The ideal ‘Grown Figure’ had high, rounded breasts with long, well rounded limbs.  Soft, light muslin dresses clung to the body revealing the contours. Superfluous undergarments were discarded, including the boned stay.  This was ideal for the younger ladies, but the older or less perfect woman kept her stays!

The simple muslin dresses of C.1800 were usually mounted on a cotton lining with separate side pieces which crossed over and fastened under the breasts, supporting them like a bra.  In England, whalebone stays of the late 18th C type continued to be worn, sometimes lengthened over the hip and gussetted, to give the fashionable line under the muslins, if the body was not of the fashionable ideal.

Around 1810, curved lines now flowed out from a small waist. For this shape, a lighter and more flexible corset arrived that still supported the contours like the old rigid and straight whalebone stays. However, women tended to over-squeeze the hips into a straight line with the waist and push the bosom up to the chin into a fleshy shelf.

Even ‘Pregnant Stays’, of dimity (striped or patterned cotton), jean (strong, heavy cotton twill), or silk, encased the body from shoulders to hips and had ‘elastic bones’ between the lining and covering of the stay to move a little with the growing child. They were still quite robust and armour-like in their design and support.