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Bodice

Bodice MET 1978.298.1dig

Bodice

This silk bodice from the 1770s is most probably from France and reflected the fashion of the period and the French style. A bodice covered the body from the neckline to the waist and was a fashionable upper garment common in Europe during the 16th to the 18th century. The term comes from a pair of bodies because the garment was initially made in two pieces that fastened together, often by lacing. The bodice was different from the corset of the time because it was intended to be worn over the other garments.

In historical usage, a bodice indicates the upper part of a dress that was constructed in two parts but of matching fabric with the intention of wearing the two pieces as a unit connected by hooks and eyes. This fashionable garments had the advantages of allowing a voluminous skirt to be paired with a close-fitting bodice. To achieve an elegant shape and support the bust, the bodice was often stiffened with reeds or whalebone.

One-piece construction became more common after 1900 due to the trend for looser, more simply-constructed clothing with narrower skirts. Bodices survive into modern times in the traditional or folk dress. They are also commonly seen today as the upper portion of a stylish dress and designed to distinguish it from the skirt and sleeves.

Reflections

  • European folk dress typically has a bodice. How do their vary from this French silk bodice?
  • How does a Scottish highland Bodice differ from an Austrian folk dress bodice?

Explore Costume Institute Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Bodice

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“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable.
Style is more about being yourself.”

– Oscar de la Renta

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Photo Credit: 1) Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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