18th Century Stays

As Valentine’s Day is upon us in just a few short days, we thought we’d take a very quick look at 18th century lingerie…stays.  Throughout this brief article we will use the term jumps, as it is a widely accepted name for a lightly boned undergarment with shoulder straps – though the documented terminology seems to be “stays”.  Corset appears to be a term not used until the 19th century. Though jumps were only one of several layers that made up underpinnings in an 18th century outfit, they will be our focus for today. 

Jumps, stays, corset…to some these may seem like dreaded words; bringing up images of women holding bedposts while chamber maids push a foot on their backs straining to get the laces ever tighter.  Gladly – the ideas that jumps or stays are uncomfortable, impossible to wear all day, or inappropriate for some social classes are myths! 

Well-fitting jumps are an absolute necessity to pull off a period correct, 18th century look.  Note, we say “well-fitting.”  Ill-fitting jumps and stays are where the poor underpinnings get their bad reputation. In fact, that famous drawing that shows the chamber maid tightening her lady’s stays to a ridiculous tightness was actually making fun of those “vain” enough to wear their stays too restrictive and was titled “Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease.”

In the 18th century, jumps and stays were the equivalent of today’s sports bra – giving much needed support to the back and bosom of all classes.  A bonus is that they also support the sometimes not-so-toned areas of us women as well – giving a smooth appearance, much like today’s body shapers – helping us comfortably fit in the form-fitting bodices our era’s clothes demand.

Jumps were such an important garment in the 18th century that there were even charities established so that women of all classes, even the poorest of souls, could purchase them.  The term “loose woman” actually came from those sassy enough not to wear jumps or stays!

As with all 18th century garments that were sleeveless (yup – that includes weskits gentlemen!), jumps and items like sleeveless bodices are considered undergarments.  Though some laboring women would wear them showing while performing heavy work (fielding, laundry, etc.) if they saw company coming, went into town or visited a friend – they would not think of going out without putting a jacket or gown over them.  To that point, there are some examples of jumps or under bodices having detachable sleeves that would tie on to the shoulder straps – but a jacket or gown would still be worn out in public. 

We at Hidden Dirk Mercantile are very proud to offer, what we consider, an extremely comfortable, light-weight version of jumps for today’s modern woman who needs the basic shape and support for 18th century reproduction clothing, while keeping the comfort of 21st century undergarments. Our jumps are lightly boned with flexible plastic boning, which makes them a perfect set of first stays or for those who don’t want the rigidity or price of fully boned stays. 

Our jumps are available for purchase online in tabbed or tab-less versions with back, front or double lacing options and, like all of Hidden Dirk’s garments, in your choice of colors.  Need some design inspiration?  Check out the custom gallery on our website where, as you can see from our creative customer’s choices, the combinations are endless!


Following-up on our post on 18th century lingerie (stays, aka jumps) today’s Museum Monday features some wonderful extant examples from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Silk stays from Britain.  Notice the beautiful (what looks like) tatted lace.  I also find the shoulders on this set to be quite interesting and different from many we’ve seen. Here we see the side tabs do not use the expensive silk fabric and there appears to be a lack of an outward binding along the edges as we see on many other extant examples.

Late 18th century British silk stays.  This set also has waist tabs that do not utilize the silk featured on the rest of the garment.

Mid 18th century stays from Italy in silk.  I love these stays!  Wide tabs at the waist and an stomacher over-lace design with in a lovely embroidered silk print.  The shoulder straps on these are quite wide compared to many we’ve seen and are sewn in – not adjustable with ties as many other extant examples we’ve come across.  The look definitely says “Italian” to me!

1780 silk stays from Italy.  Another beautiful set of embroidered silk stays.  Here we see the waist tabs in a coordinating fabric with (most-likely) lambskin binding around the edges.  This is a really nice example of duel lacing stays – having laces in both the front and back.

The 1780 Italian silk stays back view. 

Which are your favorite?

Hello fellow readers!  Today is Featured Friday and we have two upcoming events and an HDM contest we’d like to highlight.

