Part 1 can be found here.
Stays after 1650
Salmon pink stays, 1660-1680 at V&A. Made out of ten pattern pieces, giving it a slightly more curvaceous shape than earlier stays and making the waist more round rather than oval. One layer of watered silk and one layer herringbone weave linen, possibly ticking, bound with silk grosgrain ribbon. Laced in front over a boned, T-shaped stomacher. The boning channels are stitched with silk and boned with whalebones. Ten skirts with six gores inserted between the front ones. The gores are not boned. The stays are not lined, but the seams are covered on the inside with silk grosgrain ribbon. 3/4 -length sleeves are attached with ribbons to the shoulder straps. Though they are more advanced in cut than previous stays and probably also made in a different country, they still have similar construction method.
Silk and wool stays, dated 1671-1680. The front is covered with silk brocade and decorated with silver gilt braid and spangles. The back is covered with blue wool and it is lined with linen.
Yellow silk stays, either late 17th century or early 18th century. The cut of stays didn’t change abruptly at the turning of the century and it is difficult to say exactly on which side of 1700 they were made. These are covered in silk, making the boning channels invisiböe and is decorated with silver lace.
The 1630´s ivory silk slashed bodice in V&A has a boned lining, but it is different from other extant bodices. It is open in the front it is probably that there was originally a stomacher as well. The foundation is built from several layers of buckram and linen canvas, reinforced, not fully boned, with whalebones. The boning is wider than in other extant stays and bodices, about 12 mm and in the back the boning is put in horizontally. It also differs from other bodices in that it cut above the waist and has no tabs, which is in keeping with the current fashion which had a raised waist.
Pale-coloured silk satin bodice, 1660-1669, V&A. Decorated with parchment lace. The boned foundations is made from twelve pattern pieces, reinforced at places with up to three extra layers of linen. The middle side panel is unboned but stiffened with buckram and wool and may be a later addition to increase the size. The foundation is made by two layers of linen and has ten skirts. Boned with whalebone, at the back are four horizontal bones placed on top of the vertical ones. A pocket for a busk is placed at the center front. Lined with ikat woven silk.
Green silk bodice, Museum of London, 1650-1670. Decorated with silver bobbin lace and silver alloy spangles and heavily boned.
|Silver tissue gown with a boned bodice from the 1660’s, Fashion Museum, Bath. Photo by Ludi Ling|
Several iron stays have been preserved, most of them dating to the decades before and after 1600. They are usually rather elaborate and elegant in shape, the metal perforated in patterns and the shape follow the form a fashionable female torso should possess; a cone. When worn they would have been padded on the inside and covered with fabric, making them a bit more comfortable than they look at the first glance. Their purpose is not completely clear though and there are more than one theory to their function.
|Iron corset, 1580-1599, York Castle Museum|
The rigidity of their shape could have served a medical purpose, like correcting scoliosis. Children were certainly fitted with stays to correct mis-happen body’s and it is not impossible that grown women could be in need of corrective help as well. It is also known that Eleonora of Toledo, who suffered from rheumatism and tuberculosis, had metal stays made for her, They were not listed among her clothes, which indicate that they were used for medical purposes.
They could also have been worn as an expression of piety, an unyielding sister to the hair shirt, that a noble woman could wear for religious reasons while at the same time retaining a fashionable shape. It is also possible that the extreme rigidity could be something sought after for the most ceremonial and formal occasions. A woman in full court wear was a display, an ornament or a showcase of wealth and then iron stays may have provided the perfect frame for it. They must have been quite heavy to wear but considering the weight of a farthingale, several petticoats and a heavily decorated gown, perhaps the extra weight of a metal corset wasn’t too much of a burden, especially if they were just worn for special occasions.
|Anonymous, Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton, c. 1600|
Despite the small sample material and the difficulty in finding information, some conclusions about stays and boned bodices can be drawn. Hopefully there will one day be more in-depth research on the subject which undoubtedly would provide more and better information than this short article can provide.
- Stays and boned bodices in the 17th century moulded the figure. The pattern pieces fit like a jigsaw puzzle, making the stays two-dimensional. Later, in the 18th century seams started to curve on each other, creating a garment that to some extent adapted to the female body’s natural curves. In the 17th century it was the body which had to adapt to the stays, pushing the breast up and stomach down.
- Stays and boned bodices were always fully boned and the boning channels, when they can be seen, are vertical. There is one exception to this; the ivory, slashed satin bodice in V&A. Apart from this example, stays and bodices both from the early and the late 17th century are heavily boned.
- The shoulder straps on the stays are placed in correspondence to how the fashionable neckline was cut. The Effigy stays have shoulder straps that cover the shoulders as fashion dictated in 1603, later stays have straps that are off the shoulders.
- Stays from the first half of the 17th century are front-laced, both with or without a separate stomacher. They have few pattern pieces.
- Stays from the second half are a bit more varied. There are the front-laced stays from V&A, which has a stomacher and attached sleeves. Most of the extant stays are back-laced, however, and they are covered so the boning channels are invisible. The front are decorated and sometimes the fabric that covers the front is more expensive than the fabric in the back. Stays are made of several pattern pieces.
- All extant boned bodices, apart from the slashed satin one, are back-laced. They too are constructed from several pattern pieces. Most of the extant stays are decorated and/or covered with expensive fabric, indicating that they were meant to be visible and not solely regarded as foundations underwear. Stays with attachable sleeves further blur the line between stays and bodice.
|Gerard ter Borch, The Concert, 1655|
Anonymous An account of charity-schools in Great Britain and Ireland: with the benefactions thereto; and of the methods whereby they were set up, and are governed. Also a proposal for adding some work to the childrens learning. And an appendix, containing certain forms and directions relating to these schools, J. Downing, 1712
Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion: Englishwomen's Dresses & Their Construction, London: MacMillan, 1977
Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes For Men and Women c1560-1620, London: Macmillan, 1985
Arnold, Janet “The ‘pair of straight bodies’ and ‘a pair of drawers’ dating from 1603 which Clothe the Effigy of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey”, Costume, vol 41, 2007
Hammar, Britta & Rasmussen, Pernilla Underkläder: En kulturhistoria, Stockholm, Signum, 2008
Kunzle, David Fashion and Fetishism: Corset, Tight-lacing and Other Forms of Body-sculpture, New ed., Stroud : Sutton, 2004
North, Susan & Tiramani, Jenny (ed.) Seventeenth-century women's dress patterns. Book 1, London : V & A Publishing, 2011
North, Susan & Tiramani, Jenny (ed.) Seventeenth-century women's dress patterns. Book 2, London : V & A Publishing, 2012
Pietsch, Johannes Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Bestandskatalog der Männer- und Frauenkleidungsstücke; Studien zu Material, Technik und Geschichte der Bekleidung im 17. Jahrhundert, The Hüpsch Costume Collection in the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, 2008
Ribeiro, Aileen Fashion and fiction: Dress In Art and Literature in Stuart England, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005
Sorge-English, Lynn Stays and Body Image In London: The Staymaking Trade, 1680-1810, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011.
Steele, Valerie The Corset: A Cultural History, New Haven; Yale University Press, 2001
Wiseman, Richard Several chirurgical treatises, London, Flesher, 1676
To Stay or Not to Stay..., Anèa Costume