Corsets Redux

From Susan/Miranda:

One of the most popular entries on this site has been Loretta’s entry on Corsets. We can’t seem to get enough of corsets (perhaps because we don’t have to wear them?), so I thought I’d revisit it with a few more historical notes on earlier corsetry. I know we’ve re-enactors here, as well as costume fanciers and seamstresses, so I hope you’ll add your thoughts and comments as well

When I was growing up in 60s New Jersey, there was a small shop in the area called The Corsetorium. I was fascinated by the name, even if the window display of headless manequin torsos in fearsome truss-like undergarments wasn’t particularly enticing. Still, the word itself –– corset! –– had a whiff of forbidden, of women who’d go to extreme measures to be more seductive. My tennis-playing Californian mother never wore anything like that, and my generation took matters a step further by being the first ones to burn their bras and daringly went without. Corsets were relegated to male fantasies with S&M overtones, with Madonna leading the way.

Didn’t used to be like that. Once upon a time –– oh, say in the fifteenth century or so –– the loose, draped woolen fabric that had been the mainstay of medieval wardrobes was beginning to give way to richer, more elaborate fabrics –– brocades, silks, velvets –– that had come through Italy from the east. The wives and daughters of the merchants and aristocrats who could afford such luxury of course wished to display their affluence to best advantage, and their seamstresses answered the challenge.

These heavier fabrics didn’t drape like the old ones; they needed a different fashion, with more structure to support not only the fabric, but the weighty embroidery and precious stones that were also now being used to enhance the fabric. Skirts became wider and more sweeping, and for the first time in Western fashion, women’s dress was cut close to fit closely and reveal the lines of the upper body. The first “corsets” were really underpinnings to support and better display the gowns. Tailoring was still in its infancy, and it was easier to smooth the body beneath than stitch and seam the patterned fabric to conform to the obstreperous body beneath.

Renaissance corsets were like small linen vests with narrow shoulder straps, tightly laced up the back. Their objective was to give the wearer a straight, flat front with a long pointed waist. They crushed the breasts down, or depending on the lady’s endowments, up. But there’s no cleavage, and none of the “oranges on a shelf” effect that comes later. Think of the portraits by Holbein of Henry VIII’s court, or those by Veronese in Italy. Some of these had flaring tabs at the waist to help support petticoats, or later farthingales, and were also enhanced by a “bum roll”, a sausage-shaped pillow that tied around the waist to provide a more exuberant booty.

This flat-front corset with the long pointed front and shoulder straps sets the general style until the 19th century. Layers of canvas-like fabric were stitched closely together, reinforced with narrow strips of whalebone, bound with kidskin, and drawn laced together through hand-worked eyelets down the back with a cord. In a wider channel down the front was inserted a busk, long and flat and often coyly painted or engraved as a popular sweetheart’s gift.

These corsets were always worn over a light linen shift, and never directly against the skin, despite what the painters on countless romance covers seem to believe; they’re not so much underwear, as in-between-wear. Nor do the laces in the back criss-cross like sneaker. Instead it’s a single cord that goes back and forth in a diagonal z-pattern. It wasn’t expected that the two sides of the met in back, either, with a certain amount of leeway used for comfort.

The emphasis was not on achieving a narrow waist, but on maintaining a rigid, cone-shaped core. From the 17th century through the 18th, these items are called stays, and with so much reinforcement, everything is certainly going to stay in place.

(Though as always with such looking-backwards, a healthy dose of perspective is needed. It’s all relative. An 18th century lady would feel perfectly comfortable in her stays, but be horrified at the concept of constricting her lower half in 21st century jeans or control-top pantyhose.)

One of my favorite descriptions of 17th century corsetry comes from observer Randle Holme:

“[The busk] is a strong piece of wood or whalebone thrust down the middle of the stomacher to keep it straight and in compass, that the breast or belly may not swell out too much. These busks are usually made in length according to the necessity of the person wearing it: if to keep in the fullness of the breasts, then it extends to the navel, if to keep the belly down, it extends to the honour.”

There are many references to posture and health, as well as class-consciousness at work. Ladies would have worn stays from infancy, and baby gentlemen were often laced into them as well. Ladies were stiff and enclosed; “loose” women were, well, unfettered. Ladies would have learned how to walk, dance, and sit in a very different (and much desired) way because of their stays. They kept straight backs and graceful arms, but they couldn’t bend forwards or from side to side, and the shoulder straps prohibited flailing arms. Ladies, too, would have a lady’s maid to assist her dressing, because it’s virtually impossible to lace one’s own stays up the back.

