Yes, Pharaby insisted on having this article in her wardrobe, the euphoniously termed BUM ROLL. The “cork bum” was subject to ridicule at the time, but goodness knows ridicule and fashion have always been comfortable together. Magazines of the day enjoyed satirizing high style:
“Nature appears to have been but a kind of bungler, We mortals are obliged to alter every piece of her works, before it can be fit to be seen…
And after all this being done, a Lady was supposed to be quite finished—
No such thing—
What was wanting?
What was wanting ? Blockhead! Don’t thee know?
A BUM was wanting !!
A BUM ! —
Mercy on us ! Who would have thought Nature could have made such a mistake as to create Ladies without bums.
Nothing is more certain. —
Bum-shops are opened in many parts of Westminster for the sale of cork bums, and report says they go swimmingly on.
Tall ladies, and short ladies — fat ladies and lean ladies, must have bums —
And this is what they call getting up behind.
So that in fact, a fashionable female, if she lay on her face, or creep on all fours, would exactly resemble a camel with a hunch in the middle of the back….
Let it be recorded, that in the auspicious year 1785, BUMS FOR LADIES, were made, cleaned, and repaired, so as far to exceed nature in size, or convenience.
When researching this little artifice, I was intrigued by the references to cork. Farthingales, panniers, etc. had been around for ages and were effective in supporting heavy skirts. So why cork, and what did they look like? I found a website that provided the most amazingly extensive research on the subject of skirt supports ever — with excellent images. And another site by a brilliant costumer who experimented with using cork blocks for the same purpose.
But I couldn’t find any images of extant cork “bums” to go by. So would Pharaby be happy with wool stuffing? Or would she insist on cork?
You know the answer. The next question being, what kind of cork? The advantage, like the disadvantage, of dressing dolls is the scale. I could use a cork coaster to try carving a shape and then covering it, but the tiny size required was more than I wanted to tackle.
What if I used cork “crumbs”? One period satire implied that cork pieces were used: “Money for your old corks.” Ergo, they were cut, shaved, crumbled, etc., and used like stuffing. Well ok, maybe not. Maybe “corks” was short for “cork bums” and they wanted them for resale or recycling. I’m speculating in an attempt to defend my choice. Whatever, we went with cork granules.
Now, my husband makes wonderful wine (as a hobby — woohoo!) so why not crumble some corks we already have? Or chop up that trivet? Cheap, easy, and immediate, so of course I didn’t do it that way. My life is pretty tame and I was craving a touch of the exotic, so Pharaby and I sent for a package of cork from Portugal. I figured I could use the leftovers later for stuffing some vintage toys, to give them that authentic lumpy look.
I drew a pattern (and used the first attempt, I’ll have you know). I found some grubby pink glazed cotton which I’d unsucessfully, thank goodness, tried to sell on ebay. And then I stitched and stuffed and added ties.
Let it be recorded that in the auspicious year 2014, Pharaby’s figure was enhanced.
And she did need it. Most wooden dolls are not noted for their shapely behinds.