, , , , , , , ,


Stays. They’re infrastructure: absolutely necessary, a major time commitment, and decidedly unsexy. I am in dire need to two new pairs, one for late 18th century use and one for early 19th century, and each with deadlines looming.

I can manage 19th century attire and Genesee with the chopped-and-dropped corded stays I already have, but New Jersey will not happen at all unless new stays are made. It was like a weekend of penance chez Calash, two straight days of stay mocking up and making.

Of course I bled on them. That’s how I know they’re mine.


And let’s get this out of the way: I thought backstitching the back seam was a little more difficult on this side, but ascribed it to sore fingers. Wrong! I failed to notice that I was stitching through all the layers, and not leaving one free to fold over and finish.


A glass of cider and an hour later, I’d rectified the error. These are now fully bound along the bottom edge, and ready for the top edge binding. Somewhere there’s coutil for the straps, and then numerous hand-sewn eyelets later, I will have a finished pair of hand-sewn stays.

New stays deserve a new gown, and since I found this lovely image, I know what that new gown should look like (as well as a portfolio).  Happily, there’s a dress in Cassidy’s book that will serve as a reasonable basis for recreating this image. I’m still pondering the portfolio, and what it might be made of: paper or leather covered pasteboard? As the clock ticks down to June, I suspect I will be using a portfolio I already have on hand.

And then there are the the 18th century stays, with their history of woe.


I’ve gotten this far with the new 18th century pair, and an interesting business it is. I altered the front side pieces and the stomacher, but cannot see the back well enough (even with a camera and a mirror) to adjust it by myself, so further changes will have to wait until I have some assistance.

The tabs aren’t right in the back, and while the advice is to shorten the stays when the tabs flare this way, I found the fronts were still too low, once again riding at nipple-cutting height. Finally it occurred to me that the problem– slippage–might actually be one of waist. I lengthened the fronts half an inch and nipped the waist in, and found the fit more pleasing.  I suspect the back pieces need to be trimmed a bit before they’ll fit (they’re stitched closed in this version, so you know they’re too big).

Another weekend of work awaits– with focus, those early 19th century stays may be done by then, if there are no more finger injuries.