The slight she-slips of loyal blood,..Strait-laced, but all-too-full in bud For puritanic stays.

 

From the highlighted entries, we begin to understand the significance of 'stays' in the Eighteenth Century. We see them as objects of sexuality and perhaps an aid to protecting female virtue - they must be unlaced before the female form can be gained access to. We also see them in their intended role, as items used to shape the female form. These are themes which shall reappear throughout the literature and writings of the century.

 

As mentioned in the OED definition, here we see evidence of stays having been worn by both men and women. This entry however, shall focus exclusively of stays worn by women.

 

 

 

STAYMAKING AND STAYMAKERS:

 

 

 

                                    

 

                                    (Image 1) - Corset. Third Quarter of Eighteenth Century. European. Green Silk Damask

 

 

  Corset

 

                                                           (Image 2)- Corset. ca 1750. Italian. Silk                                                                                                                                   

 

 

 

                 Corset                                          

                                       (Image 3) - Corset. First Quarter of Eighteenth Century. European. Cotton, Linen, Whalebone.

 

 

                      Corset

                      (Image 4) - Corset. 1740-60. American. Linen, Leather Whalebone.                                                                                                                                         

 

 

The above images are examples of stays/corsets from the Eighteenth Century.

 

Stays were a staple garment present in most women’s wardrobes. Stays were mostly laced up the back, but some also have lacing down the front of the garment. Often they were two separate pieces of fabric laced together, which led to them being referred to as a pair of stays.

By the early eighteenth century, stays, which had come into fashion in the late seventeenth century, sat over the front of the skirt, with a long slightly pointed or rounded front and a high cut back. There were often small tabs sewn around the edge of the stays, which spread out over the hips and helped to keep the skirt in place, as seen in images three and four above.

While many examples of stays were elaborated decorated with embroidery, made of fine silks, as can be seen in images one and two and were often worn as an exterior part of the dress, they were generally treated as an item of underwear.

 

By the middle of the Eighteenth Century, metal began to be introduced as a means of boning the stays. In a letter written in 1777, warning of the dangers of steel boned stays, Horace Walpole recalled: "There has been a young gentlewoman overturned and terribly bruised by her Vulcanian stays. They now wear a steel busk down their middle, and a rail of the same metal across their breasts."(Walpole).

 

Stay-Making was a male profession due to the physically demanding work involved. They were typically made from linen, canvas or leather, as can be seen in images three, four and five. Then several layers of the fabric would be stiffened using a paste and sewn in vertical strips, into which the whalebone or steel would be inserted. The whalebone actually came from the roof of the whale’s mouth and would be cut to size by the Stay-Maker. There were restrictions in place until the late Eighteenth Century which meant that only male tailors were permitted to make stays.

 

Below is an short biography of John Elliot.

Elliot, John (1747–1787), natural philosopher and accused attempted murderer, was born at Chard in Somerset in December 1747, the son of John Elliott, a clothier, and his wife, Hannah. He fired at Miss Boydell, but was seized by Nichol before he could shoot himself. By 16 July he was on trial at the Old Bailey. The prosecution insisted that the pistols had been loaded and that Miss Boydell had been saved only by her whalebone stays. 

- The notion that a woman's life could have been saved 'by her whalebone stays', is a staggering one. It is also a testament to their remarkable construction. Whilst it is impressive that women were, on a daily basis, wearing an article of clothing so solid that it could actually act as body armour, this only serves to add to our understanding of how physically uncomfortable and restrictive they would have been to wear. 

 

At the beginning of the century, stays were generally an inverted conical shape. Their purpose was to create the fashionable silhouette of the day, an hourglass shape, essentially two triangles. The desired look was a full and well supported bust, a narrow waist and a full skirt.  An extreme version of this silhouette is seen below in image 5, which features stays made from linen and baleen (another term for whalebone).

 

(Image 5) - Corset . 1750-80. Linen twill and Baleen.

 

While stays were worn by most women, working class women were unlikely to have worn fully-boned stays or anything resembling the garment described by Walpole. They will most likely have worn partially-boned stays, which did not create such a dramatic silhouette, but did provide some support whilst not restricting movement, allowing them to engage in physical work

 

 

 

 

(Image 5)       

The above image appears to be of a bill from James Gaylearo, Stay-Maker and Patent Elastic Habit Maker, to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, written in July 1790. 

