To complete the front of an eighteenth century dress-bodice, a small triangular or shield-shaped panel could be tied or pinned in place over the stays to meet the bodice fronts. Such stomachers were made of the self fabric of the gown, or of contrasting material, often highly embroidered.
This stomacher was made up around 1700 and has elaborate raised embroidery in silks, metal thread and spangles. It is made of 4 small sections, one on top of the other; two unicorns and two phoenix. These fanciful emblems were popular from Tudor times onwards, the unicorn representing exoticism and the phoenix (pecking blood from its breast) loyalty and self-sacrifice. In fact, this embroidery dates from much earlier, probably around 1600 and almost certainly originated as glove gauntlets covering the lower wrist. Once gloves like these became unfashionable, the gauntlets could be unpicked and remade, as here in this stomacher. Thus recycling into another accessory has ensured that this lavish embroidery was still worn a century after its original creation.
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