The first is happening this weekend at COSI Columbus

200Columbus Family Weekend at COSI Columbus
Saturday, February 10th 11am-3:30pm
Sunday, February 11th 1pm-4:30pm


COSI celebrates Columbus’ bicentennial by exploring what life was like when Columbus was founded. Actors in period costumes, old-fashioned games and toys, and craft activities will bring Columbus history to life. Learn more about Columbus history with special activities provided by the Columbus Historical Society, Columbus Metropolitan Library, The Fair at New Boston, Franklinton Historical Society, Hidden Dirk Mercantile, Metro Parks, WOSU, and on Sunday only, the Times Past Vintage Dancers.

Present a 200Columbus Days flyer to receive $2 off COSI admission: www.200columbusdays.com 

Not only is COSI Columbus a super fun place for a day of family adventure anyway – but this weekend we’ll be on-hand with Hidden Dirk Mercantile at the 200Columbus event with our game and make-n-take stations!  Kids (and kids young-at-heart) can play games they would have played in the 18th century and early-Regency era and make their very own reticule (an 1800’s version of a purse) or marble bag to take home! 


We’re also pleased to announce our 200Columbus COSI Challenge!
Kids 0-9 are invited to send in an illustration and brief caption highlighting some of the things they learned about the early 1800s (1800-1820) during the 200Columbus Family Weekend at COSI Columbus. Participants 10 and older are invited to write a 100-500 word essay on the same topic. (they can include illustrations too, if they’d like!)

Both age categories can send in their contest submissions to hiddendirk(at)hiddendirk.com by March 1, 2012.  Voting will take place on our Facebook page the second week of March and a winner from each age category will be announced March 9th.  Winners from each age category will be featured here on the HDM blog, on our website and Facebook page as well as our monthly educational e-newsletter.  In addition, they’ll each receive a $10 HDM gift card to spend on their choice of all sorts of goodies at hiddendirk.com including toys, games, clothes and more!

We look forward to seeing all the wonderful entries!


The second upcoming event is a presentation from the historical production company We’ve Known Rivers.  Hidden Dirk Mercantile was so very honored to outfit Ms. Sandra Quick for her Phillis Wheatley interpretation. Phillis seated

We hope you can join her at the following event:

We’ve Known Rivers
Phillis Wheatley: Finding Her Voice
Tuesday, Feb. 14
12:00 pm Ohio State House

Phillis Wheatley: Finding Her Voice
Gifted, privileged, yet enslaved, Wheatley pens the first volume of poetry published by an African-American during the American Revolutionary era.

Some background information on Ms. Quick and her programs:

I was privileged, for 30 years, to offer my teaching gifts and talents to the children of Columbus (OH) Public Schools and other Ohio schools as a teacher, High School Principal and Supervisor. I taught English, drama and speech, and directed several student productions. I performed in several community and faith-based productions. I have a BSED in comprehensive communications and Master of Arts in Urban Education.

Since retirement, I developed my premier first person historical character based on Phillis Wheatley.  The Finding Her Voice script is predicated on the national trend towards making a difference and social justice advocacy. I developed the curriculum for, instructed in, and performed for the 2010 Ohio State University African and African-American Studies summer residential program,  ”letz b dwn”.

 I have been a featured performer for The State of Ohio’s Black History Month celebration February 2010 and 2011. I am slated to expand that performance for 2012.  At The Fair at New Boston, an authentic 18th re-enactment fair in Springfield,Ohio, I performed Phillis Wheatley: Finding Her Voice in 2010 and 2011. I also participate in Education Day where over 1,000 students travel back to the 1850’s to interact and experience life in its natural habitat. In addition to these performances, I frequently perform for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools in Columbus,Ohio and other schools, private and public organizations and Chautauquas.

I am a proud founding member of the production company, We’ve Known Rivers®: Timeless Stories in the Black Experience along with Dr. Annette Jefferson and Mr. Anthony Gibbs. I developed and instructed a Live It UP! Props, Prompts and Photos workshop to help others develop their living history character by making history come alive! I am privileged to be invited to teach Our History Awakens this workshop at the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I recently founded my personal theatre business, Our History Awakens® with the mission,  “Commemorating the African-American Experience in American Revolutionary and Civil War Eras through Living History Performances and Engaging Educational Activities”.