It is clear from the nature of this document that the profession of 'Stay-Maker' was a respected one. From the Bond Street location, a place to see and be seen in the Eighteenth Century, it can be understood that 'Stay-Makers' occupied a prominent position in the Eighteenth Century fashion scene.                                                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

  (Image 6)

 

The above image is another bill from a Stay-Makers issued in 1779. The location of this Stay-Maker is Noel Street near Soho. In the Eighteenth Century, Soho was an area populated by French immigrants and came to be know as the French Quarter. Towards the end of the century, Soho was increasingly populated by prostitutes, music halls and theatres. The location of Stay-Makers in this location, attests to the universality of stays. They were worn by everyone in the Eighteenth Century, from Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, to a Soho prostitute.

 

 

 

- Pritchard [née Vaughan], Hannah (1709–1768), actress and singer, was born in London on 28 October 1709, the second of the five children of Edward Vaughan (b. c.1680, d. before 1736) and his wife, Judith Dun (b. c.1680, d. after 1758). She was baptized on 15 November at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and grew up in Holford's Alley, in the close vicinity of Drury Lane theatre. Her father was a staymaker and may have supplied stays and related accessories to the theatres.

 

Above is a short biography of Hannah Pritchard. The most interesting bit of Pritchard's biography for my purpose is her father's profession - A Stay-Maker! Their Drury Lane location is interesting because, by the Eighteenth Century, Covent Garden where Drury Lane is located, had become a well known red-light district, full of tavern, theatres and brothels. This connection reflects the dual nature of a pair of stays. On the one hand they are items of respectibility, worn by royalty, designed to restrict and contain the female form. On the other hand, particularly when unlaced, they can be symbolic of female sexuality and liberation.

 

While Stay-Making was the exclusive realm of men and yet mostly worn by women, it is unsuprising that they were made with such extreme materials as steel and whalebone. While men were producing stays, female comfort seemed of little importance. Stays were a means of controlling and restricting women's bodies and undeniably by extension their sexuality. 

 

 

 

STAYS IN ART:

 

As stays were generally worn as an undergarment, there is not an abundance of depictions of them in the art of the Eighteenth Century. However, by their very nature as an undergarment, when they do appear, they are always of great significance. If a woman's underwear is on show in art, it is normally an indication of her character, of her virtue, or lack therof. This is exactly the case in Marriage A-la-Mode, Plate II, by William Hogarth.

 

 

William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode, Plate II,

 

 

(Image 7)

 

It is Hogarth's intention for Marriage A-la-Mode, to be a satirical portrait of wealthy London society in the Eighteenth Century. In previous works such as one of his conversation pieces Cholmondeley Family (1732), Hogarth had depicted aristocracy in a flattering way. He had painted grand interiors and congenial social interactions, tea drinking, agreeable card games and polite converstaion. However, in his series of paintings named Marriage A-la-Mode, Hogarth deliberately contrasts grand, luxurious interiors with the trivial, debauched behaviour of young aristocrats. In the series, Hogarth is also extremely critical of the influx of foreign luxury goods and fashions.

 