As the 18th century progressed, stays begin to look less functional and more decorative. The most elegant ones have an outer layer of patterned silk, embroidery, and ribbon bows. There’s definitely a more erotic sensibility at work. Women receive their lovers in their boudoirs wearing their dressing gowns open to reveal their stays. Breasts are boldly displayed instead of being crushed flat, but because of the continued desire for that straight front and narrow back, the breasts are raised up, but spread apart, and in France, the most fashionable necklines are so low at the court that nipples are seductively exposed behind gauzy neckerchiefs. Waists were made to look smaller, but only from the front; many 18th century gowns look small-waisted head-on, but from the side, the wearer was much wider front-to-back.

By the late 18th century, staymakers were considered master craftsman, using increasingly fine stitches and sophisticated steamed shaping. The most highly regarded French staymakers were men; erotic possibilities are inevitable, and explored by titillating engravings of half-clad nubile ladies at the staymaker, entitled “The Last Fitting.” Of course, by the end of the century, the French Revolution was matched by a revolution in women’s dress, and the whole concept of corsetry changes so dramatically that we’ll save it for another day.

To modern women, these early stays sound impossibly confining. But I’ve worn replica 18th century stays (though reinforced with steel, not endangered whalebone –– is there any more un-18th century notion than political environmental correctness?) and I’ve worn a heavy-duty Lycra-laden modern “shaper” under an evening dress, and I can say that the Age of Enlightenment unequivocally wins the comfort challenge.

And what are your thoughts? Would you rather wear stays than do sit-ups? Do you have any corset-research or stories to share?

78 thoughts on “Corsets Redux”

  1. As lots of people out there already know, I’m a passionate costume historian, and the history of undergarments is my specialty. I even made my Regency stays entirely by hand, just to see if I could.
    I love my 18th century stays. They’re the most comfortable ones I own (and I’ve worn everything from Elizabethan up through the stuff from the Roaring 20s). The worst–hands down–is the Edwardian S-curve corset (think Gibson Girls). The posture is just really uncomfortable.
    One thing that’s worth mentioning is that if you’ve worn one of those atrocities from Victoria’s Secret or Fredericks of Hollywood and you thought it was uncomfortable, you were right, but those feel nothing like a good solid corset. The modern things with their plastic fly boning just don’t hold up properly, and the buckle and warp in really uncomfortable ways. When we needed them for a friends Dior New Look inspired wedding I replaced ALL the boning in everyone’s “waist cincher” with metal boning. So much more comfortable (even though you’d think the opposite would be true).
    The gap in the back is called “spring”, and it’s supposed to be there. Anything from 1”-4” is good. If people want to see examples of stays and corsets they can look at my website:
    http://www.kalenhughes.com

    Reply
  2. As lots of people out there already know, I’m a passionate costume historian, and the history of undergarments is my specialty. I even made my Regency stays entirely by hand, just to see if I could.
    I love my 18th century stays. They’re the most comfortable ones I own (and I’ve worn everything from Elizabethan up through the stuff from the Roaring 20s). The worst–hands down–is the Edwardian S-curve corset (think Gibson Girls). The posture is just really uncomfortable.
    One thing that’s worth mentioning is that if you’ve worn one of those atrocities from Victoria’s Secret or Fredericks of Hollywood and you thought it was uncomfortable, you were right, but those feel nothing like a good solid corset. The modern things with their plastic fly boning just don’t hold up properly, and the buckle and warp in really uncomfortable ways. When we needed them for a friends Dior New Look inspired wedding I replaced ALL the boning in everyone’s “waist cincher” with metal boning. So much more comfortable (even though you’d think the opposite would be true).
    The gap in the back is called “spring”, and it’s supposed to be there. Anything from 1”-4” is good. If people want to see examples of stays and corsets they can look at my website:
    http://www.kalenhughes.com

    Reply
  3. As lots of people out there already know, I’m a passionate costume historian, and the history of undergarments is my specialty. I even made my Regency stays entirely by hand, just to see if I could.
    I love my 18th century stays. They’re the most comfortable ones I own (and I’ve worn everything from Elizabethan up through the stuff from the Roaring 20s). The worst–hands down–is the Edwardian S-curve corset (think Gibson Girls). The posture is just really uncomfortable.
    One thing that’s worth mentioning is that if you’ve worn one of those atrocities from Victoria’s Secret or Fredericks of Hollywood and you thought it was uncomfortable, you were right, but those feel nothing like a good solid corset. The modern things with their plastic fly boning just don’t hold up properly, and the buckle and warp in really uncomfortable ways. When we needed them for a friends Dior New Look inspired wedding I replaced ALL the boning in everyone’s “waist cincher” with metal boning. So much more comfortable (even though you’d think the opposite would be true).
    The gap in the back is called “spring”, and it’s supposed to be there. Anything from 1”-4” is good. If people want to see examples of stays and corsets they can look at my website:
    http://www.kalenhughes.com

    Reply
  4. I’ve never been one to use shapers, etc., very much – and not because my shape is everything it ought to be. I’m just too addicted to comfort. However, I did once go out with a man who wore a corset – one that extended from under his arms to – what’s that? – the honour? Or the male version thereof? At least I assume it did – I didn’t inspect.
    He was quite large, but I’ve dated other large men and had never come across that before. It was a heavy cotton canvas with stays, as best I could tell, I just caught a glimpse of it. It put me in mind of those Regencies where an older man creaks in his stays. It was the only time we went out, but it wasn’t (just) the fault of the corset :D.

