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Bodice (PSF).jpg

A bodice is an article of clothing for women, covering the body from the neck to the waist.

The term comes from pair of bodies (because the garment was originally made in two pieces that fastened together, frequently by lacing).

In common usage, bodice refers to an upper garment that has removable sleeves or no sleeves, often low-cut, worn in Europe from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century, either over a corset or in lieu of one. To achieve a fashionable shape and support the bust, the bodice was frequently stiffened with bents (a type of reed), or whalebone. The bodice was also different from the corset of the time because of the way it laced. The corset was laced in spiral fashion, with one continuous lace. The bodice was laced like the modern tennis shoe, with eyelets facing one another. This was more convenient for women who had to dress themselves.

Countrywoman's bodice, 19th century

Bodices survive into modern times in the traditional or revived folk dress of many European countries (see, for example, Austrian dirndl or the Aboyne dress worn by Scottish highland dancers).

Bodice continues in use to refer to the upper portion of a one- or two-piece dress to distinguish it from the skirt and sleeves. The bodice of a dress was called the corsage in the nineteenth century.

Bodices are commonly seen today at SCA events or a Renaissance Fair. Romantic novels are sometimes known as bodice-rippers due to the violence done to the heroine's historical clothing as she struggled to have (or escape from) sex with the hero.

In historical usage, particularly in Victorian and early 20th century fashion, a bodice (in earlier sources, body) indicates the upper part of a dress that was constructed in two parts (i.e., with separate skirt and bodice), but of matching or coordinating fabric with the intention of wearing the two parts as a unit. In dressmaking, the term waist (sometimes given as "dress waist" to distinguish it from a shirtwaist) was also used. During wear, the parts might be connected by hooks and eyes.[1] This construction was standard for fashionable garments from the 1700s until the late 1800s, and had the advantages of allowing a voluminous skirt to be paired with a close-fitting bodice, and of allowing two or more bodices to be worn with the same skirt (e.g., a high-necked bodice and a low-necked bodice allowed the same skirt to serve for both daywear and evening wear). One-piece construction became more common after 1900 due to the trend for looser, more simply-constructed clothing with narrower skirts.

See also


  1. ^ Butterick (c1905). Dressmaking, Up To Date. New York: Butterick Publishing Company. pp. 75.  

Further reading

Arnold, Janet: Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women 1560-1620, Macmillan 1985. (ISBN 0-89676-083-9)

Steele, Valerie: "The Corset: A Cultural History" Yale University Press, 2001.

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