In Plate II of Marriage A-la-Mode (Image 7), we see the viscount slumped in a chair having spent the night away from home. Seated across from him is his wife, who appears to have spent the night playing cards. The room is in complete disarray, the overturned chair and violin and the papers and what appear to be items of clothing strewn across the floor, suggest that perhaps someone has made a hasty departure. This apparent departure of a third party and the dog sniffing at a lady's cap in his master's pocket, suggests that both parties in this marriage have been unfaithful. The steward with handfuls of bills and reciepts, departs the room with an exasperated air, implicit of the couples excessive spending. Most interesting for my purposes however, is the dress and manner of the lady. She is depicted in an entirely improper manner - she is lying relaxedly in her chair, legs spread apart and arms streched lasciviously. Most importantly, her stays appear unlaced! To contemporary viewers, this would have been unequivocal evidence of her indecency. As Reverend Wettenhall Wilkes states in  A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady (1740) "Never appear in company without your stays. Make it your general rule to lace in the morning, before you leave your chamber. The neglect of this is liable to the censure of indolence, supiness of thought, sluttishness - and very often worse. Leaning and lolling are often interpreted to various disadvantages ... The negligence of loose attire, may oft' invite to loose desire." (Wilkes 188). This description by Wilkes, would appear to describe almost exactly, the female figure depicted by Hogarth in Marriage A-la-Mode Plate II. She is pictured with unlaced stays and is certainly 'lolling and leaning'. From this depiction it would appear that Hogarth wishes this woman to be understood to be one of a indolent and more importantly sluttish character. This understanding comes almost entirely from her unlaced stays. There is a definite sense in this picture and in Wilkes 'advice', that there is an undeniable link between the physical loosening and unlacing of women's stays and the metaphorical loosening and unlacing of women's bodies and as a result, their sexual morals.

 

 

 

STAYS- WORTH STEALING?

 

Although just an undergarment, it is clear from a combination of newspaper articles and details gleaned from biography entries, that stays were most certainly items worth stealing.

 

 

(Image 8)

'Lost from the House of the Widow Harley in Fulham... a Callimancho petticoat, black and red stripes, witha broad silver and gold lace and a silver Orris at bottom, a pair of stays, the outside Green Lurestring, with silver and gold lace and fringe' Post Man and the Historical Account (London, England), January 3, 1702 - January 6, 1702; Issue 918

 

 

(Image 9)

'Thomas Phillips, alias Crofs, for robbing on the Highway John Watkins of ... a pair of stays... a pair of stockings'

News . Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer (London, England), Saturday, January 28, 1721

 

 

Canning [married name Treat], Elizabeth (1734–1773), convicted perjurer, was born on 17 September 1734 in the City of London - Her own story when, emaciated and half-clad, she reappeared after an absence of twenty-eight days was that she had been abducted in Moorfields by two ruffians who robbed her, partly stripped her, stunned her with a blow to the temple, and then dragged her to a house on the Hertfordshire road. There, she alleged, an old woman had asked her to ‘go their way’ (become a prostitute), but she refused. The woman cut off her stays and forced her into an upstairs room, where she remained confined for almost a month, with only a jug of water and some pieces of bread to live on, supplemented by a small mince pie she had in her pocket. On 29 January she escaped through a window and walked all the way back to her mother's house. When she told her story to friends and neighbours, one of them was convinced that she had been taken to a house of ill fame belonging to Susannah (Mother) Wells at Enfield Wash, some 10 miles out of London. Two days later the story was repeated before an alderman at the Guildhall and a warrant was issued for the apprehension of Mother Wells. On 1 February Canning, her mother, and a number of friends travelled to Enfield Wash, accompanied by an officer of the lord mayor. Canning was taken from room to room and, with some discrepancies, identified the loft as the place in which she had been held captive. Among the house's inhabitants on the day, she selected a Gypsy, Mary Squires, as the woman who had cut off her stays and thrust her into the loft. A local magistrate committed Squires for trial for stealing the stays, with Susannah Wells as accessory. http://0-www.oxforddnb.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/view/articleHL/4555?docPos=33&anchor=match

 

The two newspaper entries and the short biography of Elizabeth Canning above, all provide accounts of stays being 'lost' or stolen. In the first newspaper entry, the stays in question are decorated with 'silver and gold lace and string', whereas in the other two accounts, the stays are not described in any detail at all. It is clear then, that whether intricately decorated or so plain that they cannot be described, stays were items of value, worth taking out an advert for and even going to trial over.

