LADIES CASUAL CLOTHING: Stays vs. Sans Stays©

Whether or not women always wore jackets over stays or jumps is a hotly debated topic, some saying “always”, some disagreeing depending on whether they were at home going about their daily routine or not.  There are paintings from the period which depict women working in a shift and stays without a jacket.  I doubt most women would have left home (meaning their property) in just stays, but I definitely think they would have done so in their home and outdoors on their own property, and a few of the paintings do seem to be in a public place. 

Mara Riley phrased it well when she said, “Country women did not consider their stays to be intimate garments — in other words, they were not embarrassed to be seen working in their stays.  It’s unlikely that they would have gone to church, or to the town fair, in their stays…but there are depictions of peasant women working in their stays and shift-sleeves”.

Let’s look at a few of these paintings at the end of which we will also look at a few images of women working in bed gowns (not for sleeping) over stays.  These jackets were loose fitting allowing for movement and comfort, ideal for at-home wear and while working, but they were acceptable for other occasions as well.  They ranged from coarse linen to nicer linen or cotton chintz.  For information on other types of jackets see the separate article posted here.

“The Beautiful Kitchen Maid” by Francois Boucher (1703-70).
Nicholas Maes. “The Milkwoman”, c. 1660. While pre-18th century, this remained the basic informal dress of working class women through the 1700s.
Per Hillestrom (1732-1816).
Pietro Antonio Rotan (1707-1762).
The Attentive Nurse, Jean Simeon Chardin. 1747.
Bouchardon, “Baked Apples”. 1737-1742.
John Collet’s “The Elopement”, detail.
Detail from Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

Published by thehistoricfoodie

I write articles for various magazines and books about foods and cooking techniques. My work centers primarily around historic foods and I travel throughout the country doing cooking demonstrations at various local, state, and national venues and teaching an occasional period cooking class. I've done cooking demonstrations on national and local television, including Chicago's WGN.

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