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If you’ve been around our blog for any length of time, you may have noticed occasional complaints about sewn-in stomachers or clunky stomachers or even missing stomachers. Maybe you wondered what the frock we were talking about! Well, I wrote a super-detailed research post all about the historical dress item called a “stomacher,” what periods it was worn in, and what movies and TV series actually show it properly.
The TL;DR is that a stomacher is, essentially, a triangle of fabric that’s pinned into the front sides of a woman’s gown to close up a front opening. If a gown opens in the back, you don’t have a stomacher because there’s no point in gown having two openings (as we’ve ranted about before). Stomachers were not commonly worn until the 1580s or so, and they went out of fashion at the end of the 18th century.
While we understand that movies and TV shows have budget and time constraints (we’ve written about that before too), nitpicking the historical accuracy of onscreen costumes is the reason Frock Flicks exists! This is our specialized beat, we’re like sports writers are to the rest of journalism. We geek out on these details, and during Snark Week, we delight in pointing out where its wrong!
Movies & TV Shows Where the Stomachers Are Missing
I’m talking about when you clearly need a stomacher but, hey, you’re just wearing a dress over a corset. Like this lady, I don’t know what’s going on here, but her ensemble needs something more in the front.
I love seeing Phillipe cross-dress, he looks great! Except that he’s just wearing a loose dress over a corset, which isn’t accurate, and as the king’s brother, he could afford correct kit.
See? Just a corset. A nice one. And yeah, this simplified outfit was probably so he could more easily fight, but a stomacher pinned in wouldn’t slow him down that much IMO.
But wearing a corset and missing a stomacher is better than this — it looks ouchy!
She does have a stomacher for this dress, but she only sometimes wears it. Huh?
Dressing without a stomacher is totally a thing she does throughout the flick, along with clingy smocks.
All the better to slice through her gown. sigh
I can’t tell here if this is an overgown worn over an undergown or what. But something looks like it’s missing, so I’m putting this one here.
Ahh, the old “maids are so poor, they run around in just their corsets” trope. No, that’s not a real thing, just a movie/TV thing. This girl needs something covering up her corset, a stomacher, a shirt, a real jacket!
Pinning an apron to your jacket doesn’t help!
Then there’s this weird “skin-tone” stomacher, which makes it look like her gown is missing something in the front. And no, that was not a period aesthetic.
Likewise, doilies don’t work as stomachers.
You can throw some trim on it, but I can tell that’s just your corset, not an actual stomacher!
Movies & TV Shows That Have Stomachers Attached All Clunky
These get an “E” for effort, but they just aren’t up to snuff. This first one does have a correct stomacher, but they needed to use more pins so it’s not gaping like crazy. The top edge of stomacher should also sit closer to the bustline. This is riding way too high.
This is just Shit That Doesn’t Fit. Why didn’t they make a new stomacher for this gown??? A quarter-yard of fabric would have fixed this.
This is also a fit issue (or maybe just a pinning issue), less egregious but clearly visible from both directions, and it irritates me.
And this has A LOT of issues, but I’m going to start with the manner of attachment. The stomacher is obviously sewn on one side and uses hooks and eyes to close on the other, all of which is very theatrical, but worse, it just looks ugly AF. Also, any time you see piping around the edges of a so-called “stomacher,” watch out! That’s a Victorian thing, so a sure sign of a fake stomacher.
I totally understand using hooks and eyes as a closure for film and TV, but plenty of other productions do it in a tidy and less-noticeable fashion.
Movies & TV Shows With Cardboard Stomachers
AKA, your stomacher should not be trying to hold up your boobs — because it will fail. Actually, this first one looks like a pice of plastic, not cardboard!
This one’s awfully chunky. There’s no need for that much bulk in the stomacher — it’s decorative! It’s not a structural garment. The corset underneath it does all the work.
Cardboard-y and cut too high. The neckline should be about an inch lower, then it won’t gape out. For an older or more modest character, you can fill in with a fichu or chemisette (you see this a lot on Madame de Tourvel in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons).
Now cardboard in 1980s couch print!
OMG, you can see the boning through this one. That’s not how it’s supposed to work!
Maria Simonovna, do me a favor and get me a decent corset and a normal stomacher instead this hunk of fabric-covered cardboard I have to carry around on my chest.
That super-wide triangle looks awfully flat and board-like…
Ooof, you can see the sides of her gown falling under the unnecessarily stiff stomacher here.
