Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tight Lacing or Fashion Before Ease

This satirical print is making sport of the fashionable woman on many levels. During the time period of the 1770s there were a number of prints published in England on this subject. Tight Lacing of stays was coming under criticism as the fashionistas tried to achieve through stays and tight lacing extremely narrow waists. An article published by Colonial Williamsburg entitled "Tight Lacing:Taking Great Pains with Fashion" by Susan Pryor details more citations on tight lacing, however I do not agree with the conclusions drawn by the author that all stays were injurious to health. Stays were worn until fashion said otherwise when the change to the classical and natural began in the last decades of the 18th Century.

In this well known English print, c1777, the strapping footman has his hands full with his lovely young mistress, the lady's maid is quite enjoying holding the handsome footman and the young black servant is having a good time assisting the young maid with his hands snugly around her waist while the dog looks on with canine curiosity. The monkey is pointing to a book with the words "victim of eating".

The point of the satire is easily taken, the tight lacing of the stays is being lampooned as fashionable folly, but this print tells historical costumers some information. She is wearing her under petticoat under her stays, her pocket is also being worn under the stays. She has her hair done prior to dressing and putting on her stays and is also wearing her shoes and stockings. The stays have an extremely narrow waist and yet are broad across the chest and under the arms, certainly not comfortable. All these details assist in putting together the entire package that is the 18th century woman from the inside out.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection

1 comment:

  1. I held onto to a post, more than once, when Sue laced me up ;-)


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