Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Underwear; Underwear and accessories for shaping and supporting; Underwear (upper body); Corsets; Stays


Wool, linen, whalebone


1780. Green wool stays with ten waist tabs, lacing closed in back, interlined with plain-weave natural linen, and stiffened with whalebone, linen, and paste to create a conical silhouette. The lining and the lacing cord are missing.

The stays reach from the middle of the bust to the natural waist and extend over the top of the hips with boned tabs. They do not have straps. There are ten panels, two each of a center-front, side-front, side, side-back, and center-back. All panels are cut with integral tabs at the waist, with the side and side-back panels having two rounded tabs each and the back panels each having a single squared-off tab. The center-front and side-front panels together form a long, blunted point at the bottom edge. The top edge dips very slightly at center front, curves under the arms, and rises to the shoulder blades in back. All the panels are interlined with a plain-weave linen, sewn through with a tiny running stitch in linen thread to make 8 cm / 0.3125 in. wide channels for whalebone stays. Each individual panel is completed before assembly into the garment, which is whip-stitched together. The exterior of each seam is covered with a very narrow silk tape, stitched down the center, and woven of two different weights of silk. The back of the stays has eight eyelets per side from the top edge to the waist, staggered for a spiral lacing pattern to fasten the garment.

The whalebone used is positioned mostly vertically throughout the stays, wrapping around the body diagonally on the side-front and side panels to shape the desired conical silhouette, and runs all the way into the tabs. At the center-front point, three layers of 15.2 cm / 6 in. high linen are basted and reinforced with paste to the front and side-front panels to further reinforce the garment and to cushion the cut ends of the bones. Single strips of linen are similarly basted and glued across the top of the back three panels at both the top and the bottom.

A kidskin binding seals the top edges of the side-back and back panels. The center-back lacing edge is finished by wrapping the wool to the inside. The top and bottom edges of the front and side-front panels were finished in a narrow silk plain weave ribbon which has almost entirely disappeared. The four rounded tabs on each side are edged and fully lined in kidskin, while the center back tabs are not entirely enclosed with it. The kidskin bindings and tab linings were worked from the front first, then turned to the inside, hiding the anchoring stitches, and whip-stitched down. Hand-sewn.


Length (front, to tip of tab): 34.6 cm / 13.625 in.
Length (back, to tip of tab): 38.1 cm / 15 in.
Bust: 85.1 cm / 33.5 in. (without gap in back)
Waist: 71.1 cm / 28 in. (without gap in back)


Gift of Mary Pepperrell Ffrost Sawyer, Margaret Hamilton Ffrost, and Elizabeth Rollins Ffrost

Museum Number



University of New Hampshire Library


Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator

Date Digitized


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


The Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection digital catalog was produced by the UNH Library Digital Collection Initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Mooseplate program and New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Additional funding provided by the E. Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.
Photography copyright, Astrida Schaeffer.

Ffrost-Sawyer_history.pdf (75 kB)
Ffrost-Sawyer history


Corsets, Stays, 1780s, Durham, New Hampshire, United States, Wool, Green (color), Plain-weave natural linen, Whalebone, Paste, Lacing cord, Silk tape, Eyelets, Kidskin binding, Silk plain-weave ribbon, Hand-sewn, Ffrost Sawyer (donor), Hamilton Ffrost (donor), Rollins Ffrost (donor), Ffrost (donor), Frost (donor)


item origin