18th Century Children’s Stays

 

The museum’s collection also includes tiny stays for a child. Hard to believe today but back in the day, stays were also worn by children – both boys and girls from age 18 months or whenever they are walking well. A child’s first stays were “soft” or lightly boned and were never tightly laced. They were intended for support, to learn proper carriage and to gently round their soft rib cage into the more desirable conical shape of the day. By 2 years of age or a little older, stays would be heavily lined and boned with its channels packed with threads, reeds, wooden splints or baleen. Their lacing would be tied gently but firm and not to cinch or pinch. Boys wore stays until age 4 to 8 when they were finally “breeched” which marked their move from childhood under mother into manhood as an adult. Girls however, wore stays for the rest of their life, including during pregnancy with slight alterations to accommodate the growing silhouette.