 

 

 

Stays in Literature:

 

 

Hermann and Dorothea. A Poem, from the German of Goethe (1796)

 

202  Black is her corset, and the facing red, 18
203  Cross laced, o'er which her bosom gently swells;
204  By cambric plaited with a charming skill,
205  That modest bosom is conceal'd: her face,
206  Of oval form, bespeaks her soul; for words
207  Too beautiful: in braids, and silver pinn'd
208  Her auburn hair: her kirtle, blue, 19 in folds
209  Descends, and half her well-turn'd ankle skirts.
210  But what the outward garb? I pray you go (Goethe 89)

 

Of this the passage beginning---"Black is her corset"---is a proof. A poet of less discernment would, perhaps, have clothed his heroine in flowing robes. Dorothea is strictly in the costume of the country; which she has ennobled, by those just attentions that every where distinguish the woman of good sense, and delicate feeling, in the arrangement of her dress, be the costume what it will. (Holcraft 89)

 

 

In this extract from the poem Hermann and Dorothea, Goethe describes Dorothea dressed in a corset. As the translator Thomas Holcraft notes, Dorothea's dress distinguishes her as a woman of 'good sense'. Goethe specifically notes that her corset is 'laced'. From what we have discovered of the cultural significance of stays/corset thus far, it can be understood that this definitely 'laced' corset, is a signifier of Dorothea's respectability and restraint. Her corset is not unlaced and neither are her morals.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller (1799)

 

Moor : No, I'll not think of it. I am supposed to lace my body in a corset, and strait-jacket my will with laws. (Schiller 37)

 

 

In this extract from the play The Robbers, Schiller uses the image of a laced up corset as a metaphor for the restraining of individual will. It is clear that by the end of the Eighteenth Century, the awareness of the restricting force of stays is so great, that it can quite reasonably be used as a metaphor for resrictions of not just the body, but also the mind.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland (1749)

 

'I was tall, yet not too tall for my age, which, as I before remarked, was barely turned of fifteen; my shape perfectly straight, thin waisted, and light and free without owing anything to stays' (Cleland, Vol I, 38)

 

'Her paramour sat down by her: he seemed to be a man of very few words, and a great stomach; for proceeding instantly to essentials, he gave her some hearty smacks, and thrusting his hands into her breasts, disengaged them from her stays, in scorn of whose confinement they broke loose, and sagged down, navel-low at least' (Cleland, Vol I, 64)

 

'As if this had been the signal agreed on for pulling off all their clothes, a scheme which the heat of the season perfectly favoured, Polly began to draw her pins, and as she had no stays to unlace, she was in a trice, with her gallant's officious assistance, undressed to all but her shift.' (Cleland, Vol I, 77)

 

'This girl could not be above eighteen: her face regular and sweet featured, her shape exquisite; nor could I help envying her two ripe enchanting breasts, finely plumped out in flesh, but withal so round, so firm, that they sustained themselves, in scorn of any stay' (Cleland, Vol I, 78)

 

'Charles had just slipped the bolt of the door, and running, caught me in his arms, and lifting me from the ground, with his lips glued to mine, bore me trembling, panting, dying with soft fears and tender wishes, to the bed; where his impatience would not suffer him to undress me, more than just unpinning my handkerchief and gowns, and unlacing my stays' (Cleland, Vol I, 104)

 

'I was then lying at length upon that very couch, the scene of Mr. H....'s polite joys, in an undress, which was with all the art of negligence flowing loose, and in a most tempting disorder: no stays, no hoop..., no incumbrance whatever.' (Cleland, Vol I, 185)

 

'As soon as I was got into the bedchamber, I unlaced my stays, and threw myself on the outside of the bedclothes, in all the loosest undress.' (Cleland, Vol II, 48)

 

'my gown then was loosen'd in a trice, and I divested of it; my stays next offered an obstacle which readily gave way' (Cleland, Vol II, 82)

 

'I can remember amidst the nutter and discomposure of my senses, was, some flattering exclamation of joy and admiration, more specially at the feel of my breasts, now set at liberty from my stays' (Cleland Vol II, 239)

 

