The Fine Art of Lacing a Bodice.

By Mark Tully

This piece may at first appear to be for the ladies, but -- as any of you soldiers who regularly bring your significant other to encampments know -- this is not the case. No sir, bodice lacing is a MAN's job! The above diagrams were made from various engravings seen in The Criers and Hawkers of London, Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon [ca. 1680-1690], edited, with an Introduction and commentary, by Sean Shesgreen, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1990. This is a collection of several dozen engravings depicting typical street vendors of the period. Pictures of this sort were quite popular in the late 17th through late 18th centuries, and dozens of artists published similar works. The prolific engravers Bowles and Carver also published a set of street vendors in the late 18th century, but they are nowhere near as detailed as those done by Laroon. But, back to the matter at hand.

Which technique of bodice lacing was the most common? If frequency of depiction is any indication, then figure E gets the nod. The various styles shown here breakdown thus: Figures A, B, C and D each appear only once in the Laroon series. Figure E (a variation on figure A) was depicted in three different engravings, and therefore seems to have been the most common lacing style -- at least in the late 17th century. Note that in figure E the lacing holes in the bodice are offset to create the zig-zag pattern. I'm not sure how the lacing in figure D is accomplished, but it looks like it involves three separate cords, each running through every third hole.

Good luck guys!