    Reply
  5. I’ve never been one to use shapers, etc., very much – and not because my shape is everything it ought to be. I’m just too addicted to comfort. However, I did once go out with a man who wore a corset – one that extended from under his arms to – what’s that? – the honour? Or the male version thereof? At least I assume it did – I didn’t inspect.
    He was quite large, but I’ve dated other large men and had never come across that before. It was a heavy cotton canvas with stays, as best I could tell, I just caught a glimpse of it. It put me in mind of those Regencies where an older man creaks in his stays. It was the only time we went out, but it wasn’t (just) the fault of the corset :D.

    Reply
  6. I’ve never been one to use shapers, etc., very much – and not because my shape is everything it ought to be. I’m just too addicted to comfort. However, I did once go out with a man who wore a corset – one that extended from under his arms to – what’s that? – the honour? Or the male version thereof? At least I assume it did – I didn’t inspect.
    He was quite large, but I’ve dated other large men and had never come across that before. It was a heavy cotton canvas with stays, as best I could tell, I just caught a glimpse of it. It put me in mind of those Regencies where an older man creaks in his stays. It was the only time we went out, but it wasn’t (just) the fault of the corset :D.

    Reply
  7. Well, that’s a good point, I claim absolutely no expertise in constricting garments of any era. Perhaps a better term would be “crunching”? Fabric – especially heavy cotton, tightly stretched – will make crunching noises when it shifts, like when you sit in a canvas chair. So perhaps the term “creaking” came from the shifting of fabric when a person wearing tightly laced garment moves about. Or from the movement of fabric on fabric. I know this guy’s corset did make faint crunching noises.
    Then, there’s every potential that I’m talking through my clueless hat :).

    Reply
  8. Well, that’s a good point, I claim absolutely no expertise in constricting garments of any era. Perhaps a better term would be “crunching”? Fabric – especially heavy cotton, tightly stretched – will make crunching noises when it shifts, like when you sit in a canvas chair. So perhaps the term “creaking” came from the shifting of fabric when a person wearing tightly laced garment moves about. Or from the movement of fabric on fabric. I know this guy’s corset did make faint crunching noises.
    Then, there’s every potential that I’m talking through my clueless hat :).

    Reply
  9. Well, that’s a good point, I claim absolutely no expertise in constricting garments of any era. Perhaps a better term would be “crunching”? Fabric – especially heavy cotton, tightly stretched – will make crunching noises when it shifts, like when you sit in a canvas chair. So perhaps the term “creaking” came from the shifting of fabric when a person wearing tightly laced garment moves about. Or from the movement of fabric on fabric. I know this guy’s corset did make faint crunching noises.
    Then, there’s every potential that I’m talking through my clueless hat :).

    Reply
  10. I’ve some friends who will ONLY wear corsets, and not the commercial variety for the reasons mentioned above. I haven’t been willing to make the commitment, but I begin to be tempted. It is nearly impossible to find a comfortable bra in my size range.

    Reply
  11. I’ve some friends who will ONLY wear corsets, and not the commercial variety for the reasons mentioned above. I haven’t been willing to make the commitment, but I begin to be tempted. It is nearly impossible to find a comfortable bra in my size range.

    Reply
  12. I’ve some friends who will ONLY wear corsets, and not the commercial variety for the reasons mentioned above. I haven’t been willing to make the commitment, but I begin to be tempted. It is nearly impossible to find a comfortable bra in my size range.

    Reply
  13. You’re totally right about the Fredericks of Hollywood kind of corsets — they’re nylon with itchy nylon lace, they have horrible hooks that dig into the skin, not to mention the plastic bones, which are right up there with underwires for poking-torture.
    Besides, plastic boning doesn’t work. It bends with body heat. It doesn’t reshape or support; it conforms, and droops. As proof look at any current group photo of a wedding party or prom, and there will be at least one young woman using both hands to hoist up her strapless dress.
    Tonda/Kalen’s site is a goodie. Go check it out!
    As for the men in stays: wasn’t this sort of undergarment standard for military men, too? I have a hazy memory of reading that somewhere, that older officers often restored to “binding” so they presented a trim figure in their dress uniform.
    I don’t know what would creak, either, but that “creaking stays” is a real fixture among older regency characters, isn’t it?