References to stays are very frequent in John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Given that the novel's primary concern is female sexuality, this is entirely understandable. Cleland uses the image of the stays skillfully to chart Fanny's journey and sexual discovery in the novel. The first reference to stays is really emphatic of Fanny's initial innocence - she is so young that she does not yet require stays. The novel is urging us to see Fanny as being incapable of sexual immorality. She is so pure and innocent that she does not even require stays to restrain her. The second reference of stays, comes on, or rather off, the body of Mrs Brown. Her aged breast break loose from the confines of the stays. The energy and force with which her breasts escape their prison is clear. Mrs Brown's entire body is straining against the confines of the stays. Her brazen sexuality is so evident in comparison with Fanny's innocence in this passage. Where Fanny does not need to be contained, Mrs Brown cannot be contained. In one of her initial encounters with Charles, Fanny is nervous, she has not yet had the chance to fully explore her sexuality. Fanny is not able to take control of the situation and so Charles must unlace her stays for her. In unlacing her stays, Charles gains access to her body and claims her and her sexuality. However, in a much later encounter, when Fanny has explored her sexuality much more and is certainly more experienced, she takes control of her own body. She unlaces her own stays and throws herself on the bed, offering herself willingly to her lover, in complete control of her own sexuality. It seems very significant, that although men may design and create laced up stays, it is still within the woman's power to unlace them. Fanny shows through the unlacing of her own stays, that she has gained control. She is claiming her body as her own and can unlace her stays and her body, when she chooses.

 

                                                                                                     ---------------------------------------------------------

 

Pamela by Samuel Richardson (1740)

 

'Since my last, my master gave me more fine things. He called me up to my late lady's closet, and, pulling out her drawers, he gave me two suits of fine Flanders laced headclothes, three pair of fine silk shoes, two hardly the worse, and just fit for me, (for my lady had a very little foot,) and the other with wrought silver buckles in them; and several ribands and top-knots of all colours; four pair of white fine cotton stockings, and three pair of fine silk ones; and two pair of rich stays.' (Richardson 51)

 

'I pulled off my stays, and my stockings, and all my clothes to an under-petticoat; and then hearing a rustling again in the closet, I said, Heaven protect us! but before I say my prayers, I must look into this closet. And so was going to it slip-shod, when, O dreadful! out rushed my master in a rich silk and silver morning gown.' (Richardson 95)

 

'I laid a trap to get at her instructions, which she carries in the bosom of her stays; but it has not succeeded' (Richardson 183)

 

'Are they in neither of your pockets? No, sir, said I. Are they not, said he, about your stays?' (Richardson 270)

 

Whilst Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, is more obviously concerned with sexuality, Pamela is completely concerned with virtue and a containment of female sexuality.

The first extract supports the idea of stays being items of value, they are included in a list of 'fine things', which Pamela has recieved as gifts.

In the second extract Pamela finds herself at risk the moment she removes her stays. She removes them and immediately a threat to her virtue, in the shape of her master bursting out of the closet, presents itself. The text suggests that Pamela's virtue is safe, as long as her body is confined in a pair of stays.

Interestingly the next two extracts treat stays as a place of concealment, where the wearer might hide secrets. This, similarly to Fanny's deliberate unlacing of her own stays, is a way of allowing women to use stays as a means of taking back control. A woman might use her stays to conceal letters, to keep information back from someone and to ensure that they, in possession of knowledge, have some level of power. This turns a pair of stays from a garment of oppression and restriction, to a symbol for the potential for female empowerment.

 

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

PRIMARY:

 

Classified Ads. Post Man and the Historical Account [London] 3 Jan. 1702, 918th ed. The 17th-18th Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

-The newspaper entry tells of items which have been 'lost' from the house of a widow. Among these items is a pair of stays, which appear to be elaborately decorated. The very fact that the stays were considered an item worth stealing, implies that in this case, the stays were an item of value.

 

Cleland, John. Memoirs of A Woman of Pleasure. London: G. Fenton, 1749. Literature Online. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

-Commonly referred to as Fanny Hill, this text is believed to be the first example of english prose pornography. Published in two enstallments in November 1748 and February 1749, the novel was withdrawn in November 1749 after Cleland was arrested and charged with "corrupting the King's subjects". References to stays in this novel offer a unique insight into their role as contributing to female sexuality, whether that be to help or hinder it.

 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von. Hermann and Dorothea. A Poem, from the German of Goethe. Trans. Thomas Holcroft. London: Printed for T.N. Longman and O. Rees, 1801.

