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2027Re: Regency patterns (long)

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  • Gary Stephens
    Jul 21, 1999
      Hi, Scott, et al,

      Thank you kindly for all the information you took the trouble to
      post. I perhaps have been a bit remiss and reticent in expanding upon my
      own knowledge of the history of the corset - from Italian Renaissance to
      late Victorian, and that gawd-awful brassiere thingie after the fact. :-)

      >Many of these examples are for thin women, and you can bet if the thin gals
      >were wearing one the big ones were also.

      As a large woman myself, I can certainly attest to the desire to be
      'bound' - all double-entendre aside.

      I was just playing devil's advocate for a bit, offering grist, and
      thought. There are many truths upon which we've relied which have later
      been found to be incorrect. Like the medievals using heavy spices to cover
      the taste of tainted meat. Balderdash. Sometimes it's good to understand
      there are no ultimates.

      Equally, as Betsy quite astutely pointed out, there are many extant
      examples of garments for the well-to-do. There are few for the lower
      classes. Part of this is because, to my knowledge, the practice of
      'handing-down' garments as an act of piety or charity was practiced as
      widely and commonly during the 18th and 19th centuries as it was in the
      eras previouly. Hence garments were worn by several owners till the
      garments wore out. Nothing wasted.

      >At first these were straight sided. Later, they curved, allowing the
      >breasts to move forward into a more natural shape, rather than being
      >suppressed and pushed up. The busk down the front seperated the breasts -
      >the effect that was required can be seen in contemporary fashion plates."

      The busk has in fact been in use since the Renaissance, not always
      with the intent of separating the breasts; sometimes it was simply to
      create a smooth, even line in the front. How a woman's breasts were placed
      has been at the whim of fashion for centuries. During the High Medieval
      era, it is my observation the breasts were in fact pushed down and toward
      the armpits, to create a smooth, gentle curve. During the Renaissance, the
      breasts moved from the armpit towards the front, but were smooshed (that's
      a technical term) so the nipples were downward, still creating a smooth
      front, but with a little more decolete. Toward the end of the Renaissance
      it was a French affectaction to allow a little of the aureola to show. And
      to say the common folk didn't affect this is, perhaps, not quite accurate,
      as one must remember about those castoffs. There was a market for used
      stays and corsets.

      Later, during the Restoration, breasts began to rise and mounds
      began to appear, although not as greatly as Hollywood would have us
      believe. Afterall, people were still attempting to find a way to buy their
      way into heaven, and immodesty was not one of those ways.

      French & Indian War time period finds the stays and the breasts
      held therein somewhat higher at the bustline than during the Restoration,
      although when one reads about corset-maker's guidelines of having the top
      of the stays 'two fingernail crescents above the nipple', well, one wonders
      exactly just how large is two fingernail crescents.

      Anyway, I have pontificated enough. Apologies. What my point was
      now I haven't a clue. Blame it on lack of sleep and creeping senility.

      >To say, based on your observations of period portraits, that corsets were
      >not worn, especially in light of the fact that numerous examples exist in
      >museums and private collections is a little too speculative for me to buy

      Well, I'm glad to hear that, Scott, because I didn't say corsets
      were not worn. I was simply speculating, sparked by drawings. :-)
      Speculation, yes. But that doesn't mean cast in stone. I won't for a moment
      advocate women re-enactors throw aside their stays. Not for one moment. In
      fact, I'd love to start a campaign to burn all those bodices I see thrown
      over chemises (Please! No offense meant to anyone at all. It would simply
      mortify me if I thought I had caused offense!) and lace those ladies in.
      But that would be a little over the top and completely against my nature.
      I'll just continue to wear my stays and hope others will realize it's okay
      to make and wear stays as well.

      Oh, but just to add a bit of bedevilment in the spirit of good
      nature and interest in things historical: did you know the famed Elizabeth
      Simcoe, starched and staid lady that she was, cast aside her stays, her
      under petticoats and her lady's slippers when she lived on Queenston
      Heights? She was known to go about simply in her over petticoat or gown,
      with mocassins on her feet, doing her best interpretation of the brazen
      woman. Such a fascinating character!

      with much cheer

      Five Rivers Chapmanry ~ purveyors of quality hand-crafted cooperage,
      period furniture & fine hand-sewn garments ~ e-mail: lgsteph@... ~
      website: http://www.historicmerchants.com/fiverivers
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