Couch of Ages: Hysteric Rationalism



To say the Victorians were a stuffy, repressed lot is an understatement.

Everything—and I mean everything—was governed by stiff rules of etiquette and manners. This rigid attitude extended to fashion and furniture through that hallmark of antiquated sexism that is the fainting couch.

These unique pieces owe their existence to the concept of hysteria, a catch-all diagnosis that covered all kinds of wacky “symptoms” endured by the fairer sex. Fainting spells were the trademark calling card of the hysteric, a byproduct of restrictive female fashions of the time. Something was needed to accommodate this unfortunate condition, and thus, the fainting couch was born.

No Victorian drawing room could live without one; some homes dedicated whole rooms for “delicate” women to recline or wait for assistance as needed.

Thankfully, there is a silver lining in all of this.

The couch endured as a mainstay of home décor and a social movement based on women’s fashion and taste, sparked by the fainting couch, carried into the Edwardian era.

This led to new concepts like the smoothly curved Rococo and the rustic minimalism of mission style settees that would herald a sea change in furniture design. Fueled by industry, this new paradigm favored sharp angles and simple beauty, the first hints of what would come to be known as modernism.


Sometimes you’ve just got to relax and have a bit of fun. Stay tuned for more from the Couch of Ages blog series and please, feel free to email us if there’s something you’d like to see covered in this space. Have a great day and try to find a bit of time to relax.  

For more about CouchDB visit or follow us on Twitter at @couchdb

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