 Contact info:    Sandra Quick
614.270.0848  ourhistorywakens@gmail.com  
Facebook.com/weveknownrivers      www.ourhistoryawakens.com

We hope you are able to participate in these wonderfully fun and educational events!  Drop us a line and let us know – were able to make it? What new thing did you learn?

King’s Corner
with Chef Zak King
18th century culinary arts

from Hidden Dirk Mercantile
18th century and Regency-era reproduction clothing

18thC. French Hot Chocolate

“Chocolate preserves health and prolongs the lives of old men.”
D. de Quelus, The Natural History of Chocolate, Paris 1719-

Although this recipe was originally published in our October “Think Pink” newsletter speaking on the benefits of chocolate in terms of cancer fighting antioxidants, it’s not the only thing for which chocolate is known. 

Casanova, one of the world’s most notorious lovers (or womanizer, depending on the view you take) had an insatiable appetite for chocolate (along with pleasurable company!).  Chocolate was one of a few aphrodisiacs known in the 18th century, and was amongst the favorite of Casanova.  He would consume chocolate in many forms, but one of the most regular was drinking a mug of hot chocolate, perhaps much like this very recipe, prior to his romantic “escapades”. 

So, in anticipation of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, we present Zak King’s recipe from our October newsletter for 18th century French hot chocolate.  Make this for your special someone as a delicious treat… Just be prepared for some extra kisses afterwards!   

-original post-

Zak King here, and for this special Breast Cancer Awareness addition of King’s Corner, we are going to talk chocolate.Chocolate Girl

That’s right, chocolate! Dark chocolate, as well as the other forms of the cocoa bean contains bio-flavoniods, or properties that act like anti-oxidants. Many scientists believe that these antioxidants prevent cell damage that may lead to organ damage and cancer. So, this month, we are going to load up on anti-oxidants and get our cocoa fix with this tasty modern version of an 18thcentury French classic – Hot Chocolate!

I apologize in advance. After you drink this amazing hot chocolate, you might never be satisfied with the powdered mix ever again!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 9 ounces of unsweetened chocolate (a bar would be fine, but I find the chips melt more evenly and more quickly)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (depending on your taste)
  • ¼ cup (or 2 ounces) of heavy cream – hey, I said it’s tasty, not fat free!
  • Whipped cream for topping (optional)
  • Liqueur (also optional)
  • 4 ¼ cups of hot water
  • A stove
  • A pot of boiling water (or a double boiler if you have one)
  • A heat proof bowl (I prefer stainless steel)
  • A wisk
  • Mugs

To make this deliciousness:

  • Melt your chocolate in the top of your double boiler if you have one.
    • If you don’t have a double boiler, place your stainless steel (or heat resistant) bowl over a pot of boiling water – it will work just the same
    • NOTE: Make sure you keep your chocolate moving with your wisk or it might burn…believe me, that doesn’t smell very good.
  • Add ¼ cup of hot water to help dilute the chocolate and keep stirring.
  • Add the remaining 4 cups of hot water and bring the whole mix to a boil.
  • Remove the mixture from the heat (carefully).
  • Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Stir in the liquid cream
  • If you want to add your favorite liqueur, now is the time. (In the 18th-century, Hot Chocolate was an “adults only” beverage, so don’t feel too guilty about not sharing with the kiddies.)
  • Once it’s flavored to your taste, pour into your mugs, and top with whipped cream.

This does make for a very rich hot chocolate. In the 18thcentury chocolate houses, hot chocolate was served so thick and rich that it needed to be served with glasses of chilled water to “balance out the experience.” You might find a glass of cold water might be just the thing to add the finishing touch to this historic drink.

We hope you enjoy this easy and quick recipe!

