Silk, linen, leather, wood, baleen
Gift of Mrs. William Martine Weaver, 1950 (C.I.50.8.2)
The stays worn in the eighteenth century were a product of heavy labor. A male industry, staymaking was at a very high standard by the middle of the eighteenth century. Stays were made from baleen, which was harvested from the mouth of the Right Atlantic Whale and commonly referred to as whalebone. This material was firm but flexible and could be cut into very thin pieces without any loss of strength. Carefully measured strips of whalebone stitched between a lining and facing fabric created the stays of the eighteenth century. The rounded opening at the top of the stays was made through the innovation of inserting whalebone strips across the bustline as well as vertically. Stays could be fully boned or half-boned, but the latter was more common in the second half of the eighteenth century.