25 Jan 2010

Stays, stays & stays

I may not have been busy blogging, but I have been busy sewing!

After licking my wounds caused by the rather disencouraging debacle with my black taffeta, I decided to march on to a project I had planned for a while: a new pair of stays.

While my current pair fits me very well, there are a few things I don't like about them. The armscye is to big towards the back, and since I had no idea what I was doing while I made the stays, they're basically a patchwork à la "make up as you go". It's not noticeable to anyone but me, but that's enough.

But the biggest issue is that I really need a pair of front-laced stays. I can't depend on others to lace me up every time I want to do a fitting or go to an event, and it's impossible for me to lace myself up in a pair of back laced stays - I've tried and I almost had to see a chiropractic afterwards!

So these new stays will have lacing in back, and in front. That's a lot of eyelets, but I have brainwashed myself into liking them so that's not an issue. Historical accuracy may be, because I can't recall seeing a surviving pair of stays, with shoulder straps, from the later decades (70's-80's) of the 18th c that has both front and back lacing (if you know of one, let me know!).

And since I'm obviously suffering from both hubris and a masochistic streak, I decided to go 100% hand sewn this time. Why, I will never know but that's where I am right now.

The helpful ladies at the forum (still online! Yay!) recommended 12 stitches per inch for the boning channels... Let's just say that I'm getting closer... The two front panels look like %&##¤&¤## but I'm progressing and now make 10 stitches per inch. If I make even further progress, the stays will appear to have been made by 5 different persons in different stages of intoxication.

When I started to make plans for these stays, the idea was that I would work on them on and off, between other projects, with no pressure but now I have decided that I won't sew another garment until I can fit it off these stays. Hopefully I have got everything right this time, so I can use the master pattern for new stays to come without having to change my garments over and over again.

No close-ups because I'm too ashamed of my terrible stitching!

Outer layer of blue linen (doesn't look so bright in person) and two layers of heavy cotton. I will add the lining later. Binding will be from natural linen tape (if I don't try to dye it pink... Hmmm...). And cable ties for boning - allright! Although I have to order more.

As you can see, there's a lot more to be done. One stitch at a time...

...so I decided to start on a simultaneous project where I actually could feel I made progress!

Miss Ellinor, my stepdaughter, wished for a new pair of stays for Christmas and I liked the idea. Yesterday she went to Wales for two months of internship and I had initially decided to make the stays after her return, but a few days before she was about to go, I got a sudden urge to quickly make them up just enough for a fitting so I then could work on them while she was away, and so she would return to a brand new pair of finished stays!

Said, and done! Ellinor is about half my size but surprisingly enough I could make a draft from my own stays, and since such a petite figure as hers does well with half-boned stays the (machine sewed) channels and assembly went real quick.

So now all I have to do is to sew the eyelets and the binding... That's right - most of the work actually...

Here the stays lie with a lot of raw edges and seam allowances ready to be trimmed down.

She also got blue linen for an outer layer but it's not the same as on mine. Cable ties FTW! I will definitely use pink binding on these for cuteness.

And as if I hadn't my hands full already, I purchased fabric today for something that some day may become a pair of regency stays. Madness, madness. I need to do a lot more research for this, though. I want the stays to be appropriate for ca 1810 (any help/suggestions/encouragement extremely welcome!). I'm terrified of cording and bust gussets. I really need to end this post now.



  1. Ok, we can chat about the 1810 corset and I can tell you about my experience..cording should not be stressful..it should be fun, from what I understand it's really easy too, and gussets are a pain. :) The stays are looking good so far! Don't worry about your stitching, by the end of it'll be looking like it's machine sewn! :) :)

  2. I have a picture of an extant pair of stays which are Italian from the 1770s featuring both front and back lacing and shoulder straps. I hope that puts your mind at rest.

  3. Loving the colours on both sets of stays in progress! You're definitely inspiring me to get on with mine! (Maybe the current boring project needs to go on hold ...)

    Also, the closest things I've found for you in terms of front and back lacing in 70s and 80s:

    Possibly: http://www.antiquecorsetgallery.com/article.php?article=30

    Yes, yes, I know they are strapless, but if you read the description it explains that they originally had straps. My only concern is that the front isn't very clear - there isn't a stomacher and you can't really see whether there are any front lacing holes, which makes me wonder if it's just broken? But then again, there is a ribbon holding it together at the top front. Anyway, they're from around 1786.

    There is a pattern on this page: http://www.harriets.com/ladies_XL.htm (search for "Generous 1700's Stays", on the right near the bottom of the page) which shows front-and-back-lacing stays dated 1760-80, which they claim are from these originals: http://www.harriets.com/76L.html Which, of course, you can't see the front of - damn!

    That's all I have at the moment, I'll let you know if I find any others, though it looks like the good Comtesse has already helped!

    Good luck with the stays - can't wait to see more progress!

  4. In 17th & 18th fashion in detail there are a pair of front and back laced stays with straps that are dated 1780. And there are one in Corsets in Crinolines from 1780 and one from 1790 :)
    Here are the ones in fashion in detail (from V&A):
    I also have a 1780's pair on my hard drive that I've marked "de young" I think I found them on the demode website somewhere :)


  5. Regency corsets are a breeze after 18th c ones; Soooo little boning! I was worried about doing the gussets, too, but they actually proved surprisingly easy. Mind you, the pattern I was using had quite good instructions for them.

  6. Abby, Comtesse: Thank you both, that's reassuring :)

    Clare: Thank you so much, you seem to take good care of your bookmarks. And of course you should work on your stays if the Other Project drags you down...

    Lithia: D'uh! I even have C&C in my home right now; I simply disregarded that pair for some reason... I'm so happy I have clever, well-informed people around me on these internets.

    Ms. VG: That was exactlyt what I wanted to hear right now :D What pattern did you use, if I may ask?

  7. Well, everyone else beat me to the front and backed laced late 18th c stays I know. Jill Salen's Corsets does have a pair of front laced only half-boned stays from 1780, and the stays I made from that book have 3/4 front lacing and back lacing, and say they are 1750, but I am sure they are later.

    And your s.daughters stays are looking gorgeous!

  8. No problem my dear - wish I could have been a bit more helpful!

    I did go through my whole hard drive a couple of weeks ago and sorted through all my research files (there are many!) and sorted the costuming ones into period and article, so I just went to my '18th century/underpinnings' folder! Geeky in a very librarian way, yes, but also very handy.