Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The 1790s stays are done

Here they are, finally finished!

These took a little longer than I expected, I'd forgotten how long it takes to sew that much bias tape on. Here are some more pictures of the construction.

A bias tape maker making bias tape. These things are awesome.

Bias tape being sewn on the shoulder straps.
Tabs without binding. They look messy.

Tabs with binding. Much better.

Tabs are a pain in the butt to bind, it took me about 7 hours to do both halves. They're worth it though, if they didn't have tabs they would cut in and be horribly uncomfortable.

The stays and the blue petticoat made from the same sheet that I lined the stays with.
I am quite happy with how they turned out, even though I don't like the colours. This sort of colour combination belongs on cheap, candy coated chocolate Easter eggs. I made the stays out of these fabrics because I'm saving the prettier ones for outer garments.

I made a silly mistake while binding the armholes. Here it is.

See it?
I wanted to put the seam in the bias tape right underneath the arm so it wouldn't show, I got it in the right place on the left side, but wasn't paying enough attention when I did the right side. I started the bias tape in the wrong place, but had sewn all the way around before I noticed, so it wasn't worth re-doing. Oh well. It's underwear, so nobody will see it.

As you can see, I used metal eyelets. Yes, I know they're wrong for the 18th century, but my hand sewn eyelet attempts failed miserably. Maybe it was the 2 layers of canvas, or maybe my awl wasn't thick enough. Whatever the reason, I couldn't get them bigger than a pinhole.

The hole punch that came with the eyelets was super blunt, so all the eyelet holes were cut out with thread scissors.
I could cover them with thread, but I probably won't.

Here are the stays from the front.

From the back. I just added "back too low" to the list of problems with this shift.
And from the side. Sorry about the elbow, I can't raise my arm any higher in these.
Here is my drawing of the line diagram.

And here is a picture of the stays, taken from the same angle as the line diagram.
The stays actually look more like the line diagram than my drawing does. It's nice when patterns actually look like the illustrations that come with them.

The Facts:

The challenge: #3 "Under it all"

Fabric: Less than 1 meter of purple cotton for the outside, from stash.
Less than I meter of pale blue cotton for the lining, also from stash, they were left over from a petticoat that was made from a sheet.
About 2 meters of canvas for the interlining, I don't know exactly how much because they were in odd shapes. Also from the stash.
Yellow cotton for the binding, I bought 1.5 meters but only used a tiny fraction of it.

Pattern: Diagram XXIX from page 152 of Cut Of Women's Clothes 1600-1930 by Nora Waugh. "Corset of Lady Hamilton" From the Victoria and Albert Museum, according to the book anyways, I still can't find it in their collections.

Year: 1790s, I'm using it for late 1780s too.

Notions: 8 zip ties, 48 eyelets, and some cord that I took from my other stays.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate, the materials and method of construction are not, although the godets and binding are hand sewn.

Hours to complete: Approximately 44.5

First worn: February 3rd 2013

Total cost: About $ 8.00, for the eyelets and zip ties. I'm not going to calculate the minuscule cost of the binding.

These stays were tedious, but not too difficult to make. I only hit my thumb two or three times while hammering in the eyelets, far fewer than when I made my first pair. This is a good pattern, I'm surprised at how well they work with only 8 bones. They fit quite well. The only problem with the fit is that they curve out a bit to far at the top front.

I'm not done the challenge yet though, I'm making a whole set of undergarments for this era. Right now I'm working on a bum pillow, which should be done relatively soon. 

Update: See? cheap Easter candy!

Cadbury mini eggs against the lining. A remarkably similar colour scheme.
And there are eggs that match the outside fabric too!


  1. Again, you did a fabulous job on this Mira. It looks pretty snug and a girl should not be able to have a bad posture in this undergarment. Maybe I should have one but I don't think that I could afford it. 44 hours at minimum wage would cost $440.00 plus material.

    Thanks for posting your interesting creations on here.

    1. Thank you. And no, I can't have a bad posture while wearing these, it hurts when you try to slump in your chair but it's comfortable to sit up straight.
      I suppose you could try on my old green stays if you wanted to, though I doubt they'd fit.

  2. I admire your work, and the knowledge you have of period clothing. Very well done. Your ability to focus on such long projects is also a great asset. Your work just has to get in front of the right set of eyes, and your career will be off and running.

    As for the price of such a piece. Your mother would weave a genuine kilt for nothing less than $2000, so I think that $450 or $500 for your "period correct" stays is appropriate. I doubt that one can buy any stays at Walmart.

    1. Thanks. I actually don't have that much knowledge of historical clothing. I have a pretty good idea of what the different decades looked like in the 19th and late 18th centuries but I know very little about the construction details. These stays aren't all that accurate, I'm just trying to copy the silhouette correctly.

  3. Sorry, I'm terrible at commenting on things I mean to comment on. You should be really proud of yourself, these are fantastic. For real, I'm incredibly jealous.

  4. Oh! I have been wanting to make these but I have no idea how to size up the image from the book...Can you tell me how you did it and how you got it to fit your measurements? I'm good at sewing from ready patterns but I have no idea how to make a pattern workable from a book...can you help me with that?

    1. Sure! I'll try to explain it.

      I tried scaling up the pattern with a grid, but I ended up with a pattern that was way too small for me. In order to get a pattern that fit I traced my first pair of stays and made a single pattern piece that I use to base cone shaped bodice patterns off of. You can see a picture of it in the previous post.

      I traced this piece onto a large piece of brown paper and, while looking at the pattern in the book, drew the pieces onto the brown paper using the traced piece as a guideline. This made sure the proportions were mostly the same. I cut the pieces out of the brown paper and added seam allowances and corrected the bits that overlapped. I made up a couple of toiles to make sure that everything fit right and was left with a pattern that looks like the one in the book, but was made to fit me.

      I'm not sure how the experts draft patterns, but my blank cone shaped bodice piece really works for me. Any fit problems can be worked out with enough muslin.

      I hope this explanation made some sort of sense. Mostly it's just tracing and eyeballing and toiles. I don't like taking loads of measurements.