Did ALL Women Wear Stays?

By Mickey Marnstein

Don't ask me why I find this info. An excerpt from a letter from the English trader, George Morgan, (of Baynton, Wharton & Morgan fame) in Kaskaskia, describing the clothing worn by French women during a ball:

"The fashionable ladys wear your large wired caps--All of them Callico or Chintz, Jackets, Petty Coats --A Callico Short Cloak or rather Cardinal or One made of Striped Muslin--No Stays-- they know not What they are..." (Winter 1768-69).(1) This, and the quote I submitted a couple of years ago: "The inhabitants, particularly in the Southern Colonies (what I mean by the Southern colonies is all south of New York). Few, (women) or none of them wear stays in the summer and there are but a few that wear them constantly in the winter, which may be a principal reason why they have such good shapes."(2) To my way of thinking, this would suggest that not every women in the colonies wore stays!

1) Quoted in Mark A. Baker, Sons of a Trackless Forest: The Cumberland Long Hunters of the Eighteenth Century. Baker's Trace Publishing, Franklin, TN, 1997, p. 351. George Morgan Collection. (U of I: Winter 1769) Unpublished letters, Illinois Historical Survey, University of Illinois Library, Champaign-Urbana, IL.
2) The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell: 1774-1777, p. 270 (July 19, 1777, aboard the Brig, H.M.S. Edward, in Long Island Sound). Lincoln Mac Veigh, The Dial Press, NY, 1924.