18th century pretties

24thJan. × ’10

I am researching the 18th century fashion, for my next two dolls.( The ones i have to make for the Museums)and i am absolutely inlove!

And i want to share.

So ladies! Here come the “stays” !

Italy, silk

Referred to as “stays” until the late nineteenth century, the corset was the basic garment of every woman’s wardrobe. It was never worn next to the skin, but over a knee-length T-shaped garment known as a shift. The stays were most often laced up the back but could also have a laced opening down the center front, in which case there was usually a boned stomacher piece that slotted in behind the lacing. The bone running down the center front of the stays was known as a busk.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the stays, which had come into fashion thirty years earlier, were worn long and pointed at the front, sitting over the front of the skirt, with the back of the stays cut much higher. The waistline often featured small tabs at the side and back, which splayed out over the hips and helped to keep the skirt in place.

While early examples of stays were covered in elaborate silks and often featured as a visible part of the dress, they gradually retreated to being mainly an underwear garment, with the outer layers comprised of plain silks or linen. By mid-century, stays featured less boning, and by the 1770s a new emphasis on the bust meant that several horizontal lines of boning, often metal, were introduced to give a more rounded form. The diarist Horace Walpole recorded the dangers of such garments in 1777: “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.” By the end of the century, stays had fallen out of favor. Fashion now looked to the ideal of the classical Greek figure and natural lines inspired by the vogue for the classical world. Rigid boned bodices were abandoned entirely or replaced by light canvas stays with cording for support.

The production of stays was a male industry due to the heavy-duty work involved. They were made from several layers of linen or canvas treated with a paste to stiffen them and then hand-stitched with vertical and diagonal channels into which strips of whalebone were inserted. The whalebone, also called baleen, was not actually bone but came from the roof of the whale’s mouth; this would also have to be cut into strips by the staymaker. In France, trade restrictions meant that until 1776, only tailors were permitted to make stays; however, after this date couturieres (female dressmakers) were also allowed to produce these garments.

For less wealthy women, stays were still an essential item of clothing. In rural areas, stays were often made from scored leather and worn as an outer garment, offering support to those involved in manual labor. In urban areas, large secondhand markets offered a wide variety of garments for those who could not afford to have their stays specially made.

Both men and women used artificial aids to alter their appearance. They wore structured doublets and metal corsets to shape their bodies to fit contemporary ideas of fashion. Below you have steel corsets from the mid-16th century found in Italy.

…Iron corsets? Oh dear!

And now the prettiez!

Italy, silk and linen

Spain, silk

France and i think it’s silk

Britain, silk

I’m having a lot of fun on the web,and i am learning a lot.

I have learned for example that in Portugal, the major influence came from France,(and that will be my gide line,since i am making Portuguese ladies),
Women and men in Germany and France, and probably other European countries and America, wore a long shirt from shoulders to calves, a chemise or vest next to their skin, day and night, not underpants and other items common today. The rich and upper classes wore fancy versions, the rest simple ones.That in 1757 a German doctor gave a reason why women shouldn’t wear pants or closed underwear:” Their genitals needed air to allow moisture to evaporate, which could otherwise cause them to decay (German, “vermodern”) and “stink.” But he conceded that women could wear them in cold weather and to protect against insects.(they also could wear them when riding, that’s me saying, not the german doctor) ) (Christian T. E. Reinhard, in his Satyrische Abhandlung von denen Krankheiten der Frauenspersonen . . . Teil 2, Berlin/Leipzig, 1757, quoted in Zur Geschichte der Unterwäsche 1700-1960.)

How about that?
Only with the French Revolution and afterwards,did women started to wear long-legged underpants to shield themselves under diaphanous dresses, but it took decades for such pants-like underwear to gain wide acceptance among the upper classes and even longer among the common people. They continued to wear only the chemise under their clothing for most of the 19th century.And even then and until around 1890’s they used open-crotch underpants.

Front of underpants, about 1830.
Back of same underpants, showing open crotch

All this means, that under this

Madam de Pompadour

you had this

And under all that…you had this


Well, did you learn anything? And don’t you just love the being in the 21 century?

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