Regency stays

Regency was the first period I tried when starting historical costuming, mainly because there were a lot of events and it is relatively simple. It’s not really my favorite period, but I do enjoy spending time with friends at Regency events.

I have a number of Regency dresses which I like, but I’ve been wanting to replace my undergarments for a little while now. I have short stays, but I’ve become very used to wearing full corsets under costumes and in retrospect the short stays also don’t give me the best shape.

I’ve been putting off making long stays because I don’t really need them, but with all the free weekends I figured now was a good time. I got the regency stays pattern from Redthreaded, having heard good things about them.

I made a mock-up, and mainly added room in the hips, which was expected as the pattern is a bit straighter than me. I also raised the bust gussets by about 1cm.

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Cutting time!

 

I followed slightly different steps for the construction, as the pattern calls for constructing it as a single layer (even if using more) with internal boning channels and I wanted a clean finish inside as you see in originals. I couldn’t really figure out how originals were constructed, so I used the method of constructing the pieces front to back, ‘welding’ the seams inbetween the layers. Basically, when attaching panel 1 to 2, you have the layers of panel 1 on each other. Then, you put the right side fabric of 2 to the right side of 1, the wrong side of 2 to the wrong side of 1 and stitch through all layers, and then turn panel 2 back to hide the allowance.

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The main panels constructed

 

The gussets were a bit challenging, as I wanted to sandwich them inbetween the layers. After cutting the slash, I ironed both sides inward, put the gussed inbetween and based the layers in place. Then I topstitched right around the gusset, the basting keeping the underlayers in place. It’s not perfect, but for a first time trying this out I’m pretty happy with it.

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Gusset with only the basting in place

 

I was planning to make these fairly simple, but then I noticed basically all existent Regency long stays have cording, so I wanted to have some too. I used the method described by the Laced Angel here. Basically, I stitched all lines first, and then inserted cording with afterwards with a darning needle. It definitely took some fiddling and pliers, but the cording does add that Regency touch!

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The eyelets are hand sewn, and aside from the cording there are a couple of bones still. Most are 7mm wide 1mm thick synthethic whalebone, but around the center back and on the back/side seam I used 6mm wide 1.5mm thick ones as those places take most strain. There is also a wooden busk in the front to keep that line straight and help separate the bust cups.

 

During the final fitting, the bust turned out to still be a little too high, so I cut about 1cm off the top before stitching on the binding with drawstring. It also turned out the bone between side and back seam was digging in a bit (my fault for not boning my mock-up…), so I shortened that in the channel which fixed it.

Fitting: the bustline is too high, and the bone on the seam in the side/back was digging in whenever I let my arm down.

 

All in all, I’m very happy with how this turned out! It feels more comfortable than my old ones, and also gives me a better silhouette. Regency is all about the ‘lift and separate’ look, and while my old ones did the lift, the separate wasn’t much there.

I can also put them on by myself, despite the back lacing. The trick is very long lacing, wriggling in with the lacing in front, tightening it a bit, turning it around on the body, and tightening one final time. It doesn’t look very elegant, but it works. I’ve wrapped the rest of the lacing cord around my waist, as tying off properly is the only thing I can’t get done on my own. It works fine for putting them on for fittings though!

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The only problem now is that my old dresses don’t fit quite right on my new stays. I’ll look into re-making them if I can, but this is also a good excuse to make new ones! The advantage of regency dresses is that they are fairly quick to make, so I might have some new projects to show fairly soon…

PoF Stays – Materials

After drafting the pattern, the second step for making the stays was gathering materials. For this pair, my goal was to get it as close to the original as possible. Luckily for us, Patterns of Fashion 5 has very thorough descriptions of what was used, and in the front includes extra info on what historical materials were!

These stays have 4 main layers. Two layers of linen canvas which sandwich the bones, one layer of wool sateen which is included in the stitching and on the outside, and a layer of linen lining which is cut in just two pieces per side and added last.

I started by looking for linen canvas that would work. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find any in local shops, which meant searching online. This actually made it quite tricky, because the most important thing for this linen was the ‘hand’. It needs to be tightly woven and sturdy, but not necessarily heavy. On pictures you can’t always see how tightly woven a fabric is. And although you can often find weights for fabric, weight doesn’t necessarily translate to strength. In the end, I went by recommendations from the very helpful people at Foundations Revealed, and ordered the ‘Artist’s Canvas’ linen from Whaley’s Bradford. I also have a sample of the linen canvas that Sartor  carries, which I think would also work, but is just a bit heavier, and just a tad less stiff. Whaley’s stuff is beautiful, and I’m glad I ordered a bit extra for future projects.

