18th Century Stays (Finally!)

It has been a year of starting new periods for me! I began venturing in the the 1870s with my Ravenclaw bustle dress, I dipped a toe in 1890 with my Adora Belle Dearheart costume, and now I’m diving headfirst into the 18th century. This particular new period goes along with a passion project for me at work: Custom Wig Company will soon by launching a line of historically-constructed period wigs, researched and developed by Yours Truly! The line won’t be released quite yet, but I’ll be demonstrating several wig-making techniques at the 18th Century Market Fair at Locust Grove this coming weekend.

It has been rather slow going. I actually started mocking up my stays shortly after we returned from the North American Discworld Convention in September, but with the ever-busy Santa season in full swing at work, and a few small projects and adjustments that needed to get done, I was going pretty slowly. Everything would have been back on track, but of course then I got sick in early October, and ended up (most unusually for me), too lethargic and cranky to work on much of anything. You know I’m feeling bad if I’m not even knitting! Being knocked out of commission for 10 days seems to have jump-started me, though, since I’ve been extra productive since I started feeling better!

But things are certainly moving now! With only 5 days to go until Market Fair, my stays and false rump are finished, and my dress is well underway. For the moment I’ll just be using my Regency chemise, and under petticoats from a couple of different outfits in order to be dressed in time for the event!

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I used the JP Ryan Half-Boned Stays pattern.
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My purple sateen mock-up (leftovers from my bustle) turned out so pretty, I’ve decided I need to turn the rest of it into a new Victorian corset! I’m thinking whisper grey flossing.
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The stays are made from a nice, sturdy linen canvas.
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The front! (Lots more boning channels to come on this piece, both horizontal and vertical.)
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There are two horizontal boning channels along the front neckline, which help keep everything in that nice, rounded, ice cream cone shape.

My boning is 1/4″ reed, which you can purchase in enormous quantities from William Booth, Draper. There are two pieces, flat sides together, in each boning channel. The reed was very easy to work with, and so far is comfortable to wear (definitely my most comfortable period shapewear! I’m reserving total judgement until I’ve worn them out for a full day or two, though.

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All the bones in, except the two at each center back. I waited until I’d sewn the eyelets before I did those.
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I love hand-sewing eyelets and buttonholes! These are opened with an awl, and then secured with a simple overcast in buttonhole silk.

At this point, it’s time for binding! I used chamois leather–just the basic piece you can get for detailing from any auto supply store. One piece was big enough to bind two pairs of stays. It’s cut into 1 1/4″ strips, then sewn to the front side of the stays with a 1/4″ seam,  just like ordinary bias tape, then wrapped around and secured at the back with a whip stitch–no need for any folding under the raw edge like you would with fabric. It was so soft and easy to sew! I did all the binding by hand in order to have more control going around corners and curves. I used a thimble, but that was much more for the canvas than the leather. Chamois is broken down so much in order to make it soft that it’s more like sewing through craft foam than leather.

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The top edge of the stays, bound!
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I was especially impressed with how the chamois went around the tabs!

My computer is being a putz about the completed photos for some reason, but luckily it’s ok with this composite I did for Instagram! Like I said earlier, these are definitely the most comfortable shapewear of any era I do! I will put a linen lining in them as well, but I’m skipping that for now due to the need to make a petticoat and jacket before next Saturday! Better get back to that now!

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7 thoughts on “18th Century Stays (Finally!)

  1. Your stays look wonderful! I particularly like the colours you used. I’ve almost completed some 18th century stays as well though I’m dreading sewing the binding around the edge. Hopefully mine will look as clean as yours!

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      1. You can get it from anywhere where they sell car stuff, and a lot of big box stores too. It’s made for auto detailing. You’re not in the US, right? So I’m not sore of the names of the stores. Here you can get it anywhere from AutoZone to Walmart.

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