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April 18, 2019

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A. Marina Fournier

I have never understood why ladies of the Regency/Napoleonic period were portrayed seated in a slouch.

Most women of middle class and above were trained in their adolescence to have a stiffly upright posture, such as dancers do today, using a backboard. As young ladies and matrons, they were expected to sit upright, their backs not touching the chair back.

Hana - Marmota

Marina, I think you're putting later (Victorian and Edwardian?) attitudes to earlier eras when they did not apply. Wherever you learned about young ladies being trained like that, I'll bet it was a much later source.
This era was all about being "natural" and being free from 18th century stiffness of body. This is the era of Austen heroines walking the countryside, after all.
Also, the way women are sitting has a lot to do with corsetry. Supportive undergarments in this era were far softer than before or after. Very lightly boned or even just corded. Softer fabrics like cotton sateen were used. Some women (especially in France, it seems), even wore just something like proto-bras - I'm willing to bet that's exactly the sort of thing Josephine is wearing in that particular portrait, considering her very lightweight dress, very natural silhouette and her "slouch".

Hana - Marmota

P.S. further thought: Considering the 18th century fashion of portraying society women reclining on couches (think one of those famous portraits of Madame de Pompadour), I suppose this could be considered a sort of follow-up to that fashion with less stiff undergarments. ;-)

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