This summer, I started on what will be my big project for the rest of the year. A pair of fully hand-sewn stays, based on this beautiful pair in Patterns of Fashion 5:
When I first heard Luca Costigliolo describe his (newly found) method for patterning stays at the Structuring Fashion conference a year ago, I immediately knew I wanted to try this out. At the time was in the middle of sewing my 18th century dress, and after that I sewed 3 more outfits for events, all which had deadlines and therefore got priority. There are no more deadlines now though, so I’m getting back to stays!
I picked the wool sateen stays (1760-70) because I wanted to make a fully boned pair, which would work for the second half of the century. They’re a bit too straight to be fully fashionable for the last decades of the century, but wearing a slightly old fashioned style isn’t unthinkable.
The first step on this project was the patterning. As wasn’t planning to also hand-sew the mock-ups, this had to happen before I left. In the end I made 5 mock-ups, in post is what I learned along the way, and what I ended up with!
To make the pattern, I followed an article on Foundations Revealed, which walks through Luca’s method for drafting step by step. Aside from taking body measurements, this drafting methods also requires some ‘finished stays’ measurements. Most importantly: the front length, back length, and back width. When I tried the mock-up on, I noticed I got the back length right, but the others not so much.
The back was too small, and the front too short. It was pointless to try to fix the other fit issues before I got these right, so back to the drawing board! This time, I traced the images of the final stays first, and looked carefully at the proportions to get the measurements right this time.
I re-drafted the whole thing from scratch, and this time ended up with something already quite a bit closer to the original! The main problem of this mock-up, was that it was too large, mostly in the bust. From this point, I made all changes to the same draft.
For the third mock-up, I shaved quite a bit off the bust by changing the center front line, and I raised the underarm to fit more snugly. With the high back of this model, I felt this would work to keep the back closer to the body. The changes are the black dotted lines as seen on the previous draft.
At this point I was getting close! It still felt just a little loose, so I shaved a bit more of the bust and the waist. I also changed the second panel so the front tabs would match the original better.
Of course, after mock-up number four I noticed I had over-compensated for the looseness, which made it a little too tight and dig into my hips in the back. Following some great advice via Foundations Revealed, I added a bit of room again, but also looked carefully at the pattern lines again. I made some small changes to get it closer to the original. Most important was the little ‘dart’ between the second and third panel, to make the back stand closer to the body.
This picture shows the fourth (red lines) and fifth (black lines) draft.
This fifth mock-up was finally good enough for me to dare starting my actual fabric! I made some tiny changes to the angle of the front tabs, but that was it!
It looks great! And seems to curve over your back very well too, that’s pretty hard to get right. I am looking forward to the end result … and I high five you because I’m working on the exact same pattern and I’m planning to hand sew it as well haha 😀
Might write a blog post to collect everyone who has been making this. When I started drafting mine nobody had touched it yet – now it might be the most popular stays pattern out there! And rightfully so.
Thanks! I really love how the back fits, and I didn’t actively work on this. I think that shaping the seams as in the original really helped to get it right. I’m very much looking forward to seeing your version as well! I’ve also heard others saying they want to attempt it, would be fabulous to get an overview of all the different versions in the end!