It’s time for Museum Monday! In keeping with our look into cold weather gear, this week we’ll take a look at a few examples of hand-warming muffs.
These tube-like accessories were incredibly popular – for both men and women – and were used for keeping the hands warm, but also as an important fashion accessory. As we will see, muffs were made out of a variety of materials and in a variety of sizes. They were usually padded for extra warmth, and sometimes had strings attached to the “tube” to tie around the wrists.
Last week’s MM post showed a beautiful fur muff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we know 18th century muffs weren’t limited to this medium. Take a look at this beautiful and ultra-modern looking example of a muff from the late 1700s:
This muff is British in origin and is made out of red feathers. This beauty is also a part of The Met’s collection.
Not all muffs were oversized either. This example from the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston shows a more subdued size, but in no way a subdued design.
object image

This muff is described as “Green-yellow silk satin with appliquéd white satin central mezzotint portrait medallion of young woman. Wreath embroidered with silver yarns and spangles and red foil leaves. White silk lining. Filled with batting and paper.” Dated simply “18th century” this example is thought to be of French origins.
Similarly, here is an English example from the MFA, dated 1785-1800:
object image
For those with a more understated style, there is this example of finery from 18th Century Italy – also from MFA:
object image 
This muff is “Blue satin ground with a powder of white dots. The muff is lined with pink silk and faced with pink satin.”
Or, this silk with metallic thread embroidery from 1780, courtesy of the Met:
But, the fur muff was very, very popular. It was also incredibly fashionable for your accessory to be oversized. So, let’s look again at that gorgeous example from the Met:

Even like today, there was a tendency for fashionistas in the 18th century to take their “haute couture” too far…as shown in this caricature from Henry Kingsbury in 1787:
The Muff
Which one is your favorite?

Into the History
by Johnna McEntee
Hidden Dirk Mercantile – 18th century clothing reproductions

18th Century Cloaks – Part III

(continued from 18th century cloaks – Part II

Cloaks were generally made of  what was considered in the 18th century to be wool broadcloth, which was very tightly woven to that it would hold its edge well and be water-resistant.  Lower class cloaks would almost always be unlined, and may or may not have included a hood, while more fashionable cloaks could be lined with fur or thick wadding.  

Cloak hoods were cut generously to accommodate tall hairstyles, caps or hats and were sometimes adjusted with a drawstring. In many upper class cloaks the hoods would either be fully lined with silk, or lined partially on the outer edges where the hood interior would show. Some lower and middle class cloaks achieved a similar effect by trimming the outside edge of the hood with a silk binding. 

Some cloaks had both a small cape and a hood attached to the neckline, where the collar could lay on the outside of the hood (as seen on the garment pictured right from the Metropolitan Museum of Art) or the inside of the hood and would be turned up against the neck for added warmth. Again, upper class examples show collars with the side that would be touching the skin made of silk.

Whether your cloak is short or long, wool or silk, red or gray, one of ours or one you make yourself – we hope you stay toasty warm this winter in a fashionable 18th century cloak of your own!

Into the History
by Johnna McEntee
Hidden Dirk Mercantile – 18th century clothing reproductions

18th Century Cloaks – Part II

(continued from 18th century cloaks – Part I)

It might surprise us 21st centurions, but based on primary sources and extent garments, red or scarlet wool seemed to be the most commonly used fabric for cloaks, especially for women’s cloaks. In 1748, a botanists visiting England from Sweden noted that “when English women in the country are going to pay their compliments to each other, they commonly wear a red cloak.” Some historians note the reason for the popularity of this color is due to its cheery brightness and its high-contrast to the bleak dull colors of winter. Our ancestors just wanted some pleasant color to get them through the long, cold months!

The red cloak spanned a large socio-economic range as well. The wealthy aristocrat Madame du Bocage wrote in 1750 when she was visiting the Oxfordshire country that “the poorest country girls…(have) scarlet cloaks upon their shoulders.”

Picture caption: The Watercress Girl (oil on canvas), Zoffany, Johann (1733-1810)

Though red was the most popular color for 18th century cloaks, extant examples and primary sources show that the Irish preferred blue, gray, or black cloaks. Blue seemed to be very popular with the Welsh as well – though this could also be because the Irish and Welsh were generally less wealthy, as the Statistical Survey of the County of Tyrone  notes in 1802 that “the cloak is generally of some cheap shop-cloth, often gray, though they affect scarlet when they can afford the price.” 

-Tomorrow in the last of the three part series, we’ll look at the basic cloth and construction of the 18th century cloak-