Galerie des Modes, 15e Cahier, 1ere Figure

TAILOR TRYING A FASHIONABLE BODY
He is dressed in a hazel coat with a black velvet collar with two gold buttonholes, the buttons and buttonholes of the Suit are the same; a vest of cerise tricot with a gold braid; breeches of black velvet, grey silk stockings.  The young person has only a simple petticoat and white stockings, and her stays are covered with yellow batiste. (1778)

It is not enough to present the exteriors of clothing, it is important to make known the interior pieces: often it is these which make the prestige of the fashions, and the more they are hidden, the more interesting they are to uncover.  It is that which has been attempted in this Print.


It offers a young person, trying on a corps piqué, or corps de baleine:* people have complained much, these days, against this interior part of Ladies' dress.  Some Doctors have alleged that it is disastrous, especially for the young; others have wanted to to establish its use among old men; but despite all these complaints, Ladies continued to wear stays, and they have not become weaker, nor less well-made.  Experience demonstrates, to the contrary, that well-proportioned stays are nearly always useful; its only imperfection can make it dangerous.

Stays are of diverse types; some have straight straps, like that shown in the Drawing; others have off-the-shoulder straps: these only serve for Court dress, and always lace in the back.  There are also stays without straps, these are heavily used in England; they lace in the front or the back, or on the sides, like the first.

The two sides and the back of the stays are composed of several fabrics sewn together, with whalebone.  On the front, there are two channels to pass two other whalebone stays through: these are called the busks.

The corset is also an interior fitted garment; it replaces the stays and serves the same use, but it is more flexible: the two busks are the only whalebones in it.

The stays offered in the Print are a corps à la Française, laced in the back, with aiglets on two sides to hold petticoats, and a little lace on the front to give the chest the necessary space for breathing.

This fitted garment is placed immediately on the shift, and it is to it only that women derive their torsos' rounded shape, pointed at the bottom; a unique shape, and which always, before marriage, can be regarded as one of the distinctive attributes of honor.

* According to Heileen and Diderot, the corps piqué is a set of stays where the channels are visible, while the corps de baleine (or corps baleiné, or corps couvert) is covered with an unpierced outer layer of fabric.

Comments

  1. Dear Cassidy,
    This plate is especially interesting. I see the aiglets mentioned in the text: the metal-ended ribbons at the side? How did they hold up the petticoats? Did those have buttonholes in them to hold them up? Did such things replace a petticoat waistband or augment it? Interested minds want to know! Any thoughts?

    ---especially for potential use for 1790s dress---

    Very best,

    Natalie

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    1. After doing some historical costume prints in the 18th book, I'm pretty sure I should be translating aiguillettes as "points" - in Elizabethan clothing, sometimes doublets have laces (called points) tipped with aiglets at each end that are fastened to the waist in the center. Then the trunk hose will have two eyelets at the same place, and the points are threaded through the eyelets and tied to hold up the hose. So I'm guessing it's similar to that, the points threading through eyelets on the waistband, but possibly only for underpetticoats - I've never seen/heard of outer petticoats that have eyelets.

      I don't think I've heard of this kind of thing being used in the 1790s (but then, I'd never heard of it before in the 1770s), but there was an outfit I found at Christie's, a spencer and petticoat, that was held together with hooks and eyes. Sort of interesting, how this sixteenth century technique carries through to the eighteenth century, and another is used in the eighteenth century and all the way through to the early twentieth.

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    2. From what I understand ( I think it might be in Garsault, can't remember), the aiguillettes in question have a first meaning that is exactly what you says (the good old points) but here it could just means ribbons, that were supposed to be tied to other ribons on the skirt and secure it to the stays.

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    3. Oh, interesting - it didn't occur to me that they could be tied to the petticoat's ties, rather than through the waistband!

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  2. I find it interesting that a distinction is made between stays and corsets. Do you know of any pictures of corsets from this period? I would be interested in seeing how they looked compared to the stays.

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    1. I can't think of any prints/paintings of them, but I'm pretty sure that the French corsets are what were called "jumps" in English. Extant jumps - there are a couple of pictures and patterns in Jill Salen's Corsets - are cut pretty much like stays, they're just boned very lightly, mainly around the eyelets.

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    2. The use of the word corset is extremlely complicated in french in 18th century, I made a research about it once, and it nearly drove me crazy. Before 1770, the corps (stays) is what we call a corset, and the corset is either a négligé waistcoat much like the jump that you wear at home, or more like a jacket used as a stays for women who can't afford the very expensive stays. By the beginning 70s, and the Ecyclopedie (Diderot and D'alembert), lines between the two became blurry, and sometimes (but not all the times) an half boned stays was called a corset. I think the thing was that a difference was being stated between what was a court stays, and what was town stays, much less rigid and codified, hence the blurring of the terms. It's also the period where stays in public town disappear totally under clothing. By the 80s, it has become much more complicated : there were clothing like the polonaise and the zone gown that were showing a piece of clothing that was not a stays, but more of a jacket, or a waistcoat, but was alternatively called a corsage (bodice) or a corset without any mention of what makes the difference between the two, or if the corsets were some kind of stays or if the word has just taken a far new meaning. So just comparing them to jump is very reductive.

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    3. That's true. I was mainly thinking in the context of this plate, where the description is specific that it's hardly boned, but I should have specified that.

      I can't wait to get into the 1780s and see if they have anything detailed to say about the corset/corsage/gilet/veste etc. Sometimes the descriptions are so thorough in explaining terms!

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