Wednesday 12 September 2012

Leather stays - mid 18th century

At Killerton yesterday I saw a pair of mid 18th century stays so, after asking, I took some photographs, the first four shown here. As I said I’m not the world’s best photographer. The label dates the stays to 1740-1760, and says that microscopic examination shows that they were covered in a yellow worsted fabric. This would seem to indicate that the leather was used as a stiffener, a substitute for boning.  What fascinates me is that they are patched, and obviously well worn. I know leather stays are a contentious issue in re-enactment, but these are nothing like the “beer tent” stays that some traders produce.
Interestingly the inventory of Edward Kitchiner, draper, of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, 1713, shows that he stocked women’s and girls’ “bodyes and leather bodyes” (1) Styles in his work talks about “leather stays or bodies sometimes worn by the labouring poor,” but doesn’t expand upon this. (2)
There is an all leather pair of stays in the Nordiska museet in Stockholm, which are dated to 1763 and were owned by a Helena Olofsdotter, and I believe the museum has others. I also saw a pair in Worthing Museum last year, but although I took a photograph, the last one in this blog, I didn’t make any further notes.
1. Buck, Anne. Dress in eighteenth century England. London : Batsford, 1979.
2. Styles, John. The dress of the people of England: everyday fashion in eighteenth century England. New Haven : Yale U. P., 2007.

The stays in Worthing Museum

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