Body-makers and Farthingale-makers in Seventeenth-century London

By 1700 tailors no longer dominated England’s garment marketplace, as stay-makers, mantua-makers and seamstresses began to produce key items of female dress previously made by tailors. The demise of the tailoring monopoly was a complex process that involved many factors.

On 3 September, our McKenzie Fellow, Sarah Bendall, presented the weekly Brown Bag talk, which examined one overlooked aspect of this transition – farthingale-makers and body-makers, two groups of specialised artisans previously neglected in histories of seventeenth-century garment production. These trades emerged at the start of the seventeenth century to make foundation garments that shaped the fashionable silhouettes of England’s women.

The talk explored their guild affiliations, size, location, reputation and eventual demise in London from roughly 1600 to 1700. The story of these trades shows a growing diversification within garment-making during the seventeenth century, where both demand and opportunity allowed entrepreneurial tradesmen to specialise in the construction of only one or two types of items, ultimately paving the way for the diverse textile marketplace of the eighteenth century.

Experience the talk on the YouTube player below.

You can find more about Sarah’s work in her recent Forum interview and on her website.

Sarah Bendall is a McKenzie Fellow in History. She is material culture historian of early modern Europe, specialising in the dress, jewellery, armour, and decorative arts of England, Scotland, and France from 1500 to 1800. Her research explores gendered and embodied experiences, particularly those of women, as well as histories of production and consumption, and material ecologies. Her current research focuses on the use of baleen (‘whalebone’) in early modern fashion and decorative arts.

Image: Quiringh Gerritsz van Brekelenkam, The Tailor’s Workshop, 1661. Rijksmuseum, SK-C-112