18th Century Stomachers

Like everything in fashion, stomachers came in and out of vogue, but during the 18th century they were very much statement pieces especially those made for the wealthier members of society and the newspapers always deemed elaborate stomachers worthy of mention when describing the outfits worn by the nobility.

A stomacher is a triangular shaped panel that fills the front of a woman’s gown and was worn from around the 15th century, but of course today we’re going to take a look at some of the ones worn in the 18th century.

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c1750. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

By the end of the 18th century stomachers could be as deep as 10 inches below the waist which would have made them very uncomfortable for a woman to sit down.

In this painting we can clearly see the beautiful stomacher worn by Madame de Pompadour, renown for her love of fashion.

1759. Madame De Pompadour courtesy of the Wallace Collection 1
1759. Madame De Pompadour courtesy of the Wallace Collection

They were often embroidered or covered with jewels, none more so than those designed for royalty as shown in this newspaper article.

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 13, 1761

The rich diamond stomacher for our intended Queen is quite finished, and is the richest thing of the kind ever seen; the capital stone of which is worth about fifteen thousand pounds and the whole piece is valued at one hundred thousand pounds.

Charlotte
Allan Ramsay (1713-84) Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) c.1760-61 Oil on canvas | RCIN 405308 Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Morning Post and Gazetteer, Thursday, March 13, 1800

Fashions vary here as often as the wind; Negligés are now worn, the stomacher of which falls lower than the girdle. The robes are very open at the bosom. The girdles are tied either before or behind.

Boston Museum of fine Art
1730-1740. White cotton embroidered with polychrome silk and gilt-silver yarns in vining floral motif. Two side panels lace with gilt-silver lacing over center panel; four flaring tabs at base; gilt-silver galloon trim. 6 linen tabs and 2 linen ties at sides. Linen lining. The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection Courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Art

General Evening Post , October 8, 1778

On Thursday evening about seven o’clock their majesties set out from St James’s to stand sponsors for the newborn daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Chandos: her majesty was magnificently dressed in white, flounced with silver and a superb stomacher; the Countess of Hertford, as Lady of the Bedchamber and Miss Vernon and Jefferys, all dress in white, attended on the occasion. His majesty was dressed in a French grey with silver trimming.

Alexander_Roslin_031
1753. Portrait of an unknown Lady by Alexander Roslin. Courtesy of the National Museum, Stockholm

Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, January 18, 1792

The stomacher to be worn today by the Duchess of York is valued at twenty-two thousand pounds – it consists entirely of diamonds; the centre stone alone is supposed to be worth £10,000. The top is festooned, and the centre diamond is set brilliant fashion, as are all the others, pendant in rows from the festoon, in the most elegant manner that can be imagined.

Working Title/Artist: Robe a la Francaise, French or Austrian, ca. 1765, silk Department: Costume Institute Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: photographed by mma in 2001, transparency 3a scanned by film & media 7/23/03 (phc)
Working Title/Artist: Robe a la Francaise, French or Austrian, ca. 1765, silk
Department: Costume Institute

And finally, we came across this sad story in World and Fashionable Advertiser, Monday, July 16, 1787.

The following are the particulars of the unfortunate girl who hung herself last Wednesday week in South Moulton Street: She had been to the Haymarket Theatre with her friend and constant companion Miss Edwards; upon the latter intimating a wish to retire, Miss Charlotte Wood requested she would, and said she should follow shortly. Upon her friend retiring, she sent the maid to bed, and bolted the dining room door. Nothing was heard that night; the next morning she was found hanging in her garters from a peg in a closet with a paper pinned to her stomacher, expressing she had committed this rash act from the love she bore to a Mr A____r, who, we understand is a musician in this town.

William Goodwin, haberdasher, at the Sun & Falcon, facing Leather Lane in Holbourn, from the late Mr. Walkwoods LWL
William Goodwin, haberdasher, at the Sun & Falcon, facing Leather Lane in Holbourn, from the late Mr. Walkwoods Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
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8 thoughts on “18th Century Stomachers

    1. All Things Georgian

      It’s presumably down to the fabric used and the length of the stomacher, you would expect some of the ones with a lot of jewels to be quite weighty presumably 🙂

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      1. well, hers were plain padded wood and fabric, so nothing heavy! I can’t say the idea of a heap of bullion and gemstones sounds very nice, but that’s why royals have large incomes, they are paid to be more uncomfortable than anyone else to give their subjects the twin pleasures of looking at them, and laughing at them. This is why I’m a royalist; we need someone more ridiculous than our politicians.

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