I have an ECWS period outfit, cut would be pretty fashionable for mid 1640s... but also a late Tudor one that, because I'm no spring chicken, I can still wear for the 1640s. To make life easier - rather than bone the bodices, I made stays to wear under them.
Looking at Pat Poppy and Jane Huggett's books, it seems the concensus is - by the 1640s, you'd be more likely to wear a boned waistcoat (bodice), than a waistcoat with bodies under it.... especially if older. Also, class comes into play - Pat Poppy and others quote the James I edict that servants were to have no bodice "'of wire, whalebone, or other stiffening save canvass or buckram only'"
Jane Huggett says :
Robert Morris puts it like this:"...It is perhaps significant that the few mentions of bodies in lower class wills and inventories nearly always belong to unmarried and therefore probably young women... It is possible then, that outside of the gentry, it was mainly young unmarried women and girls who wore bodies, but more research is needed to confirm this....." [Clothes of the Common Woman 1580-1660, Part 2, p. 14].
I'm not sure what to think. Adapting for childbearing is one thing but then, what for older women whose days of childbearing are past? Yet stays, in inventories, do seem to be associated with younger women. This brings us to our dilemma - whether to bone/use buckram integrally, within the top parts of gowns, and in waistcoats routinely - or to rely on wearing stays underneath... Regardess of age/social class being protrayed etc."...Strangely none of the other inventories mention bodies. Servants would generally be girlsd between early teens and late twenties and in the husband hunting age group. Could we be seeing the hot pants syndrome, a garment inappropriate for older women? Martindale indicates that gowns, which contained integral bodices, could be worn by women after marriage. One crucial change occurs to women's bodies at this transition, the start of childbearing with the associated frequent variation in the shape and size of the belly...plus a need for easy access for feeding infants. It would be not unreasonable for there to be changes to the nature and design of the main body clothing to allow for these changes....."
[Clothes of the Common Woman, 1580-1660, Robert Morris, p61-2].
Anyone have an opinion on this? Stays, or boned bodices? Or both? I'm generally aiming at yeoman farmer's wife... and I guess the answer to the question has variables? I'm going to use buckram and boning on the bodice of the next gown - but don't want to abandon me stays just yet! And I do think the stays give a more dramatic effect even if they do manage to make me look fatter (which they do) I don't mind if I'm fatter but the right shape...
Also, another random thought.... Anyone with 'Corsets and Crinolines' seen the early 18thC stays (the court stays and Duchess of Richmond's on p.51) and say, the pattern for 1780's stays.... which are not that much different to, say the Elizabeth effigy stays... That implies a degree of continuity - that stays can't have vanished in the mid 17thC or the late 18thC ones wouldn't be so similar to some of the much earlier ones if there was nothing inbetween - if that makes sense? The more heavily boned waistcoats that have survived from say the 1630s-1660s, very few in number, are also extremely high status garments - does that mean the ordinary woman would have abandoned stays? And if most people lived in secondhand clothing, is it likely that 'ordinary' folks' clothes would be heavily boned, tailored and fitted in any case? Surely easier to achieve the shape with your own stays underneath.....
What's yous think?