Movies & TV Shows With Fake or Sewn-In Stomachers
Now here’s the biggest category of sins against historically accurate stomachers. This includes all kinds of vague attempts at mimicking the look of a stomacher by using contrast fabric, adding trim, and otherwise sewing in that front triangle piece that should be a separate item. Though I’m trying to not include generic princess-seamed gowns since that’s a whole other rant for another day ;)
Let’s start early with some fancy trim!
Contrast fabric with a 3D rose!
Lots of trim and contrast fabric, but could maybe use some cardboard (or more accurately, a corset or stiffened undergarment) because look at that giant wrinkle across the front!
This one has contrast fabric covered with pearls.
Even better when you see the gown on display:
Gotta love that triangle of patterned fabric sewn in!
At least here, the dark pink sewn-in triangle matches her petticoat.
In case you couldn’t see clearly in the first movie, this gown was reused a few times:
This one looks like a proper stomacher!
But, oh no, it must be sewn-in because the gown laces up the back.
I hate this next miniseries so much. Someday, I’ll do a Snark Week recap that’ll just be me yelling. For now, join me in annoyance at this sewn-in stomacher on Queen Anne.
Naturally, the least historically accurate costumes in this movie have fake stomachers.
For your viewing pleasure!
Of course, there are Musketeers adaptions with worse costumes…
Pretty in pink with a sewn-in stomacher!
You can put ribbon laces over it, but we can still see that the stomacher is sewn in.
Dressed up with shiny trim…
I agree with Kendra’s original assessment: Hideous.
OK, there are court gown styles of this period that have highly decorated front pieces that are integral to the gown and not separate stomachers — these are the accurate back-lacing gowns that Kendra has pointed out many times before. The one on the left seems to be going for that look. But the one the right isn’t.
Ooooo, the piping gives this away! Nice try.
This movie has some rather historically accurate appearing costumes. This one misses the mark, alas.
100% sewn in.
The back-lacing is the giveaway here.
And here too.
Lordy, that side seam.
In case you want a full-frontal:
But it’s not the only crappy gown in that flick!
Here, the wholly separate bodice and skirt is a giveaway.
Sewn-in with piping!
All the same fabric, but clunky wanna-be stomacher sewn-in.
Please make it stop!
Even from a distance, we know that sucker is sewn in.
Piping and it might be a separate bodice and skirt.
Follow the trim lines for the fake stomacher.
Fancy embroidery doesn’t distract me from this thing being sewn right into the gown.
So obvious when you hold up the gown!
A treasure trove of sewn-in fake stomachers:
Can’t hide it with ruffles and fake bows.
Three ladies, three fake stomachers:
Chris-cross, fakey sauce!
Dunno if that’s piping or a seam line, but it’s fake.
Yikes, a fake stomacher in shitty satin! The real Rose Bertin would have done better.
Shitty trim on a fake stomacher, we expect nothing more from this one.
It’s a Turkish triangle, darling.
Yes, the gown is cute. No, it’s not historically accurate. There’s piping, and the stomacher is sewn in.
The pink one isn’t as bad as the rest of what Annette Bening wears in this flick.
Great fabric, but poor choices were made.
Why zig-zag some faux lacing over the outline of a stomacher on a front-closing jacket? These things don’t go together.
This gown was made for a different movie, but it’s here where the sewn-in stomacher is really prominent.
We’re not even trying here:
So goddamn ugly!
A nice movie filled with ho-hum historical costumes:
Big ol’ side seam.
And let’s just finish off with one that Kendra suspected might even be recycled from Valmont!
Movies & TV Shows With Stomachers in Non-Stomacher Eras
Here’s your bonus round — I’ve collected a bunch of essentially Tudor costumes that have real(ish) or faked stomachers — but that’s not necessary at all! As I describe in my research post, stomachers didn’t become part of women’s fashion until the 1580s, at the earliest. So these are all wrongity wrong!
Whether they go with trim:
Or contrasting fabric:
Or make some attempt to look like lacing, plus a micro-penis tip:
Big triangular contrast:
Doubling down on same.
This looks like an actual stomacher basted in (or just poorly sewn and coming apart). Doesn’t matter, that wouldn’t be a fashion for another 50 years!
Obviously sewn in.
Oh hey, piping!
Pretty decorations but still too early.
This gown would have at least worked for The Three Musketeers, but it still has a sewn-in stomacher.
