A stomacher was a triangular or U- shaped piece of fabric worn by women from about 1570 to 1770. In addition to connecting the two sides of a woman’s bodice, the stomacher, which could be adorned with ribbons, bows, lace, embroidery, and jewels, served a decorative purpose. Because it fastened to the bodice with ties, pins and tabs, or hooks and eyes, one stomacher could be switched out for another whenever the wearer wanted to “transform” her gown.
Over its two-century lifespan, the stomacher’s structure shifted to reflect current trends. In the late 16th century, stomachers were built of wooden slats or whalebone supports that created the stiff, rigid look that was popular at the time. In the early 17th century, stomachers and skirts were softer and more “flowy,” in accordance with the era’s favored silhouette. During the mid 18th century, lavish stomachers became all the rage, especially in the “échelle” style. This design was popularized by Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of French King Louis XV, and consisted of rows of bows that tied down the waist.
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