Friday, 22 May 2015

Re-enacting inexpensively - Stays

I'm going to start writing about the most important garment a woman in the hobby will own, her stays.  I am in the process of replacing my own stays at the moment, and thought I'd share with you my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, they are not life threateningly painful as media and folktales would have you believe.  They are constricting, and they aren't comphy like your pajamas, but they serve a purpose, and without them, you may find yourself more uncomfortable than if you just suck it up and get yourself into a set.
In the 18th Century, stays are shaped like a big V.  The point of the V being just below your waist, usually hitting just above the pelvic bone.  They are meant to give you a smaller waist, but not as small as in later periods.  My stays will tighten up to about a 34 waist, where naturally I'm about a 38/40.  This may vary, depending on how squishy you are, and how much distance there is between your bottom rib and your hip bone.  I am squishy, but there's only about a 1" gap between the bottom rib and the hip, so I can only squish so much before my ribs would complain.  Also in this period, we see finger like tabs the splay out over the hips, greatly contributing to the comfort level of the wearer.

I drafted my own original set of stays, using my own body block as a starting point.  Several friends use the method of trying a bunch of people's stays on a new person until they get a close fit and work from there.  There are commercial historical patterns, and even Simplicity also had a fairly reasonable stays pattern recently, but it has since been discontinued, the shame.  You can also find custom corset generators on the web, or draft a pair roughly looking at style lines and go from there.  There are many ways to get yourself a good workable stays pattern.  For my new set, I already had a good fitting set, I just wanted a new pair as the old set were falling apart too badly to repair any further.  Following this cutting diagram
Free 18th Century Corset Pattern and ReviewI laid my old set out on paper, traced around the outside edge, and then marked in my cutting or style lines.  Then, cutting out the paper pieces, I marked the grain lines and boning channel lines.  There are many examples of extant stays on Pinterest, I have quite a few pinned on my 18thC stuff board, here

Now, I was also making these on the cheap.  I am still a student after all, and I have never believed in spending vast amounts of money on anything for the hobby, save our canvas.  I'm also a fan of using what you have close at hand.  It makes for a more inexpensive garment if you can buy at your local fabric and supply shops instead of ordering in.  So for this new set, my fabrics were 1m(one metre) of straight woven cotton canvas, 1m(one metre) of twill woven linen fashion fabric, both found at the local Fabricville and 1m(one metre) of straight woven linen for the lining, also bought at the local Fabricville on the bargain wall a few years ago.  I used Gutermann buttonhole twist for sewing and making eyelets.  The boning for this project was 1/4" wide nylon zip ties from Lee Valley, a bundle will run you about 35$ and make several sets of stays. And I bound the stays in leather repurposed from an ugly 1980s shrug style leather jacket.  All told, I think this project ran about 40$ in supplies, and then my time.

I have to run now, but I'll be back later with how I put them together.

No comments:

Post a Comment