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pages 16-17 pages 18-19 

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FIGURED SILK JUMPS
     
 
FIGURED SILK JUMPS
French, mid-18th c.

In the eighteenth century, women's undress garments included a lightweight, sleeveless waistcoat known as jumps. Worn in the privacy of the home for the morning toilette or other informal activities, jumps offered a comfortable alternative to the heavily whale-boned corsets, known as stays, which were de rigueur when a woman was fully dressed for social occasions. Made of silk, cotton or linen, jumps usually fastened at the front with ties, buttons or—as in this example—metal hooks. Below the waist, the flared peplum allowed for the fullness of the petticoat.

The fronts of these stylish jumps are made from taupe silk with a subtle, tone-on-tone pattern of stylized umbels on swirling stems and edged with a matching ribbon around the neckline, scalloped tabs and peplum. The figured silk has been carefully and symmetrically pieced on each side, pointing to the recycling of an expensive textile that was common practice in the period. The sides and back, however, are of sturdy, medium-brown linen, indicating that these jumps were likely worn underneath a gown or perhaps a sleeved jacket bodice. Of particular interest are the side lacings that suggest maternity wear; light interfacing under the natural linen lining, which would have provided some support for the body, underscores this possibility.

Before the introduction of maternity-specific clothes at the turn of the twentieth century, women adapted or adjusted their existing forms of dress, including corsets. Diderot's Encyclopédie of 1771 illustrates a pair of maternity stays with similar side lacings—in addition to those at the center back—that would have accommodated a woman's changing shape. Long incorporated as a method of fitting and securing women's garments, lacing was especially practical both during and just after pregnancy. In Piero della Francesca's mid fifteenth-century fresco, LaMadonna del Parto (now in theMuseo dellaMadonna del Parto inMonterchi, Italy), the pregnant Virgin wears a plain blue gown with loosened front and side lacings.

Although typical of surviving examples in their form and construction, these jumps are nonetheless unusual in that they may have served as a graceful compromise between public and private dress for a woman anticipating childbirth.

 
 
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