    Reply
  14. You’re totally right about the Fredericks of Hollywood kind of corsets — they’re nylon with itchy nylon lace, they have horrible hooks that dig into the skin, not to mention the plastic bones, which are right up there with underwires for poking-torture.
    Besides, plastic boning doesn’t work. It bends with body heat. It doesn’t reshape or support; it conforms, and droops. As proof look at any current group photo of a wedding party or prom, and there will be at least one young woman using both hands to hoist up her strapless dress.
    Tonda/Kalen’s site is a goodie. Go check it out!
    As for the men in stays: wasn’t this sort of undergarment standard for military men, too? I have a hazy memory of reading that somewhere, that older officers often restored to “binding” so they presented a trim figure in their dress uniform.
    I don’t know what would creak, either, but that “creaking stays” is a real fixture among older regency characters, isn’t it?

    Reply
  15. You’re totally right about the Fredericks of Hollywood kind of corsets — they’re nylon with itchy nylon lace, they have horrible hooks that dig into the skin, not to mention the plastic bones, which are right up there with underwires for poking-torture.
    Besides, plastic boning doesn’t work. It bends with body heat. It doesn’t reshape or support; it conforms, and droops. As proof look at any current group photo of a wedding party or prom, and there will be at least one young woman using both hands to hoist up her strapless dress.
    Tonda/Kalen’s site is a goodie. Go check it out!
    As for the men in stays: wasn’t this sort of undergarment standard for military men, too? I have a hazy memory of reading that somewhere, that older officers often restored to “binding” so they presented a trim figure in their dress uniform.
    I don’t know what would creak, either, but that “creaking stays” is a real fixture among older regency characters, isn’t it?

    Reply
  16. I’ve read the “creaking stays” thing a lot, but I’ve never heard my own stays, or those of my friends, creak. And I’ve handled baleen (whale bone) and it doesn’t creak either. I’m really curious what was making that noise when susannac’s date moved.
    I put the commonality of the idea down to Romancelandia urban myth (like the internal hymen that allows for partial penetration, and the horse that neighs and rears all the bloody time). Somehow certain ideas have permeated the genre, regardless of the facts. To the point where if you write it accurately people complain. LOL!
    I’m glad you liked my site, Susan. I put a lot of work into it. If any of you are in the Ohio area, I’ll be giving my undergarments workshop for the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America’s conference next month (and I’ll have examples from all the major eras with me that people can handle).

    Reply
  17. I’ve read the “creaking stays” thing a lot, but I’ve never heard my own stays, or those of my friends, creak. And I’ve handled baleen (whale bone) and it doesn’t creak either. I’m really curious what was making that noise when susannac’s date moved.
    I put the commonality of the idea down to Romancelandia urban myth (like the internal hymen that allows for partial penetration, and the horse that neighs and rears all the bloody time). Somehow certain ideas have permeated the genre, regardless of the facts. To the point where if you write it accurately people complain. LOL!
    I’m glad you liked my site, Susan. I put a lot of work into it. If any of you are in the Ohio area, I’ll be giving my undergarments workshop for the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America’s conference next month (and I’ll have examples from all the major eras with me that people can handle).

    Reply
  18. I’ve read the “creaking stays” thing a lot, but I’ve never heard my own stays, or those of my friends, creak. And I’ve handled baleen (whale bone) and it doesn’t creak either. I’m really curious what was making that noise when susannac’s date moved.
    I put the commonality of the idea down to Romancelandia urban myth (like the internal hymen that allows for partial penetration, and the horse that neighs and rears all the bloody time). Somehow certain ideas have permeated the genre, regardless of the facts. To the point where if you write it accurately people complain. LOL!
    I’m glad you liked my site, Susan. I put a lot of work into it. If any of you are in the Ohio area, I’ll be giving my undergarments workshop for the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America’s conference next month (and I’ll have examples from all the major eras with me that people can handle).

    Reply
  19. Kalen, it’s probably best we not know. 😐
    And I also thought your website was great. My big question, though… Wouldn’t you be able to catch glimpses of what lies beneath when those button falls gaped on the sides when the man sat down (or just walked, see Grant closeup)? On the example on your site of man’s pants (extant, 1820), there was a hole of significant size right under the section that gapes on sitting. Did men in those pants do the “cover and tuck” or wear boxers/briefs to prevent peekaboo? Yeesh. I would have been thrown out of any well-mannered home for going around gauging gapes.
    And we won’t even discuss the easy access afforded by that aforementioned gape – cover & tuck notwithstanding. I’m afraid the button fall reminds me of nothing so much as a handwarmer.

