Saturday, 7 December 2013

A pair of stays (18th century corset)

Individual pieces, with the boning channels
This winter I realized that if I wanted to go on and make proper 18th century gowns, then I needed proper underwear. I ordered a corset pattern from Reconstructing History, and material from my favorite corset supplier, VenaCava Designs in the UK. I wasn't too impressed with the pattern. In the end I didn't care much about the instructions, but rather followed my instincts and what I have learnt from years of making corsets. One thing that the pattern wasn't clear on was the boning placement, so I improvised and I'm not totally happy about the final result. If you buy a pattern from Reconstructing History you should be aware that they run big. Instead of just picking a size, I made sure to measure my upper body and then pick a size. Still the stays ended up too big, so I had to take in quite a lot from the side seams. Not an easy thing since I had made all the boning channels before sewing the pieces together. I had aimed for a gap in the back of about 10-15 cm, instead I just have a gap of around 5 cm, so if I loose weight I might not be able to adjust it much.

I will say though, that even if I sound critical I'm really happy with the quality of my work and the final look of the stays.

Finished stays
For the strength layer I used heavy cotton canvas, and the outer fabric is a piece of fabulous silk brocade that my mother bought when she visited China in 1992. I just had a scrap left, but it was enough to make the stays. For the first time I used synthetic whalebone for the boning. Up until now I've been weary of using plastic, having preferred to use steel boning. The synthetic whalebone works great though. The stays are fully boned, I can't guarantee that it would work as good on half-bone stays. I also used steel boning around the eyelets in front and the back. The eyelets by the way are not accurate, I simply used metal grommets instead of handsewing the eyelets. Metal grommets do hold up better in my experience than handmade ones.

Me with the stays one
My next historical costume will probably be a white gown, so I might have to do new stays, since the strong purple colour might show through the white fabric. If I make a new pair of stays I will definitely change the placement of the boning, so that they go more diagonally in the front, in order to get a better 18th century shape. To me the final shape of the stays are a bit early, more baroque than late 18th century. They do wonders with my boobs though.

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