Original Museum-Worthy Antique Pair of Stays from Early 18th Century Italy

Item number: DIV-1428

a unique and original pair of museum-worthy antique stays from early 18th century Italy. Crafted from exquisite brocade silk, these stays were likely a vibrant red when first made but have gracefully faded over the centuries. They feature ribs made of reed or wood bents, adding to their historical significance.

One of the rare and fascinating aspects of these stays is the inclusion of antique paper with printed Latin text, visible between the small holes when tilted carefully. Latin was predominantly spoken in southern Europe until around 1750, making this feature exceptionally special.

The stays have undergone some repairs over the years, including patches of blue and pink silk fabric on the front and a small one on the back. Another remarkable feature is the large number of 31 hand-embroidered eyelets on each side at the back.

This is a truly unique item, seldom found outside of museums and private collections, offering a rare opportunity to own an 18th-century museum piece. The stays are sold as is; additional photos and details are available upon request.

Historical Context and Construction:

  • Materials: Stays from the 18th century were made from various materials, including wool, linen, twill-jean fabric, stiffened linen (buckram), and silk brocade. The interlining layer was stiffened for structure, while the outer layer was often decorative. Boning materials included whalebone/baleen, reed, or wood bents. A lightweight lining, typically loosely tacked in, could be easily replaced.
  • Finishing: Edges were commonly bound in leather but also finished with linen tape, self-fabric binding, or grosgrain.
  • Usage: Stays were worn throughout the 18th century, adapting in shape to changing fashions. They were a staple in Western fashion, worn by women of all classes across Europe. Lower-class women often wore strapless stays for better shoulder movement, while the upper classes and aristocracy wore more restrictive stays.
  • Function: Serving as the bras of the 18th century, stays supported the bust from the waist rather than the shoulders, lifting the bust, trimming the waist, holding the shoulders back (for those with straps), and providing smooth support for garments worn on top.

This pair of stays is not only a piece of fashion history but also a testament to the craftsmanship and cultural context of the early 18th century. Don't miss the chance to add this extraordinary item to your collection.