While doing research for my ensemble for the 1790s Tea, I was inspired by Festive Attyre's 1790s Transitional Stays, and decided to set about making my own. First I needed a copy of Jill Salen's Corsets, which I ordered on Amazon. Now that I have the book, I'm amazed that I've gone this long without it! I can tell that it is going to be an invaluable resource, and I'm looking forward to delving into it even deeper.
But I was on a deadline, so I got right into my planned project. I wasn't confident in my ability to properly scale up the pattern, and I didn't really have time to mess around with trial and error. So I took my copy of the book to Office Max and got them to enlarge it for me. I added my seam allowances and cut out the pattern pieces. Then I used one of Jill Salen's tips, which was to make a mockup out of felt. I taped the bones (zip ties) in place with wide masking tape, to give me an idea of the support they would provide:
I sewed some grommet tape to the center front pieces, along the line of the eyelets on the pattern. Then I tried it on:
I was fully expecting to have to make significant alterations to make it fit me properly, but it was nearly perfect as-is! The only thing I thought might be an issue was the fact that the front edges laced entirely closed. I decided to take slightly larger seam allowances on each seam, to give myself a bit of space in the front. Otherwise I kept the pattern unchanged.
I used some lightweight but firm cotton muslin from my stash that, honestly I don't know where I got it. I think it was given to me, but I don't remember when or by whom.
I overlocked the raw edges and washed it in hot water to get any shrinkage out of the way. It's a slightly different texture than the muslin I'm used to working with, but I thought it would work fine for this application. It's thin, but still opaque, and has no stretch.
Because I simply copy/enlarged the pattern instead of drawing it to scale myself, I ran into one small problem when adding the seam allowances:
Two of the pieces overlapped, so I had to do some creative cutting and subsequent piecing to maintain the proper seam allowances:
I should note that I traced my seam allowances at 1/2" instead of my usual 5/8" - not on purpose. I couldn't find my clear ruler, so I cut a section of the excess gridded paper at 5 spaces wide and used it to draw in my seam allowances, not realizing that it was marked in 10ths of an inch instead of 8ths. I figured out my mistake in time (it just didn't look right - I have a pretty good eye for 5/8" by now) but I decided to keep it that way. I marked all the pieces to indicate 1/2" seam allowance, so I don't forget in the future.
I used my favorite fabric marker to trace the stitching lines for the lower tabs:
And mark the eyelets:
Because the eyelets are supposed to be offset for spiral lacing, but only one side of the pattern is included, I marked only the top and bottom eyelets on the left side:
Then I flipped the pattern piece over and aligned the top and bottom eyelets with the ones I'd just marked, but upside down:
Then marked the middle ones. It's not a huge difference, but since there aren't many eyelets I figured it could make a significant impact on they way it sits.
I did all this sewing by machine, mainly to expedite things, but also because I'm much better at keeping an even seam allowance on the machine! And I wanted to be really precise.
I stitched around the top and bottom edges, leaving the center front edges open as instructed in the book.
I did end up shortening the shoulder straps by 2", which was a suggestion from another costumer after I posted pictures of my mockup in a Facebook group for underbust transitional stays.
I turned the whole thing right side out and pressed it really well before prick-stitching along the outer edges by hand. I also sewed all of the boning channels by hand, inserting them as I went from center back to center front. I didn't really follow the instructions in the book, though I did read them! And I think my end result is close enough to the original. I used 100% cotton thread in a shade quite a bit darker than my fabric, but I didn't want to use white on the unbleached muslin. It blended in really well on the tiny prickstitches, but became much more prominent on the eyelets:
But I'm happy with the look, overall. Shockingly, I finished ALL of the hand-sewing on these before the event! I had stopped stitching the edges about halfway through, in favor of getting all of the boning channels and eyelets done so it was wearable. But I still had time after getting the rest of my ensemble done, so I was able to finish! A real first for me.
I still need to iron away all of the fabric marker lines, but that's no big deal.
I haven't gotten pictures of me wearing them yet, so I'll do a separate post later. I do have some pattern notes, for anyone who might be interested in making these.
1. The seams on the Side pieces are mislabeled. I used the match points instead of going by what was printed on the gridded pattern. Same with the shoulder straps.
2. The instructions given include all hand-sewing techniques, so if you want to be as historically accurate as possible you can follow them rigidly. However, it's very easy to do the basic construction by machine, as I did, and still do the finishing work by hand to give the right "look." Either way, this is a project that does not take very long! At least, compared to other stays.
3. I did not leave my boning channels open at the top like the original, because I have no intention of removing them. I used heavy-duty zip ties, which worked well and mimics whalebone. I would not recommend using reed for these stays, as the bones are all spaced far apart from each other and therefore could easily break. In my experience, reed boning is best for full-boned stays where there is quite literally strength in numbers.
Wearing notes: These stays are incredibly comfortable! And they would work great for maternity and/or nursing, which is great news if I end up having another kid! (IF)
And with that, I'm crossing off "New Short Stays" from my To-Do list of the past three years! :D