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The second fabric was the wool sateen. To be honest, I’d not even really started looking because I thought it’d be impossible to find wool sateen retail. But then someone mentioned that the same Whaley’s Bradford also carried wool sateen, so I ordered a bit of that! It’s a little whiter than the original fabric, as it’s prepped for dyeing, and I suspect it’s also less stiff. The book mentions that even the wool is quite stiff in the original pair, and my wool is very drapey. However, as the linen is what mostly takes care of the structure, I don’t mind too much. I also really love the pale cream color. It’s one of the most expensive fabrics I’ve ever bought (luckily you don’t need much for stays), but it’s absolutely stunning and beautiful to work with.

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The next thing I went looking for was thread. I wanted to sew these stays with linen thread, which actually proved quite a challenge. I knew I could order it from the US, but that seemed a bit overkill for a bit of thread, so I initially went looking in physical shops and Dutch online stores. I could find cotton and silk thread, but not linen. Until I visited the store of Sartor when I was in Prague, and they had some! They sell it in three thicknesses, and I got quite a supply which I hope will carry me through.

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To assist with sewing, I’m using bees wax I got from Sew Curvy. I hadn’t worked with waxing thread before, but know it was a very common thing especially for hand sewing with linen, and so far it’s working very well! My other sewing aids are needles I already had, a little pair of foldable scissors and my trusty thimble.

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Before I could actually start sewing, I also needed boning. The original stays feature baleen, which wasn’t an option, so I went looking for synthetic whalebone. I initially looked for the 5mm wide as that was the smallest I’d seen in shops, but everyone seemed to be sold out right when I wanted to order. Luckily, Foundations Revealed came to the rescue again, as someone had a lot of left over 4mm wide synthethic whalebone and was willing to sell it to me. I’m very happy with the smaller size, as this will closer mimic the look of the originals with their very narrow boning channels. Additionally, I have some 6mm wide synthethic whalebone which is a little thicker (1,5mm instead of 1mm) as well for next to the lacing cords. And I have one wide metal bone, for the front. The original has thicker baleen horizontally in the front, but as I won’t be able to get synthethic whalebone thick enough, I’ll be using the steel.

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And that’s all the materials I have so far! There are some things still missing, most notably the binding. The top of the stays is bound with linen twill tape. I suspect I’ll have to settle for cotton tape for that one, but cotton did exist in the period so I can live with that. The bottom binding is leather, and I’ll have to look around a bit on what to use. For my green stays I used Chamois, which worked perfectly, but I think the original has stiffer leather. I’m not quite sure what I want yet, as stiffer also means more difficult to sew, and tabs are a pain as is. There’s also a leather guard under the arm, which I have yet to find material for. The lining linen will probably come out of my stash, as I have a couple of different white linens left over from other projects. And finally, there’ll be several pieces of linen buckram to stiffen the front. I plan to make this myself, as I’ve seen several people post on how to stiffen linen with natural glues. I don’t actually need these pieces until after all the channels are sewn though, so that can wait a bit longer.

The next step in the process is sewing the boning channels. This will actually take by far the longest, so it might be a while until there’s a next post about the stays! I’m now going at a rate of about 9cm per 10 minutes, so keep an eye on my Instagram for endless pictures of straight lines of white stitching… Meanwhile, here’s an example:

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PoF5 Stays – Drafting the pattern

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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

Late 18th century stays

I finished my first piece for an 18th century wardrobe last weekend. Green linen front-lacing stays.

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This also means I finally have some sewing which fits in with the Historical Sew Monthly again, as the theme for Febuary is Under! So the stats:

The Challenge: Under
Material: Green & plain colored linen, leather chamois for binding
Pattern: American Duchess Simplicity front-lacing stays
Year: (the year the item represents, not the year you made it) ca. 1780s
Notions: Synthethic whalebone boning & twill tape
How historically accurate is it? Reasonably. Materials are pretty close, synthethic whalebone is obviously synthethic, but close to whalebone in behavior. The boning channels were stitched by machine, as were the seams between panels. Everything else was hand-sewn.
Hours to complete: I’m very bad at keeping track…
First worn: Today, for pictures
Total cost: Most of the materials were already in stash, so no clue…

The story & construction:

Somewhere last year I got the Simplicity patterns from their first collaboration with American Duchess. Not for any specific project, but they were on sale at that time and I figured they might come in handy at some point.

