Another crack at 18th century stays

I thought I’d be quite ready for a week without any sewing after working overdrive on the convention costumes for as long as I had.  But this week I actually felt kind of eager to get back to some period sewing, and as I have quite a few 18th century projects lined up for this year that I want to tackle, I thought I’d get started with some undergarments again.

Now, I have a few pairs of 18th century stays already… three “functional” pairs, and my first try, a practice pair of stays that I honestly thought I’d thrown away but found lingering in a box in my sewing room this week.  Why do I need another pair of stays, you ask?  I don’t, really, but all my stays have some major issue that I can’t quite get around.

There are my pink silk stays, the first “real” pair I made… they’re a bit too big, seeing as I patterned them before I had my surgery, but that’s not as much of an issue as is the fact that they’re back-lacing only, and I simply can’t get them on by myself.  The construction isn’t too bad and with some work (the edge binding in particular needs badly to be redone,) they could be pretty decent, but I just don’t want to put in the time for something that’s so difficult to wear.

My flower-patterned fully-boned stays, which I love, and which still fit quite well, considering they too were made pre-surgery.  They’re a little too long-waisted and dig into my hips, but that, also, is a small issue.  The big issue with these is that the construction was shoddy, and they’re not holding up well.  A lot of the boning is starting to poke out.  They fit great but they’re not very comfortable, and I don’t think they can be salvaged.

I have my strapless sheet stays, which fit great, and don’t look that great.  They’re fully-boned and were made post-surgery, so they fit fine; the problem is that they’re back-lacing only, which makes them hard to get into by myself.

My biggest concern was having something I could easily slip on when I’m trying to fit garments or make patterns.  What I felt I needed was a pair of purely functional stays – something I can get in and out of on my own easily, which are comfy, and do their job.  I have the pattern, and I’ve had the fabric I planned to use sitting around for ages; I just got preoccupied with so many other things since last summer that I hadn’t gotten to it yet.

IMG_0595 IMG_0596

I used the pattern I drafted for my sheet stays, which is just a basic conical bodice, and added straps and tabs.  The back is still cut a little low, but not so much that it bothers me.  I used white twill for the inner layer and dark green velveteen for the outer, and zip ties for the boning.  I thought the contrast white stitching would look neat, and it’s not horrible, but I have a feeling it would have looked cooler had my boning channels been much narrower.


They’re only half-boned, but the twill and the velveteen are so heavy and stiff that I think they do a lot of the work.  The stays are a tiny bit big, though – in this picture I’m wearing them over a sweater and they just about lace closed.  Today I had them on over just a tee-shirt and they laced completely shut with no real tightness.


I got as far as the top binding done today, and hopefully I can get the bottom binding on tomorrow to finish these.  Then all they need is the lining tacked in.  A fairly good four days’ work, no?  Although I cheated and used grommets (NOOO) because I just wasn’t in the mood for sewing two dozen eyelets.  (Though, I recently found out that my sewing machine has an attachment to make eyelets – I’m highly intrigued to find out how it works!  Eyelets and buttonholes are among my most loathed things to sew.)

So – I accomplished what I set out to do; make a simple, utilitarian pair of stays without any fuss… and they’re even kind of nice looking.  I would really like to make a proper, period-accurate, hand-sewn pair of stays some day… it’s just not high on my priority list, I guess.


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