Grecian bend

The Grecian bend was a term applied first to a stooped posture[1] which became fashionable c. 1820,[2] named after the gracefully-inclined figures seen in the art of ancient Greece. It was also the name of a dance move introduced to polite society in America just before the American Civil War. The "bend" was considered very daring at the time.[3]

The stoop or the silhouette created by the fashion in women's dress for corsets, crinolettes and bustles by 1869 was also called the Grecian bend.[4][5][6] Contemporary illustrations often show a woman with a large bustle and a very small parasol, bending forward.

The term was also given to those who suffered from decompression sickness, or "the bends", due to working in caissons during the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.[7] The name was given because afflicted individuals characteristically arched their backs in the same manner as the then popular "Grecian bend" fashion.[8]

There were many songs published with "Grecian Bend" in their titles. The term "Grecian bend" appears in the song "The Garden Where The Praties Grow" by Johnny Patterson:

Have you ever been in love my boys
Or have you felt the pain?
I'd sooner be in jail myself
Than be in love again
For the girl I loved was beautiful
I'd have you all to know
And I met her in the garden
Where the praties grow

She was just the sort of creature boys
That Nature did intend
To walk right through the world my boys
Without the Grecian bend
Nor did she wear a chignon
I'd have you all to know
And I met her in the garden
Where the praties grow


  1. OED Online. June 2013. Oxford University Press. ‘Grecian bend (noun): an affected carriage of the body, in which it is bent forward from the hips’
  2. The Times (London, England), 3 January 1820, p. 3’...those young ladies who have contracted that fashionable stoop, denominated the “Grecian bend”!’
  3. America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present (Music in American Life) by Gilbert Chase - Nov 1992
  4. Victoria & Albert Museum website - Accessed 26 August 2009
  5. Place Names of San Mateo County, pg. 37, Dr. Alan K. Brown. © Published San Mateo County Historical Association
  6. Daily Telegraph 1 September 1869
  7. Butler WP (2004). "Caisson disease during the construction of the Eads and Brooklyn Bridges: A review". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (4): 445–59. PMID 15686275. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  8. Kumar V., Abbas A., Fausto N. (2005), Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease, 7th ed. Elsevier Inc. ISBN 0-7216-0187-1
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