Simplicity Pattern 8162 Misses' 18th Century Undergarments

I particularly liked that they included front-lacing stays, which is convenient when one needs to dress oneself. After I made my green medieval kirtle, I had some green linen left, and decided green stays would be a nice plan.

They’re rarer than some other colors, but they definitely do exist. The only disadvantage of my green linen is that it does stain a bit, so the inside of my future 18th century clothes might turn somewhat green. I’m not too bothered by that to be honest, the outside will be fine anyway.

 

Corset Date: ca. 1780 Culture: American Medium: wool, leather, linen, reeds Dimensions: Length at CF: 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm) Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of E. A. Meister, 1950 Accession Number: 2009.300.3100a, b

Ca. 1780 green wool stays, from the MET

 

I did the mock-up and main construction of my stays somewhere last year before the summer. They then got put on hold a bit, as I had absolutely no plans for an 18th century outfit yet, and I did have other stuff I wanted to make and also wear first.

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Planning out the boning channels

 

After the summer, I very briefly picked up the project again to do some embroidery. I was inspired by a couple of different stays which have some ‘swirly’-type embroidery on them, which I thought was very interesting. I have no idea how common this embroidery actually was, or if it was a regional thing (northern European?), but I decided to go with it.

My main inspirations were this pair for the ‘waves’:

Cotton corset (with wood  boning) 1780s–90s, European - in the Metropolitan Museum of Art costume collections. (Would be relatively easy to take a pattern from this photo!)

European, 1780s–90s, MET museum

And this one for the little ‘leafs’ on the back:

Stays - norway Fun embroidery in the back

Norwegian, from the Glomdalsmuseet

 

My interpretation:

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Swirlies on the front, leaf style in the back, both between the boning channels

 

After the embroidery, the project got put on hold again, this time for the 1660s and 1880s ensembles. Beginning of this year, after I finished my 17th century shift, it was finally time to go back to them!

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I used German synthetic whalebone.

 

I sewed in facings for the eyelets, and then the eyelets themselves. After that I covered the seams with narrow tape.

 

At this point, it was time for binding! I used leather chamois (from the local supermarket), which worked really well! A thimble was definitely good to have, but no pliers necessary and the chamois curved and stretched nicely.

 

 

 

The final step was lining the whole thing. I’m often a bit too lazy to pretty up the insides, but I hope this will increase their longevity!

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For straps, I decided to take inspiration from the new American Duchess stays pattern. It uses twill tape straps, which cross in the back and attach to hooks in the front, inspired by this original:

Stays, 1785-90, M969X.26

1785-1790. (c) McCord Museum. (And look: more twirlies!)

 

This method held appeal for several reasons. It helps you hold your shoulders back, which I can use some help with. It also gives a relatively narrow strap which lies wide on the shoulder (to the outside), good for not poking out under necklines, and it’s very easily adjustable.

I tea-dyed the tapes first, as they were bright white at first. Left original, right dyed version.

 

This is what they look like completed!

 

Some details

 

The only disadvantage of the straps is that they partly cover up the back embroidery. Ah well.

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To finish up, some more pictures of the stays on me!

In retrospect, they are just a little short on me. I didn’t make a boned mock-up, so that’s entirely my own fault. I did learn later this pattern runs a little short in general (too late, obviously), so if you’re also working on it that’s good to double check.

All in all, I’m not too bothered by it, as the shift keeps stuff in place well enough in my case.

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Regency shift

When buying the fabric for my regency stays, I decided to also buy some linen to someday make a shift. I can wear the stays over a shirt with a wide neckline, but I already had the pattern for the shift (Regency Underthings Pattern, from Sense & Sensibility), so why not do it right. I sewed up the shift this weekend, it does make for some quick sewing! I cheated a bit by doing it all by machine though. I didn’t have any white cord, so the cord is dark red (a leftover from a corset string), but I actually quite like it. I also found out I hadn’t bought enough fabric, so I slightly narrowed the shift and instead of using bias to make the casing for the string I simply hemmed the neckline with a string in it. No idea if any originals do it this way, but it saves fabric, so that at least is historically accurate!

The shift:

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