    Reply
  20. Kalen, it’s probably best we not know. 😐
    And I also thought your website was great. My big question, though… Wouldn’t you be able to catch glimpses of what lies beneath when those button falls gaped on the sides when the man sat down (or just walked, see Grant closeup)? On the example on your site of man’s pants (extant, 1820), there was a hole of significant size right under the section that gapes on sitting. Did men in those pants do the “cover and tuck” or wear boxers/briefs to prevent peekaboo? Yeesh. I would have been thrown out of any well-mannered home for going around gauging gapes.
    And we won’t even discuss the easy access afforded by that aforementioned gape – cover & tuck notwithstanding. I’m afraid the button fall reminds me of nothing so much as a handwarmer.

    Reply
  21. Kalen, it’s probably best we not know. 😐
    And I also thought your website was great. My big question, though… Wouldn’t you be able to catch glimpses of what lies beneath when those button falls gaped on the sides when the man sat down (or just walked, see Grant closeup)? On the example on your site of man’s pants (extant, 1820), there was a hole of significant size right under the section that gapes on sitting. Did men in those pants do the “cover and tuck” or wear boxers/briefs to prevent peekaboo? Yeesh. I would have been thrown out of any well-mannered home for going around gauging gapes.
    And we won’t even discuss the easy access afforded by that aforementioned gape – cover & tuck notwithstanding. I’m afraid the button fall reminds me of nothing so much as a handwarmer.

    Reply
  22. Seems to me that the fall on gentleman’s breeches has a really big overlap underneath to cover, um, unexpected escapes. I had to make a pair for my son eons ago, and I think that was the structure. And never again; they were horribly complicated!
    Is that it, Kalen?

    Reply
  23. Seems to me that the fall on gentleman’s breeches has a really big overlap underneath to cover, um, unexpected escapes. I had to make a pair for my son eons ago, and I think that was the structure. And never again; they were horribly complicated!
    Is that it, Kalen?

    Reply
  24. Seems to me that the fall on gentleman’s breeches has a really big overlap underneath to cover, um, unexpected escapes. I had to make a pair for my son eons ago, and I think that was the structure. And never again; they were horribly complicated!
    Is that it, Kalen?

    Reply
  25. There is a gap, but it’s not really easy access. The man likely had drawers on as well his shirt tucked down over himself. Let me tell you, if it breeches were easy access it would make the Military Timeline events way more fun! (somehow I always seem to end up with the cowboys . . . in my 16th cent. German dress, LOL!).
    I’ll try and put something up on my site that better illustrates the fall.

    Reply
  26. There is a gap, but it’s not really easy access. The man likely had drawers on as well his shirt tucked down over himself. Let me tell you, if it breeches were easy access it would make the Military Timeline events way more fun! (somehow I always seem to end up with the cowboys . . . in my 16th cent. German dress, LOL!).
    I’ll try and put something up on my site that better illustrates the fall.

    Reply
  27. There is a gap, but it’s not really easy access. The man likely had drawers on as well his shirt tucked down over himself. Let me tell you, if it breeches were easy access it would make the Military Timeline events way more fun! (somehow I always seem to end up with the cowboys . . . in my 16th cent. German dress, LOL!).
    I’ll try and put something up on my site that better illustrates the fall.

    Reply
  28. Thanks for the link, Camilla!
    Now, the real question: which intrepid writer will be the first with a love scene where the heroine oh-so-slowly unlaces the HERO’s corset?
    Uhh, not me. *G*

    Reply
  29. Thanks for the link, Camilla!
    Now, the real question: which intrepid writer will be the first with a love scene where the heroine oh-so-slowly unlaces the HERO’s corset?
    Uhh, not me. *G*

    Reply
  30. Thanks for the link, Camilla!
    Now, the real question: which intrepid writer will be the first with a love scene where the heroine oh-so-slowly unlaces the HERO’s corset?
    Uhh, not me. *G*

    Reply
  31. I’d love a pair of 18th C style stays, especially as I have a hard time finding foundation garments that fit me properly. Very annoying. The idea of something comfortable is very appealing – have seen Tonda’s 18th C stays (in Reno) and they do look lovely.

    Reply
  32. I’d love a pair of 18th C style stays, especially as I have a hard time finding foundation garments that fit me properly. Very annoying. The idea of something comfortable is very appealing – have seen Tonda’s 18th C stays (in Reno) and they do look lovely.

    Reply
  33. I’d love a pair of 18th C style stays, especially as I have a hard time finding foundation garments that fit me properly. Very annoying. The idea of something comfortable is very appealing – have seen Tonda’s 18th C stays (in Reno) and they do look lovely.