- Hermann and Dorothea is an epic poem, originally written in German in 1796. The poem is set at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars around 1792 and tells of the marriage between Hermann, the son of wealthy business owener and Dorothea, a poor refugee. In the extract I have chosen, Dorothea is dressed in a corset and this is described by Holcraft as 'the costume of the country'. Holcraft interprets her dress and Goethe's attempt to demonstrate in her dress, her strength and respectablity.

 

News. Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer [London] 28 Jan. 1721. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

-This newspaper entry also tells of the theft of numerous items of clothing. Just as with the previous newspaper entry, this theft is evidence of the potential value of a pair of stays.

 

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela. London: Penguin, 2003. Literature Online. Web. 23 Dec. 2014

- Pamela was originally published in 1740 and tells the story of the fifteen year old Pamela and her inital attempts to resist the unwanted advances of her master, Mr B. and then later her marriage to Mr B. References to stays in the novel offer a number of different insights into their significane in the Eighteenth Century. Firstly their value as an object, as something to be gifted, is made clear. Secondly, we are made to understand their importance in relation to the female form. Finally, we see stays as a place of concealment, where a woman might hide a letter.

 

 Schiller, Friedrich. The Robbers Together with Wallenstein. Trans. E. J. Lamport. S.l.: Penguin, 1979. Literature Online. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.

- The Robbers is a play originally written in German in 1799. The play is concerned with the conflict between two brothers. The play raises issue about personal liberty and the law and this is reflected in the extract I have chosen, in which a corset is mentioned. The restrictive nature of the corset is being used as a metaphor for the restrictions experienced by the individual as a result of the law.

 

Walpole, Horace. Letter to Reverend William Mason. 28 Mar. 1777.

- In this letter, Walpole recalls an incident where a woman wearing steel boned stays, falls over and is injured by the garment. It is remarkable to think that an item of clothing worn by so many women would be produced in such a way as to cause them significant physical harm.

 

Wilkes, Wetenhall. A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady : Being a System of Rules and Informations : Digested into a New and Familiar Method, to Qualify the Fair Sex to Be Useful, and Happy in Every Scene of Life. London: C. Hitch, 1751.

- In this 'letter', Wilkes warns of the dangers to a young lady's reputation, should she appear in public without her stays. The is the only written reference I have found specifically referring to stays as they relate to supposed morality and female sexuality.

 

 

SECONDARY:

 

 Cousin, Geraldine. "Hannah Pritchard" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

-The reference to the profession of 'staymaking' found in this short biography of Hannah Pritchard, supports the idea of 'staymaking' as a skilled and respected trade and profession practiced by men.  

 

Fraser, Angus. "Elizabeth Canning." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Web. 18 Dec. 2014

-The reference to the theft of stays, in this short biography of Elizabeth Canning is further evidence of stays being items of value and worth stealing.

 

Mollon, John. "John Elliot". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Web. 18 Dec. 2014

-The reference to stays in this short biography if John Elliot, is a testament to their remarkable construction. That they were made of material which could not be pentrated by a bullet is remarkable. Based on this, it can only be imagined how physically uncomfortable a restrictive they were to wear.  

 

 

IMAGES:

 

All images hyperlinked

 

1. Corset - Third Quarter of 18th Century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

 

2. Corset - Ca 1750. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

 

3. Corset - First Quarter of 18th Century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

 

4. Corset - First Quarter of 18th Century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

 

5. Corset - 1750-80. Lacma50. Web. 6 Jan. 2015.

 

6. Certificate - Staymaker to Her Royal Highness Princess of Wales. 1790. AM Digital. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

 

7. Staymakers Bill. 1779. AM Digital. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

 

8. Hogarth, William. Marriage A La Mode II. 1745. The National Gallery, London. The National Gallery. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.

 

9. "Classified Ads." Post Man and the Historical Account [London] 3 Jan. 1702, 918th ed. The 17th-18th Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

 

10. "News." Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer [London] 28 Jan. 1721. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 22 Dec. 2014

 

RELEVANT WEBPAGES:

 

http://www.metmuseum.org/

 

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/C.I.39.13.211

 

Other Eighteenth Century Items of Clothing/Accessories:

 

Petticoats

Waistcoat

Stockings

Wigs

Gloves

Handkerchiefs

 

 

 

 

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