Fashion and Form

A young girl’s garment from the eighteenth century

For the past 400 years Western women have worn some kind of corset—called stays in the eighteenth century—to shape and support malleable flesh. Boned stays forced the shoulders back and the breasts up and out. This early example (corps de baleine) is for a formal pair worn by a young girl. It was worn so that the luxury textile on the front was visible under the dress, and the long point sat over the skirt or petticoat showing off the delicate silver lace trim.