The following blog post details my efforts to sew a set of stays. Despite my many years of sewing experience, this project posed several challenges for me. I actually made two sets of stays, the first ending in a tangled mess of linen threads, leather binding and boning. But the second attempt had much better results!
I am not an expert on stay-making, and I defer to those who have dedicated years of research and experience to creating historically accurate clothing. [disclaim]This is simply a sewing diary of my own project, and I've knowingly chosen to use some modern methods and materials.[/disclaim]I am sharing it so that it may, at best, provide a bit of inspiration to others.
So with that said, let's find out how I made a set of 18th century stays!
Pattern and Materials
I used the pattern by J.P. Ryan - 18th century Half-boned Stays, and the following materials:
Favorite Sewing Tools & Supplies:
Making the Fit Garment
I began by making a muslin fit garment, or "toile." My measurements were close to the pattern sizing, but I wanted a more accurate fit. This meant cutting out all the appropriate pattern pieces from muslin, then sewing them together in the specified order. Once I had it sewn together, I pinned the muslin toile to the dress form and began to look for areas of poor fit.
I decided to reduce the bust area but increase the waist area. I also reduced the large seam allowance for the center back pieces. I used the book The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen as a reference for making the alterations. Because I took in the center front seam, this would alter the lining pattern, so I used the pattern pieces for the front of the stays for the lining also. Fitting the muslin toile required a couple of revisions and testing the fit not just on the dress form, but on me too. Although the dress from is padded to my measurements, the form does not compress under the garment like a real body, so it was essential to try it on myself.
Following the pattern directions, I cut out and marked all the pattern pieces, using the Saral paper to transfer all the channel markings. The pattern calls for sewing the boning channels after all of the front and interfacing pieces have been sewn together. To make matters easier, I sewed each interfacing piece to its matching front piece, basted around the edges, and treated them as one unit.
I then sewed the channels on each unit. When all the channels were sewn, I then assembled the stays by sewing each unit to the next according to the proper sequence. Then I removed the basting threads.
There are several extant stays which show a very similar construction. You can usually identify this construction method because a narrow braid of trim is often used to cover the seam.
I then sewed all the lining pieces together, then basted the lining to the front/interfacing section.