5 Amazing Facts about 18th Century Stays

Stays, sometimes called a corset, were an undergarment worn by women from the 17th through the 18th centuries. Stays were the precursors of the Victorian corset and ultimately the brassier. Stays were meant to provide postural support and alter the female figure into a socially desirable form. Stays were stiffened and formed with thin strips of whalebone called baleen, which was sewn into narrow channels in the cloth. Stays were made in a variety of styles, such as strapless, with straps, partially boned, fully boned, or with stomachers.  Stays usually laced in the back, but many had both front and back lacings.

Here are 5 amazing facts about stays:

  1. Until the late 18th century, most stays were made by men.
  The Stay-maker - etching by Joseph Haynes (British, 1760–1829) after William Hogarth (British, London 1697–1764 London), 1782, London

 

The Stay-maker - etching by Joseph Haynes (British, 1760–1829) after William Hogarth (British, London 1697–1764 London), 1782, London

  1. Children, including boys, wore stays.
                                           Child's Stays - circa 1770-1790 - American - Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

                                         Child's Stays - circa 1770-1790 - American - Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

3. Stays were such an important article of clothing, that thieves often stole them from shops and sold them to pawn brokers.

                          Shop-Lifter Detected - circa 1787 - engraving by Robert Sayer, after John Collett

 

                        Shop-Lifter Detected - circa 1787 - engraving by Robert Sayer, after John Collett

4. Churches provided stays for the poor in their parish .

                                                     Red silk stays - circa 1770-1790-  Victoria & Albert Museum

 

 

                                                 Red silk stays - circa 1770-1790-  Victoria & Albert Museum

 

5. Pregnant women wore stays, although their stays may have had extra lacing to accommodate the changes of pregnancy.

                    Gold Silk Stays - early 18th century - Spanish - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

                  Gold Silk Stays - early 18th century - Spanish - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY