Monday, June 8, 2009

Value of Stays

The cost to purchase a new pair of stays is not included in the newspaper advertisements of staymakers . Therefore to determine the relative costing of stays the Proceedings of the Old Bailey is used as a resource. To help decipher British 18th century currency there is excellent information on the British monetery system at the Proceedings as well.

The values placed on stolen objects are arbitrary and decided upon by the clerk of the courts, of course the victim would like his property valued at the highest amount possible, but even with all of those caveats there is still some good information to be found. The lowest value set on a pair of stays from 1770-1773 was 6d. The amount citied for a new pair of stays was 30s. Most of the citiations during this same time period put a price on stays in the mid range of 5-12 s.

If a domestic servant living in 18th century London is only earning 2-3 £ (pounds) per year (which equals 40-60 shillings), then a new set of stays would be a large portion of your annual income, keeping new stays out of reach and the second hand market the affordable choice.

“a pair of stays, value 1s.”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), February 1770, trial of Mary Harwood (t17700221-34)

“a pair of stays, value 4s.”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), April 1770, Ordinary’s Account, Job Parker

“a pair of stays, value 12s”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), April 1770, trial Charles Chatterly, James Parker(: t17700425-61 )

“a pair of stays, value 8s”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), July 1770, trial Rebecca Keith (t17700711-20)

“a pair of stays, value 6d”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), February 1773, trial Ann Haag (t17730217-35)

“a pair of new stays, value 30s”
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 8 June 2009), December 1773 trial Mary Worth (t17731208-48)


  1. This may or may not be of interest to you:

    "... he cuts out the tabby and canvass by the shape in quarters, which are given out to be stitched by women, who are able to earn only five or six shillings a week. "

    The New-York Magazine; Or, Literary Repository Vol. VI. -1795

    Unfortunately it doesn't give any other pricing information, but the use of "only" seems to suggest that 5 or 6 shillings isn't much in the scheme of stay-making.

  2. That seems to be right in line with the information from the London Tradesmen, sewing channels was very low wage. Thank you for the additional quote.



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