Sunday, 27 January 2013

1790's stays

The next theme in the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge is for undergarments. I am going to continue with the 1780s/ early 90s, so that I'll have something to wear my fichu with. I've started making a pair of stays, which are about half finished. The pattern is from The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930. If this were any other book I would have taken a crappy photo from a weird angle to show you the page that the pattern is on, but the copyright statement is unusually thorough, so just to be safe here is a sketch I drew that looks like the line diagram.

I added the person and the shift, the tabs and the neckline are slightly off, and the angle is a tiny bit different. But this is roughly what the line diagram for these stays looks like.
 And here are my scaled up pattern pieces.

These are marked the same way as the ones in the book.

The book says they are from the 1790s, I'm guessing they're from the early 1790's judging by these fashion plates, pretty much everything past 1794 has an empire waistline. This means that I'll be using them for late 1780's too, there doesn't seem to be much difference in the shape. The book also says they're from the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the closest thing I could find in their collections was these. They are certainly not the stays in the book.

The pattern didn't fit me when I scaled it up to the measurements in the book, which shouldn't have come as a surprise seeing as these stays belonged to an 18th century woman, and they were rather small by today's standards. I used another bodice pattern to make it fit, it's based on my other stays. Since it's all one piece it's not really meant to be used as a pattern itself, I only use it to make other patterns.

The pattern piece that makes bodices fit (as long as they are more or less cone shaped).

The one piece bodice pattern traced on brown paper with the too small stays pattern traced over it, the thicker lines are the adjustments.
The pattern fits now, but enough about the pattern, here is the fabric.

The outer fabric, a lightweight pale purple cotton. It's actually a tiny bit darker than it appears in this picture.
And the lining.
An even lighter weight cotton, in pale blue, with flowers.
The purple cotton was already in my stash. The blue cotton is leftover from a petticoat that I made from an old sheet, one end of the sheet was bound with a very wide strip of fabric with a flowery border print.
 The interlining is canvas(from the stash) and the bias binding will be bright yellow cotton(purchased but not photographed).
The lining , there was enough of the flowered stuff to cut the back pieces and the godets. I am quite pleased with this flower distribution.
A godet, and the place where the godet will go. The pattern showed them with the point facing the other way, but that didn't make sense to me, so I reversed them.
A godet as seen from the inside, it's sewn in by hand, which was made very difficult by the canvas.

A godet on the outside, there was a bit of wrinkling but it should be fine when the stays are laced up.
 Both halves look like this so far.

The inside.

The outside.

The stays still need bones, eyelets and bias tape. I also have to attach the front of the straps, But I won't do that until the boning and eyelets are done, it's easier to work on stays while they can still lie flat.
The challenge isn't due until February 11th so I'm going to keep sewing 1780s/early 90s undergarments until then. I'm planning to make a bum pillow, some petticoats and maybe a new shift.


  1. Wow, Mira, this is all pretty amazing to me. it does look like a complicated pattern to figure out but you sure are doing amazingly well with it. I'm sure that you'll get it done on time.


    1. It's not really a complicated pattern, there are only 5 pattern pieces and it's put together like a sandwich of canvas and cotton. There are only 8 bones in this pattern and the finishing is quite simple- you just sew bias tape around the edge.

  2. Count me as impressed. I thought the first stays you made were pretty amazing. I know you were critical of the first ones, but for most of us who know very little about what you are doing, and who wouldn't see the things that bothered you, a photo could be instructive. It might help others who are looking at the blog if you photographed them and posted the photo so they could see what the general look of the finished product is going to be.

    And as someone who has to constantly remind students about copyright violations, I am very impressed that you bothered to take into account the copyright in the book, and that you found a way to pass on the information without violating it in either the spirit or the letter. Your attention to detail in everything is remarkable. I wish my students paid so much attention.

    1. What do you mean by "most of us who know very little about what you are doing", this blog is meant to be read by costumers!
      I certainly will do a post on why my first stays are awful, when I take them apart for the zip ties.
      These stays are for a totally different decade than the first pair, the pattern is different, the silhouette is different and there is a lot less boning. A photo of the first pair would not help show what the second ones will look like. Besides, these ones will be finished within a few days.

    2. Well, it may be that your blog is "meant to be read by costumers", but when you hang your shingle out on the internet, you may find that a lot of people show up to read your blog, even though they may not be your target audience. And since some of your family members are part of that audience, and some of them know nearly nothing of what you are doing, then a bit of help to educate them is perhaps a good idea.

      And I do hope that others with a similar interest find your blog and follow it. Quality work deserves to be seen.

  3. Very nice! I've always found this pattern fascinating, so it's great to see it made up and eventually on a person.

    1. Thanks, I thought this pattern was pretty interesting too, it's crazy how far back the front piece curves.