Time to Try Again

March 12th, 2011

It’s official. My stays are an utter failure.

I wore them for 30 minutes last night, and though they were not at all uncomfortable, it was crystal clear that they don’t quite fit. The pattern still needs to be tweaked — I measured the corrections while I had the stays on, and marked up my paper pattern in red for the next go-round. I am planning the following changes:

  • Reduce back piece 3/4 of an inch at the bottom, creating more of a sloping shape from the hip (as originally shown on the pattern)
  • Move bosom gores 1 inch towards the center
  • Move front hip gores towards the center, and angled in the opposite direction
  • Eliminate side bones (not in the original pattern, and already taken out of my first mock-up because they pinched terribly)
  • Make the buttonholes at the bottom of each bone place on the INSIDE of the stays

I like the idea of a pair of long front bones, sloping from the bosom gores to the busk at the bottom, to help form that early 50s point. I’ve seen it in other stays of the period, but it’s not in this pattern, so perhaps I will leave them out for now. I do need to find a wider busk though. It should be closer to 2 inches instead of 1/2 an inch!

I also intend to make my next mock up of firmer fabric, and sew them by machine. Not that I regret the hours of hand sewing I’ve poured into my first set of stays — I worked out a lot of kinks in the process (and know what I’ll do differently next time) — but I want to get this pattern perfected quickly so as to begin on a real pair of serviceable stays as soon as possible. I’d also like a pair of silken stays too…though don’t know for sure if they even existed in the 1850s.

With a nod to The Dreamstress, one of my favorite costume historian bloggers, here’s an images from the Met’s Collection Database that seems close to what I’m shooting for, if not exactly the same pattern:

May the god of costume blogs strike me dead for pointing this to an existing URL instead of a picture on my own server…I’m not sure which is worse, stealing images or stealing bandwidth? Tell me if I made the wrong choice.


  • zoh says:

    What I think is so impressive about your stays project is your fearlessness to do it primarily from period instructions. I am too much of a wuss to attempt it without basically just copying an existing garment (and maybe having the instructions as a reference).

    I think you didn’t lose anything by making the stays this time even if it’s an imperfect first draft — it will only be part of the process to create a perfect set of stays!

  • […] would explain why the 1840s stays in the Met Collection that I posted about last week look like they are made of polished cotton. They are […]

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