    Reply
  34. Breeches and Falls: You’ll note that the internal panel usually leaves only a small opening dead-center under the fall.
    Side by side drawing of wide and narrow falls.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/widefall-and-narrowfall2.jpg
    Two pairs of breeches, front view, close, c. 1770s.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/breeches-c1770s.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches-detail.jpg
    Half-open fall.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/half-open-fall.jpg
    18th century leather breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches-fall.jpg
    1790s breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790d-breeches-open.jpg
    Slimmest breeches I’ve ever seen (made by a reenactor). Note that they are still much baggier through the hip than pantaloons.
    http://www.songsmyth.com/actualgarments/jastownsendbreeches.jpg
    “Passer Payez”, Boilly c. 1803. The gentleman on the left is wearing breeches with a “French fly” (not surprising, as it’s a French painting).
    http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/passpaye.jpg
    Buckskin breeches, c. 1815. Note in the detail shots that the waistband comes up higher than the fall, and that the knee has both buttons and ties.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches-fall.jpg

    Reply
  35. Breeches and Falls: You’ll note that the internal panel usually leaves only a small opening dead-center under the fall.
    Side by side drawing of wide and narrow falls.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/widefall-and-narrowfall2.jpg
    Two pairs of breeches, front view, close, c. 1770s.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/breeches-c1770s.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches-detail.jpg
    Half-open fall.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/half-open-fall.jpg
    18th century leather breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches-fall.jpg
    1790s breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790d-breeches-open.jpg
    Slimmest breeches I’ve ever seen (made by a reenactor). Note that they are still much baggier through the hip than pantaloons.
    http://www.songsmyth.com/actualgarments/jastownsendbreeches.jpg
    “Passer Payez”, Boilly c. 1803. The gentleman on the left is wearing breeches with a “French fly” (not surprising, as it’s a French painting).
    http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/passpaye.jpg
    Buckskin breeches, c. 1815. Note in the detail shots that the waistband comes up higher than the fall, and that the knee has both buttons and ties.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches-fall.jpg

    Reply
  36. Breeches and Falls: You’ll note that the internal panel usually leaves only a small opening dead-center under the fall.
    Side by side drawing of wide and narrow falls.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/widefall-and-narrowfall2.jpg
    Two pairs of breeches, front view, close, c. 1770s.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/breeches-c1770s.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/suit-1770s-breeches-detail.jpg
    Half-open fall.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/half-open-fall.jpg
    18th century leather breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/early-leather-breeches-fall.jpg
    1790s breeches.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790s-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1790d-breeches-open.jpg
    Slimmest breeches I’ve ever seen (made by a reenactor). Note that they are still much baggier through the hip than pantaloons.
    http://www.songsmyth.com/actualgarments/jastownsendbreeches.jpg
    “Passer Payez”, Boilly c. 1803. The gentleman on the left is wearing breeches with a “French fly” (not surprising, as it’s a French painting).
    http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/passpaye.jpg
    Buckskin breeches, c. 1815. Note in the detail shots that the waistband comes up higher than the fall, and that the knee has both buttons and ties.
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches.jpg
    http://www.pemberley.com/images/Clothes/1815-buckskin-breeches-fall.jpg

    Reply
  37. Kalen, thank you SO MUCH for all these illustrations!
    Because my Mac and Typepad won’t play nice, I can never put any graphics or links with my entries (a great trial, believe me) so it’s grand of you to supply visuals.
    If you (or anyone else for that matter) has the book “Revolution in Fashion 1715-1815”, published by the Kyoto Costume Institute — there are splendid photographs of 18th-early 19th century corsets. It’s one of my fav costume books anyway — if you can ever find a copy ANYWHERE, grab at once!

    Reply
  38. Kalen, thank you SO MUCH for all these illustrations!
    Because my Mac and Typepad won’t play nice, I can never put any graphics or links with my entries (a great trial, believe me) so it’s grand of you to supply visuals.
    If you (or anyone else for that matter) has the book “Revolution in Fashion 1715-1815”, published by the Kyoto Costume Institute — there are splendid photographs of 18th-early 19th century corsets. It’s one of my fav costume books anyway — if you can ever find a copy ANYWHERE, grab at once!

    Reply
  39. Kalen, thank you SO MUCH for all these illustrations!
    Because my Mac and Typepad won’t play nice, I can never put any graphics or links with my entries (a great trial, believe me) so it’s grand of you to supply visuals.
    If you (or anyone else for that matter) has the book “Revolution in Fashion 1715-1815”, published by the Kyoto Costume Institute — there are splendid photographs of 18th-early 19th century corsets. It’s one of my fav costume books anyway — if you can ever find a copy ANYWHERE, grab at once!

    Reply
  40. Susan, that one is hard to find and very expensive, but FASHION by the Kyoto Costume Institute (ISBN: 3822838578) contains all the same images (and then some!). You can get it for a song on AbeBooks.com (the Tashen edition, which I prefer as it’s 2 volumes, is only $7.50 from The Strand in NY).
    By the way, I’m going to be teaching my online HOW CLOTHES WORKED IN THE REGENCY workshop again next month for the RWA Online Chapter. They don’t have it up yet, but it’s supposed to kickoff Monday Nov 13th (the day after I get back from giving the underclothes workshop in Ohio).
    http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/Campus.html
    All the images I just posted are from that workshop.

