Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, September 12, 2011

“Jumps” – The Comfy & Sexy Alternative to Georgian Stays

Welcome back to History Undressed, Lucinda Brant, author of fascinating and sensual Georgian romance and mystery!  I'm excited to have you back and today's post is sure to captivate, one of my fav topics--underpinings! Leave a comment for you chance to win an ebook copy of Lucinda's latest release, AUTUMN DUCHESS!

“Jumps” – The Comfy & Sexy Alternative to Georgian Stays
by Lucinda Brant

Detail from Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease
Think Eighteenth Century female undergarments and usually the first article to come to mind is the corset, or stays. Worn over the chemise to cover the breasts and upper torso, stays were made from a variety of materials, cotton to silk, depending on the occasion and most often had a square neckline. The enduring image of a pair of stays is the caricatures of women being laced too tightly; the stays being laced together at the back, and thus requiring an attendant to help dress and undress the wearer. To ensure the requisite conical shape, stays were stiffened with all manner of materials, from buckram (hardened linen or cotton) to whalebone, which also ensured the wearer kept an upright posture. Contrary to popular myth, stays, if worn and laced correctly (it was almost impossible to lace too tightly because eyelets were reinforced with stitching not metal - metal eyelets being a nineteenth century invention) were not uncomfortable and the wearer was able to carry out most everyday duties without hindrance.

Detail of Figured silk jumps with metal closures
Detail Boucher’s La Toilette
A type of stays worn for at-home occasions and often by pregnant and nursing mothers were “jumps”. Jumps were an under bodice similar in shape to stays but without the bones. According to Valerie Steel, author of The Corset, the term comes from the French word jupe - short jacket. Made of silk, cotton or linen and often embroidered, jumps fastened over the breasts with ties such as silk ribbons, buttons and, sometimes, metal hooks. Jumps were looser fitting than stays and padded with cotton yet still provided support for the breasts while not being restrictive. While mostly worn at home they were sometimes worn out on social occasions as part of an ensemble.
Fragonard’s Young Girl Reading
Antonia in AUTUMN DUCHESS wears jumps every day as a matter of course, and not only for at-home occasions. Then again she can do as she pleases, she is a duchess and thus is a leader not a follower of fashion. But it is not fashion that drives her but comfort. She is a voracious reader and spends a good deal of her time curled up in her favorite wingchair with a good book. Fragonard’s Young Girl Reading reveals by her relaxed posture that she too is wearing jumps. Antonia’s husband, the all-powerful Duke of Roxton, Monseigneur, preferred her in jumps. And what man wouldn’t? Removal of stays required considerable effort and two people, with lacings to unravel at the back, when with a tug of a few silk ribbons jumps gaped open to expose as much cleavage as was warranted; the female wearer rendered bare breasted within seconds. Just this thought sends our hero Jonathon’s mind reeling when the widowed Antonia explains to him in a matter-of-fact way the construction of jumps without a thought to the effect her words might have on her rapt male audience of one.

Detail Boucher’s painting of
Mme de Pompadour and the inspiration
for Antonia’s jumps fastened with pink ribbons.

In 1770, Jacques Bonnaud wrote a treatise on the wearing of whalebone corsets arguing that not only was a woman submitting to a form of torture but that such an undergarment went against the laws of nature because stays prevented a woman from breast feeding her newborn infant. So it is not surprising that pregnant women wore jumps that not only had front lacings but side lacings to allow for the expanding bust and waistline of the mother-to-be and allowed nursing mothers to breast feed, something that could not be accommodated if wearing stays.

Detail from The Scottish Bedroom by Sir David Wilkie
And it was not until the 1770s when French fashion was leaning toward a simpler style of dress that there was less stiffening in a pair of stays. Women began to eschew whalebone and buckram, preferring quilted linen, and for ease of wear, stays began to be often fastened in the front with strings or ribbons and worn for deshabille, jumps had finally come into their own!
You can read more about Antonia, Dowager Duchess of Roxton and her preference for wearing jumps and the effect this sexy undergarment has on her suitor, East India Merchant Jonathon Strang in Lucinda Brant’s latest novel, AUTUMN DUCHESS, Book 3 of the Roxton Series.

Glossary of 18th Century Costume Terminology: http://people.csail.mit.edu/sfelshin/revwar/glossary.html#j

Figured Silk Jumps, mid-18th Century France http://coraginsburg.com/catalogues/2010/cat2010pg18-19.htm

Steele, V. The Corset A Cultural History, 2001, Yale,

Willett, C. and Cunnington, P.A. The History of Underclothes, 1992, Dover publications

Image bibliography

Image 1: Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, England, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Image 2: Figured silk jumps with metal closures, French mid 18th Century, www.coraginsburg.com

Images 3, 4 & 5: Art Renewal Centre http://www.artrenewal.org/

Image 6: The Scottish Bedroom by Sir David Wilkie, in Steele, V. The Corset A Cultural History


Autumn Duchess

Roxton Series Book 3
Sequel to Noble Satyr and Midnight Marriage

A beautiful duchess mourns for her beloved.
A sun-bronzed merchant returns to claim a birthright.
Disparate souls in need of love and renewal.
Paths cross and the journey begins...
Set in Hampshire England in 1777, it is the story of Antonia, the heroine of Noble Satyr, and how she emerges from utter despair after the death of her husband and soul mate the Duke of Roxton to unexpectedly find love again.

Hardcover ISBN (coming soon)
Ebook ISBN 978-0-9808013-5-4
Kindle ASIN B005GLFCX8

To read an excerpt click here: http://lucindabrant.com/autumn-duchess.php


Unknown said...

Fascinating post! Thanks for sharing this historical tidbit about Georgian era clothing. And thanks for the giveaway. Your latest release sounds really good!


Grace Elliot said...

Really interesting post - sounds like they were a beefed up girdle.
Love you book cover, beautiful!
Grace x

Faith said...

Convenient and attractive :)

Lucinda Brant said...

Thanks for stopping by @Jena, @Grace and @Faith! Glad you enjoyed my post about jumps. I came across jumps as a side note to something else I was researching and very glad I did - for Jonathon's sake ;-)

Anonymous said...

Such a relief to know that there was a an appropriate alternative to the "Iron Maiden" corset!!! I KNEW there had to be women who found a way around them!

Lauren Gilbert