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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1780-1789 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, linen, baleen; hand-woven damask weave, hand-sewn

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In the 18th century, women’s stays served to mould the torso to the fashionable shape and provide a rigid form on which the gown could be arranged and fastened. Because they were underwear and therefore never seen, stays were usually made of plain linen, but this example provides a colourful and luxurious alternative.

Physical description

Woman’s stays of crimson silk damask, lined and interlined with linen and reinforced with baleen. They are back-lacing with a high narrow back, a wide, decolletage and a point in front, about 4 inches (10 cm) below the natural waist. The stays are cut in 8 pieces and partially boned in stitched channels about 3/16-inch (4 mm) wide, the baleen extending into the skirts below the waist. There are 7 horizontal boned channels at the neckline and a ⅜-inch (5 mm) wide, boned channel on each side of the centre front. A 3/16-inch (4 mm) wide white silk twill ribbon covers the seams. The neckline, armholes and edges of the skirts are bound with white silk grosgrain ribbon. The stays are laced through 12 eyelets on each side at centre back arranged asymmetrically. The shoulder straps, each with an eyelet, extend from the front and fasten to a pair of eyelets at each back shoulder.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1780-1789 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk, linen, baleen; hand-woven damask weave, hand-sewn


Height: 31 cm approx, Length: 59 cm overall, flat approx, Circumference: 60 cm Waist - measured inside garment, Width: 76.5 cm overall, flat approx, Circumference: 84.5 cm Bust - measured inside garment, Length: 39 cm Nape-waist

Descriptive line

Woman's stays 1780s, British; Crimson silk damask, partially boned, back lacing

Labels and date

In her 1778 novel, The Sylph, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire wrote: 'Poor Winifred... broke two laces in endeavouring to draw my new French stays close... Then they are so intolerably wide across the breast that my arms are absolutely sore with them; and sides so pinched! But... to be admired, is a sufficient balsam'.

Half-boned stays
Britain, 1770s
Silk damask, buckram and whalebone, lined with linen
Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.
V&A: T.909-1913 [2013-2015]
Silk Stays

These stays are reinforced with parallel strips of whalebone along the upper edge, making them very wide across the breasts. The Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) complained in a letter from 1778 that a similar corset cut into her body and made her arms sore, 'But it is the 'ton' [fashion]; and pride feels no pain.'

Britain, 1775-85
Silk damask, buckram interlining, whalebone (baleen), linen lining
V&A: T.909-1913
Given by the Messrs Harrods [16/04/2016-12/03/2017]


Linen (material); Baleen; Silk (textile)


Hand weaving; Damask weave; Hand sewing


Underwear; Womenswear


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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