We've discussed stays, the 18th c. version of a corset, here at the TNHG, and we've also discussed stays for young Georgian children here and here. But these are the first photographs that we've been able to share that show children's stays being worn as they would have been 250 years ago: over a linen shift, and ready for a gown to be worn over them.
The purpose of 18th c. stays was not to compress and narrow the waist, but to shape and support the figure. Stays share none of the health perils and physical restrictions caused by the tight-laced Victorian and Edwardian corsets in the next century. While stays do rely on layers of stiffened, stitched fabric reinforced with bones of baleen, wood, or cane splints stitched into channels for their rigid shape, a correctly fitted pair should not be uncomfortable.
Both young girls and boys wore stays. The goal was to improve the posture, a way of helping achieve a straight, genteel figure. The recommended fit was likened to a fond hug. While modern parents might find the idea of stays for children horrifying, their Georgian counterparts would be equally appalled by the thought of their child being clad in the harmfully disreputable ease of a t-shirt and sweatpants.
The pair of 18th c style stays worn by the young model here was made by the mantua-makers of the Margaret Hunter shop, Colonial Williamsburg, who also kindly supplied these photographs. The photographer also reports that the model was much more interested in the day lilies than in being historically correct. For more photos, including step-by-step pictures of how the stays were constructed, please visit the Margaret Hunter Facebook page here.
Above and below: Replica child's stays in style of 1770. Photographs copyright & used by permission of the Margaret Hunter shop, Colonial Williamsburg.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.