Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Maternity Stays - Nearly Finished

I'm sure everyone is interested in how my maternity stays came out - particularly if you've been following me on Instagram.  I am happy to say that I wore them this weekend and they worked beautifully!  They are not 100% finished, as they do not yet have binding and I'm missing a few bones here and there, but they were wearable for one day.

I did quite a bit of research on these stays, which you can see on my Pinterest board of 18th Century Maternity wear.  I also found the photos that Wm. Booth, Draper recently shared on Facebook to be helpful for the construction process.

I followed this excellent tutorial by The Mantua Maker at Midnight, although I changed the order of the steps slightly.  I cut out my coutil first:

I had originally adjusted the side seams of my pattern to take in room at the bust, so for my maternity stays I added that room back in.  I also gave myself more seam allowance at this seam, since it would have eyelets going up 3/4 of the way:

I added the same 1" of extra seam allowance to the center front edges, to accommodate the lacing there, as well:

I had to cut my linen fashion fabric out separately, as I was working with very small scraps leftover from another project.  I used one layer of the coutil I had already cut as my new pattern pieces:

Here I have the three layers (two layers coutil and one layer linen) basted together along the seam lines:

Now I started with the boning channels at the edges that would have lacing.  Following to the tutorial, I trimmed away one layer of coutil to reduce bulk, and pressed the fold at the basting line:

I trimmed away the excess seam allowance below the dots marking the start of the tabs that would flare out over my hips, and cut in to the basting line at the dot:

I used the original commercial pattern (Simplicity 3635) pieces as a guide for the first boning channel on the side front and side back pieces:

I then realized that the channels would extend down beyond the turned-over seam allowances into the tabs, which meant that the bones would need to go between the front two layers of coutil, and not between the second and third layers as they would at the center front and center back edges.  Therefore I trimmed away another layer of coutil to further reduce bulk at the side edges.

I did the same with the front and back pieces, but only trimmed away one layer of coutil as the tutorial instructed.  I then went out-of-order and stitched all of the boning channels (on the machine, to save time) before working the eyelets.  I adjusted the boning pattern to account for the eyelets at the side seams, and marked the eyelets at all lacing edges for a spiral-lacing pattern:

Here are all my pieces with the boning channels sewn and the eyelets marked:

It was at this point that I stopped to count up all of the eyelets that I was going to need to sew.  I do not have an eyelet attachment for my sewing machine, so these would need to be worked by hand.  All sixty-six of them.  This was on Thursday, and the event to which I intended to wear the stays was on Saturday.  I documented my progress on Instagram, under the hashtag #neverendingeyelets.

But at last they were done!  And of course I was leaving for Maryland the next day.  :p  Fortunately I wasn't leaving until the evening, so I was able to complete the next step - stitching together the pieces - again by hand.

I carpooled with two other ladies from Williamsburg on up to Maryland, so I was able to get a bit of work done in the car.  Namely, I laced up the center back with the lacing cord that I had stolen from my Regency Stays.  This took some work, because I had made my eyelets incredibly tiny, and they needed to be opened up more with my awl before I could thread the lacing through.  But I finished up just as it was getting too dark to see.  Then at the hotel, I set out to finish the stays to a wearable point.  Here is where I started:

I needed to add all the boning, and finish lacing up the rest of the edges.  I have no photos of this work, but I used zip ties from the hardware store for the boning.  I cut them to size with my Super Shears, rounding down the sharp edges with a heavy-duty nail file.  I boned every other channel, for the most part.  The center back pieces are probably the most heavily-boned, but I found that I had made a mistake by fully constructing the stays before some of the bones were inserted, and the seams closed off the edges of a few I needed to get into.  So I left those out.

I cut more cording and quickly finished the ends by wrapping them tightly with thread and coating that with clear nail polish.  Normally I would use Fray Check, but I couldn't find mine when I was packing.  Nail polish works just as well.  :)

Once the ends dried I was able to fully lace up my stays and try them on for the first time!  Very exciting.  It was also nearly 1:00 AM.  :p  They had better fit, because I was out of time!  The good news is, they did!  And I could get into and out of them by myself, thanks to the front-lacing feature.  Now I never want to wear back-lacing stays again!

I have no photos of me wearing them (yet) but here they are after a full day of being worn:

They have slightly formed to my shape, at least at the front and side fronts:

They will look much better after they have binding and welting on the seams.  I did stitch a quick basting line around the bottoms of the tabs to keep the bones from slipping out of those channels, and dabbed a bit of clear nail polish at the tops of the slits in between tabs, to keep the fabric from fraying too badly before I get the binding attached.

So you can see how they look in action, I took a couple of quick shots of Elsa wearing them over a makeshift pregnancy bump:

This is approximately how they fit on me.

I wrapped the long end of the front lacing around my waist, tying the end where it overlaps.  This knot can slip along the cord if I need to adjust the front lacing at all.  The two ends of the side lacing edges got tied together in front.

I found the stays very comfortable for all-day wear!  They provide good support at the bust, and do not compress the belly at all.  There is still a lot of room to grow in them, too.  I can let out the front and sides while keeping the back lacing right where it is, which is helpful for dressing myself.  I am calling this venture a definite success!  And I look forward to wearing them two or three more times before the baby is born, so stay tuned for more adventures in 18th Century maternity clothing!


  1. What a great time to take on an interesting clothing adventure of this sort. It's interesting to see specific garments like this being made. Thanks for sharing!


    1. You're welcome! It's nice to be able to share my journey. :)