False Rumps!

Fashions are continually changing but briefly, during the 1770s and early 1780s, women wore the most amazing items known as false rumps. They were large pieces of cork worn in ‘pockets’ under the straps of their stays, which enhanced the lady’s posterior and made her waist look smaller and more delicate. Think Kim Kardashian: does she know that she would have been the ultimate late eighteenth-century fashion icon, we wonder? False rumps were mocked mercilessly by the press and in satirical caricatures (the old-fashioned way of breaking the internet!), and there was even a suggestion that they should be taxed to raise money for the government.

Captain Cork Rump. Yale Center for British Art
Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Surely, they can’t have been comfortable but, on at least one occasion, the wearing of a cork rump acted as a life preserver (Norfolk Chronicle 04 July 1778).

On Sunday evening a very ludicrous accident happened at Henley upon Thames. A large party from town went after tea to enjoy the coolness of the evening on the banks of the river. Youth and spirits hurried them into such sallies of vivacity, that in running with too much precipitation, a lady’s foot tripped and she fell into the Thames. The consternation was general; but somehow everyone was surprised to see her swim like a fishing float, half immersed, and half above the water. It seems that the lady had been furnished with an immoderate sized cork rump, which buoyed her up so completely that she looked like Venus rising from the water. She was towed to shore by a gentleman’s cane without the least injury but wet petticoats.

So, fashion it seems did have its uses.

Chloe's Cushion, or, the Cork Rump. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Chloe’s Cushion, or, the Cork Rump. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Your fake derriere was also a great place to hide contraband according to a report from Paris:

The present fashionable protuberances, so much in vogue among the females, have by the adroitness of two dressy fair ones of this capital, been turned to a profitable instead of expensive fashion and gave rise to a laughable adventure: the females in question had contrived to fill bladders with brandy, which they substituted for cork, wool wire etc and thus equipped in the most outré prominence of the mode, they passed several times daily unsuspected through the gates of Paris, smuggling no inconsiderable quantity of brandy.  The frequency of their excursions caused suspicion among the officers at the gates, who attempted to touch their garments, but this was resisted by the fair ones with every appearance of affected modesty. However, one of the officers, having sufficient information of what was going on determined to detect them, and providing himself with a sharp pointed instrument, he slyly pierced what nowadays is usually made from cork, when lo! A fountain of brandy played from the orifice to the great diversion of the spectators, and to no small confusion of the fair one. The result was rather serious, as they were both confined; and there are now actually females at the gates, whose business it is as decently as possible, to examine into the protuberances of such ladies as appear to be in outré of the present fashion. What a pity, as there are so few means for females to gain a decent living, that they should not be permitted to dress to advantage when fashion will admit of it.

The Gates of Paris, or, Brandy Rumps Detected. Lewis Walpole Library
The Gates of Paris, or, Brandy Rumps Detected. Lewis Walpole Library

When a riot broke out in Covent Garden during the hustings for the election of 1784, it was reported that one lady’s cork rump was shot off and an elderly woman, who was not so fashion forward and whose behind was not so well padded, received a bullet in her… ahem, well! We’re sure you can guess!

The back-biters, or High bum-fiddle pig bow wow. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
The back-biters, or High bum-fiddle pig bow wow. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

As a fashion accessory, the cork rump was short lived and by the end of the 1780s ‘bum-less beauties’ became all the rage.

Featured Image

Courtesy of the British Museum

 

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “False Rumps!

    1. True, but they came 100 years later. Cork wasn’t the only method used in the 1770s/80s for the false rump … possibly because it would have been less comfortable than other padded methods.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. suzanne sederholt

    Yes, but…isn’t the first image on this page one of a MAN being laced into a corset? (“Captain Cork rump”) Sideburns, riding breeches, the hairstyle all are male….maybe the exaggerated jabot is being mistaken for a bust line? Just saying….it really doesn’t have to do with a cork rump…

    Like

    1. Sarah Murden

      You’re quite correct, it is an image of a man, what was termed ‘a dandy’ who, at that time were known to wear cork rumps, but it was more common for the men to wear ‘false tums’. The Morning Post of 1781 – ‘men appeared to carry all before and the women to carry all behind‘. The men also wore ‘false calves’ i.e. a padding for the calf to make them appear larger than they were. Hope that answers your question.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.