18th Century · Mrs. Ann Bamford

Do you have the stomach(er) for it? Part 1

Mrs. Ann Bamford’s inventory, listing every garment and accessory she owned, includes the mention of two stomachers. A stomacher is that small, kinda triangular piece of fabric used to close the opening of a gown. Usually, they’re pinned to the stays, and then the front of the gown is pinned to the stomacher.

The stomacher I made for my negligee, in action during fitting.

Stomachers are not unique for the 18th century, Queen Elizabeth I had several in her inventories, and you can see them in portraits and paintings from the late medieval period onwards. They’re really cute and fun little things, and after the big negligee project, I really wanted something a little smaller.

Stomachers are often highly decorated, they’re small and you can afford to splurge on some expensive fabric and exuberant trim, and make a bold show without breaking the bank. It’s also a nice way to chance an outfit – the same gown with a new petticoat and/or stomacher will change the look!

Mrs Bamford’s stomachers are described as “A Silk Stummager trimmed with Ribbons” and “White Satin Stummager”. Seeing as I made a green silk petticoat last summer, and I still have a little left of that silk fabric I decided to make the first stomacher to match that petticoat, and trim it with self fabric ribbons.

So shiny and green!

Now, a lot of stomachers have some sort of stiffening, and I’ve seen people use buckram, but seeing as that’s really difficult to get hold of around here (if you know where I can get it in Norway, let me know!) I decided to make my own. Kind of. I cut a piece of linen and painted it all over with bookbinder’s glue. I reasoned that the glue would give some stiffness, but still be flexible and nice. And it worked!

Gluing in action!

Because the glued piece is a little sticky and shiny, I cut another linen piece to linen with, and basted the two together. I also cut a piece of the green silk, folded the seam allowances in and basted them down.

I made sure to make the basting stitches even enough to work as gathering stitches, so that when I folded the silk seam allowances in over the raw edges of the linen, I could pull on it and gather it even put around the point and the curved edges.

I then stitched the silk to the linen lining using small, even whip stitches.

I also attached some ribbons, one long one to tie around the waist and a couple of shorter ones to pin to the stays.

Time for the fun times – trimming!

“Ribbons” can mean a lot, I decided to make some myself. I used my pinking shears, which worked… ok. They fabric is woven with turquoise-blue threads one way and yellow threads the other way, and the pinking made some of the yellow threads fall out, which gave the ribbons a blue edge. I didn’t like it at first, but it’s growing on me!

I stitched the ribbons down, in pairs, and tried to tie some nice bows down the middle. I’m not… crazy about them. They look alright, but I’d like them to be more fluffy. Perhaps I’ll redo them later, but they’re not terrible.

That’s one stomacher down! It took me 5 hours and cost me nothing, everything was just cabbage out of my patch. Let’s do the next one tomorrow!

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