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Textile Tuesday: Stomacher

Stomacher, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1750-1799, horn, linen, silk, 14×9 in.

Jennifer Schlavensky is a recent graduate of the School of Human Ecology, majoring in Textiles and Fashion Design.

Stomachers—fabric panels, often decorative, that fit into the front opening of gowns and robes—have been called the “ancestors of the corset.” Stomachers have been around as early as the 16thcentury, and remained a popular asset to a woman’s wardrobe well intoStomacher the 18thcentury. This particular stomacher was made in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It comes from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and belonged to a woman named Miss Andrews.

The typical shapes of the stomacher in the 17th and 18th century were cone-shaped and triangular. The piece was often embellished with floral embroidery, lacing and frilly bows. Other common decorations were sequins, metallic braids and ribbons. Upper class courtesans decorated their stomachers with a brooch or Stomacherjewel that covered the entire front, often known as a stomacher jewel.

Gowns from the 17thand 18thcenturies required a stomacher to close them. Stomachers were either boned to provide more support, or unboned for a rounded silhouette. The bottoms were rounded, pointed, or squared. This particular stomacher has a pointed, cone-shape. The technique used for embellishment is intricate floral embroidery. According to the HLATC records, the embroidery is a split satin stitch on white satin. The piece is backed with plain weave linen and stays of thin slices of horn.

Stomachers were meant to blend into the dress and also compliment it with contrasting colors or patterns. An open-front bodice was practical in the 18thcentury, and the stomacher gave multiple options for mixing outfits. The stomacher allowed for change in weight or pregnancy; the woman only had to change the width of her stomacher to accommodate the change in her body.

Discover more about this piece here.

#TextileTuesday is a yearlong series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.

HLATC 50th anniversary logo

In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.