Progress of the Toilet - THE STAYS by Gillray


James Gillray was one of the finest caricaturists of the Georgian period. First apprenticed as an engraver in London, Gillray then attempted to launch himself as a conventional artist by studying at the Royal Academy School. But it was in caricature where Gillray found his true calling. He is thought to have published over a thousand satires during his lifetime, drawing special attention for his lampooning of George III and the royal family. 

Progress of the Toilet is a set of three images published by James Gillray in 1810 which pours ridicule on the fashions of the period dictating how the shapes of women should be accentuated to imitate artistic depictions of femininity. In this first image ‘The Stays’ a woman is trussed tightly into an uncomfortable whalebone corset by her maidservant in order to achieve the socially acceptable – though strikingly unnatural – physical shape popular in high fashion at the time. Other images in the sequence offer commentary on the commodification of art and literature among women as casual objects of consumption in the early 19th century, later to be discarded in a similar way to the clothes and wigs of the wealthy once they had fallen out of fashion.

Full title:
Progress of the Toilet - THE STAYS, from The Caricatures of Gillray; with historical and political illustrations, biographical anecdotes and notices
estimated 1818, London
Print / Image
James Gillray
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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