Newsletter No. 8-07 (Jun. 2007)   Page 2 of 5 / Sidan 2 av 5. [back to page 1] Arcive/Arkiv: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


This newsletter is written in order to spread experiences within the topic of historic textiles and reconstructions. Our ambition is to amuse you and stimulate interest in the 18th Century. Durán Textiles, who is mainly working with museum collections and Royal Castles, was founded in 2002 by CEO and production manager Laila Durán, with co-worker artist Torkel Henriksson who is doing the artworks and preparing the designs for production. Our production is done mostly in India supervised by Duran Textiles inspectors. 
- The articles are mainly written by Laila Durán but we also have help from colleagues and specialists from several museums and universities.  In the future this newsletter will be distributed four times a year and is free of charge. We hope you will enjoy our stories and offers and help us to spread the letter to friends and colleagues. Contact:

Detta nyhetsbrev skrivs för att sprida erfarenheter inom ämnet rekonstruktioner av historiska textiler och 1700-talet. Ambitionen är att roa och stimulera intresset. Durán Textiles har varit verksamt sedan 2002 och arbetar med projekt för Kungliga Slott och museisamlingar i hela Skandinavien. Laila Durán är VD och projektledare, Torkel Henriksson arbetar med originalen och alla förlagor för tryck och väv. På plats i Indien, där de flesta av tygerna produceras, finns Durán Textiles egna inspektörer.
- Artiklarna skrivs huvudsakligen av Laila Durán men vi får även hjälp av kollegor och specialister från olika muséer och universitet.  Nyhetsbrevet kommer i fortsättningen att komma ut fyra gånger per år och är helt kostnadsfritt. Vi hoppas ni ska uppskatta våra artiklar och erbjudanden och även sprida informationen vidare till Era vänner. Kontakt:



Fashion before ease
– on 18th century stays

Text Martin Ciszuk

In all times and in all cultures mankind have use different devices to shape the human body to an ideal form. The corsets or stays in the 18th century not only shaped the body, but did also give an erect posture, a fashionable silhouette and influenced the movement pattern together with the cut of the clothes. A properly made pair of stays together with petticoats, panniers, hip pads and bum rolls is the precondition for a 18th century dress to fit correctly. A modern natural ”unshaped body or a contemporary brassiere does not work under these dresses.
The stays were made of stiff firmly woven, sometimes glued, linen or cotton. Chamois and waxed leather was also used. Exclusive corsets were covered in patterned silks, embroidered fabric and bound with silk ribbons. Baleen (whale bone or fish bone) was mostly used for stiffening, but other materials were also used as willow and iron rods. Baleen is not the actual bones of the whale, but the baleen plates in which the whale gather food. This material resembles horn or nails and is well suited for making stays. It is stiff, strong, elastic and can be permanently shaped with heat.
The stays were traditionally made by men i.e. tailors. In the big cities they were organised in guilds of their own and was also making panniers, leather work and military equipment. The making of stays was a hard and heavy work, compared to the tailoring of dresses. The stays, as all fitted garments, were made by order and to measure. Preserved corsets which have been altered and mended bear witness of that these garments also could be inherited or used second hand.
The form of the stays followed the evolution of fashion. The corset shaped the body by its cut, but also by the direction and placing of the bones. In early 18th century the stays were long and lowered the waistline. Some had an oval neckline which was a reminiscence of the 17th century fashion. This décolletage remained for ceremonial wear in the French court dress which was used in whole western Europe up to the French revolution. The most common shape was however a high squared décolletage. The bodice was shaped to a cone and the bosom pushed up under the chin. The back was very narrow and the shoulder straps pulled the shoulders down and backwards. Extra bones pressed the shoulder blades towards the back to keep it flat. In the beginning of the 18th century the corsets often had a rich decorated front piece, as they were sometimes worn visible under an open dress, that was pinned and laced over the stays. In the end of the century the ideal body shape and the form of the stays changed. The waist was gradually raised, until it culminated under the bust in the directoire and empire fashion. The bosom was more accentuated and the front pieces of the stays were cut to push the bust upwards and forward in low and wide décolletages.
Stays cold be half boned or full boned. The full boned stays were associated to formal wear and the gala dresses. Half boned softer corsets were used in daytime and informal wear. The lacing was often in centre back. This required a chamber maid’s help, and was necessary in the hard lacing for formal wear. Stays that were laced in front could be put on by the wearer, and many corsets had lacing both front and back, which made it possible to adjust size and tightness of the lacing. Stays worn under pregnancy could have additional lacing in the sides. For every day clothing bodices without bones, in French corsage, were also worn, particularly in the end of the 18th century when a more simplified, bourgeois and informal fashion was spread.
The whale bone was cut in thin stripes according to use, mostly ca 0,5 cm wide. They were sewn between two layers of firm fabric, using tightly spaced back stitches or running stitches. In centre front often a extra firm and stiff piece (busk) was placed. The lacing holes were edged and overcast with silk or linen thread, and often metal rings were sewn in for reinforcement. The bottom of the stays terminated in narrow skirts or tabs that gave a smooth transgression between waist and hips. The stays were finished all around with narrow binding of silk ribbon or thin leather strips. A shift was worn under the corset to protect it from sweat and dirt. Washing the stays was hardly possible, as they were composed of materials with different properties. Sometimes the corset had a lining of cotton or linen that could be taken out to be washed or replaced.
Among peasants the stays were imitated in laced and stiffened bodices, still a part of Swedish folk costume. These bodices were however never full boned and had mostly bones only in centre front and on the seams. Whale bone was an expensive material, so instead willow, reed or iron rods were used to give stiffness.
In the highest classes, in cities and court milieu, stays were worn daily already by small girls. The corset was intended to give correct posture and to cultivate the body. It also was considered to shape a woman’s personality into modesty and submission. The stays, as well as many other fashionable garments, were a matter of demonstrating a life style free from labour. Lung volume and digestion was of course restricted by the hard laced stays, and it is not surprising that ladies fainted at strong emotional affection.
As the directoire fashion and the soft chemise dresses made the corset unfashionable at the turn of the 19th century, one could expect this to be the end of the history of the stays. But the corset continued to be used and developed to new shapes in the 19th and 20th century. It has its successors in our modern underwear in new materials. The body apparently still needs to be shaped to correspond to our ideals.

Norah Waugh: Corsets and Crinolines
Linda Baumgarten: Costume close up
Linda Baumgarten: Eighteenth-century clothing at Williamsburg



(Större bilder – klicka på bild)


Corsetiers cutting and fitting in
the 18th century.

Silk moiré corset. Silk cording
and lacing, linen lining.
England ca 1730-40.

Silk corset with silk ribbon and silk trimmings, linen lining. Italy ca 1750.

Corset made of sateen, leather and whalebone. England 1883.

Corset in bright pink satin silk edged with black lace. England 1885-95.

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