Stomachers are a visual delight and provide a rich source for the study of historic embroidery. They were triangular or “U” shaped pieces of fabric that were worn with gowns that did not reach all the way around the body. The front opening was filled on the bottom half by a petticoat skirt, and the top half by a stomacher.
The stomacher would be pinned to stays or to the inside of the bodice to hold it in place. Some stomachers had ties and silk tabs to help keep the stomacher in place
The style of stomachers evolved with the changing styles of gowns.
They could be made from the same fabric as the gown or a constrasting colour. They could be elaborately embellised and embroidered, trimmed with ribbons or pleated and puffed fabric, quilted or even encusted with jewels.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 13, 1761
The rich diamond stomacher for our intended Queen is quite finished, and is the richest thing of the kind ever seen; the capital stone of which is worth about fifteen thousand pounds and the whole piece is valued at one hundred thousand pounds.
Stomachers came in and out of vogue, but during the 18th century they were very much statement pieces especially those made for the wealthier members of society and the newspapers always deemed elaborate stomachers worthy of mention when describing the outfits worn by the nobility.
An open-front bodice was very practical. Stomachers could be worn with different gowns and they were an investment piece. It allowed for changing body shapes, like weight gain or loss and pregnancy.
All a lady had to do was change the width of her stomacher to accommodate her changing body. Purchasing or making a fresh stomacher was much easier and less expensive than replacing a whole gown.
As the 18th century drew to an end gowns started to close at the front and no longer required a stomacher. The Regency silhouette and neo-classical gowns had arrived.
A stomacher may also be a piece or set of jewellery to ornament a stomacher or bodice. While they were extremely fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century, they have long since gone out of vogue.
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