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Clothing Bodies, Dressing Rooms: Fashioning Fecundity in The Lisle Letters
By Catherine Mann
Parergon Vol. 22:1 (2005)
One of the preparations for early modern childbirth was obtaining the necessary material goods for the pregnancy, birth, and lying-in. Indeed, for noble families, childbirth was marked by the increase in bought and borrowed possessions surrounding and enclosing the body of the pregnant woman. Traditionally and historically, both mother and father had defined roles to play in preparing for the birth of a child. But it was not just parents who participated in the materiality of childbirth rituals; servants, too, had their part to play. Through the objects and clothes that male servants provided, men were able to prepare for pregnancy in ways that broader society deemed legitimate and necessary. The role of Lord Lisle’s man, John Husee, in procuring bedding and clothing for Lady Lisle’s lying-in reveals a crucial episode in the material and emotional construction of early modern maternity.