Date: 1770s

Culture: Italian

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Gift of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1940

Accession Number: C.I.40.173.6a–e


By the 1770s, steel was being used in stays, which increased their strength, though not their flexibility. With the tight lacing made possible by stronger stays, doctors and others voiced health concerns, such as this comment from a 1775 correspondence: "I hope Miss Sparrow will not fall into the absurd fashion of ye wasp-waisted ladies. Dr. Pringle declares he has had four of his patients martyrs to that folly (indeed wickedness), and when they were opened it was evident that their deaths were occasioned by strait laceing [sic]." Although admonitions on the dangers of straight lacing are common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, recent scholarship by Valerie Steele has called into question the reality of the many "death by tight lacing" stories of the period.