Stomacher Jewelry and Where to Get It

We're certainly all familiar with the style of stomacher decoration known as "Echelles" with it's ladder of bows running up and down the front of the bodice, but for a grander impression some wealthy ladies might choose to wear stunning jeweled pieces either with or instead of the fabric trimmings. The idea seems to have evolved out of the elaborate "parures" pinned to the court gowns of the Tudor era, and were further exemplified in the 17th century for formal or court costume, as seen in the portrait to the left of the Electress of Palatine from the 1690s-early 1700s.

Far from falling out of favor in the Georgian era, they only became more variable, with small jewels forming patterns on gown fronts or large motifs covering the majority of the stomacher insert. Frequently depicted are the massive, intricate single brooches pinned to the top of the stomacher and draping pendular pieces down the center where they would catch the light the most (and not coincidentally, I think, draw attention to the bosom). 

While we no longer tend to favor this kind of style, you can find similar pieces in glass and crystal in department stores and specialty shops. Occasionally you can even find them as "statement pieces" particularly during after-Christmas sales. One of the best ways to find a truly 18th-century style stomacher jewel, though, is to find a reenactment supplier who specializes in European accessories. I recently went ahead and purchased just such a one after staring at it on my wishlist for years. Pictured here, it came from an Etsy seller called Sign of the Gray Horse who has many such items including more of the same one should you want to acquire your own. Worn here as a choker centerpiece, it can be moved to wherever you like, the same as an historical example would have been. 

For other great options, including a range of colors you might consider those available from Rose Galante, also on Etsy. I know I'm lusting after this citrine-looking one, but shall resist at present. Of course, the good news is that increasingly you can find large jewelry-fittings in this kind of style available at craft stores like Michael's, where you only have to supply your own pin back, or sew to a choker or piece of lace to create a perfect 18th century accessory.


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