Friday, June 29, 2012

A Pair of Corded Stays c. 1800-1820

An embarrassingly long time ago, I started talking about a new pair of stays for 1812 events.  I actually finished them in March, but I never got pictures of them!


As I posted before, I really wanted a pair of supportive stays that didn't dig into my legs when I sat down.  As you can see, I contoured the bottom edge to allow more room over my thighs and hips, modeling them after a number of period illustrations and an extant pair of riding stays.  I'm happy to report that I've worn these several times now and even driven in them with no signs of dig-in-itis!  Not a bruise to be seen.


I used Past Patterns #001 as a base and modified it to suit my needs.  The original pattern didn't come anywhere near large enough to go around my giant ribs and abundant endowments, so I added several inches to the body piece.  The hip and bust gores are unaltered except for the bottom edge.





The stays are made of three layers--the cording is sandwiched between an outer layer of cotton sateen and an interlining of cotton drill.  The lining is cotton sateen, and the bones sit between the lining and interlining so that they don't show through.  I used spiral steel boning for the body, which would have showed grey through the top layer of sateen.  The cording, being white, didn't matter if it showed or not.


The center back is boned with spring steel, though as you can see it still has quite a bit of flex to it.  As you can also see, my barrel-shaped rib cage affects how the stays close quite a bit.  The grommets are enamel coated metal, though it wasn't uncommon to see little bone "wheels" set into the fabric for lacing, as I discussed in a previous post.  The binding is just normal herringbone-weave cotton tape, as is the drawstring in the top edge over the bust and the ties for the busk pocket.


Normally, I avoid embroidery like the plague and have often said that I despise it with the fire of a thousand suns.  However, I figured since I was doing so much fiddly work with all the cording and decorative stitching, that it wouldn't kill me to do a little bit of simple embroidery.  There are tons of surviving examples with varying amounts of embroidery, and mine actually turned out looking pretty nice (if I do say so myself).  I only say that because I was pleasantly surprise!


And because I'm darn proud of the embroidery, have one more closeup!  The construction and topstitching were done by machine (because I wanted to be able to wear these sometime this century) with glazed cotton quilting thread and the embroidery was done by hand with #8 Pearl Cotton.  The cording is Sugar & Cream cotton yarn.

Last but not least, don't forget the busk!  I'm wearing my "test" busk, which I made out of a length of poplar from Lowe's.  My lady mother, who is much more confident with power tools than I, sawed it to size and roughly into shape, and my dad helped me rasp, sand, and drill it to refine the final shape.  I also got a book on chip carving out of the library, but it looked like a really good way for me to lose a finger or two so I'll have to live with having an undecorated busk for the time being!

12 comments:

  1. These are fabulous and look super comfy! I love all of the detail work you put into them.

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    1. Thank you! They really are quite comfortable...I don't even notice I'm wearing them.

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  2. Lovely ... and they really look comfortable ... I might 'borrow' your idea of a shaped hemline

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    1. Borrow away! I'm so happy with the comfort level on these. :)

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  3. Lovely corded corset and embroidery!

    Sabine

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  4. There's a burning question I have in regards to stays like that. Is it possible to get in and out if it by yourself, and if so, how can a non-contortionist do it?

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    1. I actually put on all my stays and corsets by myself. This one has an extra-long lace so it stays laced all the way down all the time, I put it on over my head, and then tighten the laces bit by bit, doing it by feel. My 18th century stays, also spiral laced, are only laced about halfway down, put on over the head, and then I lace them up the rest of the way again by feel.

      It's really just a matter of practice. I'm no more flexible than anyone else, but I've been lacing myself into various undergarments for years without help so I can basically do it in my sleep now.

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