    Reply
  41. Susan, that one is hard to find and very expensive, but FASHION by the Kyoto Costume Institute (ISBN: 3822838578) contains all the same images (and then some!). You can get it for a song on AbeBooks.com (the Tashen edition, which I prefer as it’s 2 volumes, is only $7.50 from The Strand in NY).
    By the way, I’m going to be teaching my online HOW CLOTHES WORKED IN THE REGENCY workshop again next month for the RWA Online Chapter. They don’t have it up yet, but it’s supposed to kickoff Monday Nov 13th (the day after I get back from giving the underclothes workshop in Ohio).
    http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/Campus.html
    All the images I just posted are from that workshop.

    Reply
  42. Susan, that one is hard to find and very expensive, but FASHION by the Kyoto Costume Institute (ISBN: 3822838578) contains all the same images (and then some!). You can get it for a song on AbeBooks.com (the Tashen edition, which I prefer as it’s 2 volumes, is only $7.50 from The Strand in NY).
    By the way, I’m going to be teaching my online HOW CLOTHES WORKED IN THE REGENCY workshop again next month for the RWA Online Chapter. They don’t have it up yet, but it’s supposed to kickoff Monday Nov 13th (the day after I get back from giving the underclothes workshop in Ohio).
    http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/Campus.html
    All the images I just posted are from that workshop.

    Reply
  43. You’re right, Kalen, I have seen that boxed set from Kyoto at Borders and at B&N — same images, and much easier to find. And still totally worth the purchase.
    Also recommended: the book DANGEROUS LIASONS (isbn 0-300-10714-5) recently published by Yale and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A big hardcover picture book/catalogue to go along with a recent costume show at the Met, it has manequins in fantastic 18th century costume (including wigs, jewelry, and other accessories) set into tableaus inspired by 18th century French paintings — and they’re all arranged in the Museum’s period rooms. Best part is that it’s under $20, available through Amazon. Very cool!
    And thanks, too, Kalen, for the heads-up for the on-line workshop. For anyone who can’t get to a conference, these are the next-best thing.:)

    Reply
  44. You’re right, Kalen, I have seen that boxed set from Kyoto at Borders and at B&N — same images, and much easier to find. And still totally worth the purchase.
    Also recommended: the book DANGEROUS LIASONS (isbn 0-300-10714-5) recently published by Yale and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A big hardcover picture book/catalogue to go along with a recent costume show at the Met, it has manequins in fantastic 18th century costume (including wigs, jewelry, and other accessories) set into tableaus inspired by 18th century French paintings — and they’re all arranged in the Museum’s period rooms. Best part is that it’s under $20, available through Amazon. Very cool!
    And thanks, too, Kalen, for the heads-up for the on-line workshop. For anyone who can’t get to a conference, these are the next-best thing.:)

    Reply
  45. You’re right, Kalen, I have seen that boxed set from Kyoto at Borders and at B&N — same images, and much easier to find. And still totally worth the purchase.
    Also recommended: the book DANGEROUS LIASONS (isbn 0-300-10714-5) recently published by Yale and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A big hardcover picture book/catalogue to go along with a recent costume show at the Met, it has manequins in fantastic 18th century costume (including wigs, jewelry, and other accessories) set into tableaus inspired by 18th century French paintings — and they’re all arranged in the Museum’s period rooms. Best part is that it’s under $20, available through Amazon. Very cool!
    And thanks, too, Kalen, for the heads-up for the on-line workshop. For anyone who can’t get to a conference, these are the next-best thing.:)

    Reply
  46. OMG, Susan, I can’t even tell you how much I love DANGEROUS LIASONS. The grey striped suit in the card scene? Sexiest thing EVER!
    If you like late 18th century costume, I just got QUEEN OF FASHIONI: WAHT MARIE ANTOINETTE WORE TO THE REVOLUTION (ISBN: 0805079491) and it’s pretty amazing.

    Reply
  47. OMG, Susan, I can’t even tell you how much I love DANGEROUS LIASONS. The grey striped suit in the card scene? Sexiest thing EVER!
    If you like late 18th century costume, I just got QUEEN OF FASHIONI: WAHT MARIE ANTOINETTE WORE TO THE REVOLUTION (ISBN: 0805079491) and it’s pretty amazing.

    Reply
  48. OMG, Susan, I can’t even tell you how much I love DANGEROUS LIASONS. The grey striped suit in the card scene? Sexiest thing EVER!
    If you like late 18th century costume, I just got QUEEN OF FASHIONI: WAHT MARIE ANTOINETTE WORE TO THE REVOLUTION (ISBN: 0805079491) and it’s pretty amazing.