This dress would be fine without the weird contrast strip faux stomacher thing on the front. I mean, sure, she needs a non-sheer smock, some kind of over dress, and a decent French hood too.
This stomacher is very cardboard-y and cut too high.
Sewn-in and piped.
This costume designer for miniseries had a whole rational for stomachers. Which had nothing to do with historical accuracy, of course. Read my full review for her story and my rebuttal!
They’re SO CLUNKY.
They’re fastened with snaps. If you couldn’t tell.
They SO BIG.
Even a series with otherwise excellent costumes fucked it up a little bit.
Though I expect the problem more from a low-budget series.
What’s going on with this dress? The top of the sleeves are a different fabric, and those cuffs aren’t an Elizabethan style. The sewn-in stomacher is almost the least of the problems.
Ahh, let’s close out with an old fave! Not just prom dresses, in the final seasons, Mary and Elizabeth got some period-ish costumes. Emphasis on the “ish.”
Almost the same dress, but different sleeves and different fake stomacher fabric.
Trim, bedazzled, and set off with little wing collars!
Have you noticed shitty stomachers in frock flicks?
Some of these are outright travesties, but I think the costumes in Fire Over England are pretty damn gorgeous even if they aren’t perfectly accurate — 3D rose and all. ;)
I suggest you do an article showing the times when a stomacher is shown correctly.
I did! And it’s linked right up top in ‘I wrote a super-detailed research post all about the historical dress item called a “stomacher”‘ :)
Love this–do you have examples of stomacher costumes done right? I’m getting ready for an 18th century ball and am nervous.
ah, I see you addressed this above. NVM :)
Oh & if you’re making something for yourself, don’t stress! We snark movies & TV shows bec. they’re out there making money off this stuff & often saying how “historical” they are. But unless you’re part of some strict reenactor group that’s told you they have specific costume standards, rock on with your bad self & enjoy what you make &/or wear :)
We really shouldn’t have to stomach this!
Oh…those Sons of Liberty screencaps…her poor squished boobs. I’m having phantom pains.
I do kind of wonder why stomachers done correctly (or at least following more closely) isn’t seen as a helpful/good practice. If you use pins to hold it in, it saves work on attaching closures and can give you a bit of fitting wiggle room. I can understand not wanting to deal with corsetry (although not doing so will have a big impact), but why create extra work doing it wrong? And if someone really wants to use hooks and eyes, just, you know, put the stomacher under the main dress edges and it will be less obvious.
Not gonna lie though, I want that first red and green Victorian-take-on-Tudor looking dress from Spanish princess (on the girl who played Lucy Pevensie in the Narnia movies). I would totally wear that. But I wouldn’t claim it’s accurate.
Not sure how that ended up as a reply but I do agree about the Sons of Liberty! Ouch.
I think the idea of using pins to fasten clothing scares modern folks who haven’t tried it. Prob. because today we don’t wear as many layers, so ppl think ‘omg I’ll get stabbed by the pins!’ But pre 20th-c., you’d be wearing so much clothing, pins in the top layer are very unlikely to work their way to your body. Any 18th-c. gowns I make close up with pins. It’s so much easier & much more forgiving with weight changes or changing up different looks.
Great post! I like reading about historical fashions, especially the lesser known ones. It makes sense that a stomacher was originally made from fabric. I only know about them as jewelry. Particularely the stomachers left to Queen Elizabeth II from her mother, Queen Mary. One in all diamonds and one in diamonds and emeralds.
As a jewelry term, I’m sure it evolved from the elaborate jewels sometimes worn on stomachers, especially in the 18th century (tho’ possibly earlier).
That makes sense. I think modern times can live without the fabric stomachers, but I would like to se the jewelrystyle become a thing again. There’s no doubt so many antique stomachers lying in a dusty cabinet or stuffed drawer somewhere that the world deserves to see. Jewelry should be worn.
I have a part-time business selling 17th/18th century clothing and accessories. I make stomachers in narrow and wide widths, stiffened with buckram. After the publication of ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, women would come up to my stall at an event, see the stomachers, and exclaim, ‘So that’s what they are!’ as PFG mentions stomachers being fastened and (mostly) unfastened in the book. BTW, Mrs. Caroline Astor had a diamond stomacher that had belonged to Marie Antoinette.
Reign: Lowering Standards in Historical Costumery since 2014! :)