    Reply
  49. The grey striped suit!! I know it sounds really kinky, but those faceless mannequins, in those clothes and rooms, make for some pretty sexy photographs overall. Hard to explain without sounding like a nut-case, but they are.
    Yup, I already have the QUEEN OF FASHION. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s waiting for me. I love sociological takes on fashion; one of my old favorites is Anne Hollander’s SEEING THROUGH CLOTHES, and I’ll buy just about anything that Aileen Riberio writes. Because I’m writing in Stuart England right now, my current favorite of hers is FASHION AND FICTION. How thoughtful of Aileen to bring that book out just in time for me to use it for research! *G*

    Reply
  50. The grey striped suit!! I know it sounds really kinky, but those faceless mannequins, in those clothes and rooms, make for some pretty sexy photographs overall. Hard to explain without sounding like a nut-case, but they are.
    Yup, I already have the QUEEN OF FASHION. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s waiting for me. I love sociological takes on fashion; one of my old favorites is Anne Hollander’s SEEING THROUGH CLOTHES, and I’ll buy just about anything that Aileen Riberio writes. Because I’m writing in Stuart England right now, my current favorite of hers is FASHION AND FICTION. How thoughtful of Aileen to bring that book out just in time for me to use it for research! *G*

    Reply
  51. The grey striped suit!! I know it sounds really kinky, but those faceless mannequins, in those clothes and rooms, make for some pretty sexy photographs overall. Hard to explain without sounding like a nut-case, but they are.
    Yup, I already have the QUEEN OF FASHION. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s waiting for me. I love sociological takes on fashion; one of my old favorites is Anne Hollander’s SEEING THROUGH CLOTHES, and I’ll buy just about anything that Aileen Riberio writes. Because I’m writing in Stuart England right now, my current favorite of hers is FASHION AND FICTION. How thoughtful of Aileen to bring that book out just in time for me to use it for research! *G*

    Reply
  52. I found Fashion (the boxed set) at one of our big box stores last year and broke my rule about not buying from there, just for this collection *g*. Of course, it’s in storage right now – one of the things I’ll be rescuing when we have a chance to go in and open one of our 39 boxes of books.
    Thanks for the links, Tonda 🙂 I can use them until I get my books!

    Reply
  53. I found Fashion (the boxed set) at one of our big box stores last year and broke my rule about not buying from there, just for this collection *g*. Of course, it’s in storage right now – one of the things I’ll be rescuing when we have a chance to go in and open one of our 39 boxes of books.
    Thanks for the links, Tonda 🙂 I can use them until I get my books!

    Reply
  54. I found Fashion (the boxed set) at one of our big box stores last year and broke my rule about not buying from there, just for this collection *g*. Of course, it’s in storage right now – one of the things I’ll be rescuing when we have a chance to go in and open one of our 39 boxes of books.
    Thanks for the links, Tonda 🙂 I can use them until I get my books!

    Reply
  55. I don’t own EEING THROUGH CLOTHES. Something to add to my TBR list!!!
    I don’t know what it is about that DANGEROUS LIASONS book . . . but it makes me nash my teeth that I didn’t get to see the exhibit live. I first saw this at my friend Cathie’s house during a retreat with Janea Whitacre (the mantuamaker for Coloniel Williamsburg) and I HAD to have it.

    Reply
  56. I don’t own EEING THROUGH CLOTHES. Something to add to my TBR list!!!
    I don’t know what it is about that DANGEROUS LIASONS book . . . but it makes me nash my teeth that I didn’t get to see the exhibit live. I first saw this at my friend Cathie’s house during a retreat with Janea Whitacre (the mantuamaker for Coloniel Williamsburg) and I HAD to have it.

    Reply
  57. I don’t own EEING THROUGH CLOTHES. Something to add to my TBR list!!!
    I don’t know what it is about that DANGEROUS LIASONS book . . . but it makes me nash my teeth that I didn’t get to see the exhibit live. I first saw this at my friend Cathie’s house during a retreat with Janea Whitacre (the mantuamaker for Coloniel Williamsburg) and I HAD to have it.

    Reply
  58. There’s a comment in this interesting thread that implies stays and corsets are restricting. Sure they are by 2006 standards, but for the 18 or 19 cent lady they only stopped her doing things that she would not want to do. Alas, she had no need to find tins of peas on the bottom shelf of the supermarket.
    Mandy

    Reply
  59. There’s a comment in this interesting thread that implies stays and corsets are restricting. Sure they are by 2006 standards, but for the 18 or 19 cent lady they only stopped her doing things that she would not want to do. Alas, she had no need to find tins of peas on the bottom shelf of the supermarket.
    Mandy

    Reply
  60. There’s a comment in this interesting thread that implies stays and corsets are restricting. Sure they are by 2006 standards, but for the 18 or 19 cent lady they only stopped her doing things that she would not want to do. Alas, she had no need to find tins of peas on the bottom shelf of the supermarket.
    Mandy

    Reply

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