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We have been here before: terrible stays, stays in need of minor mods, and “it isn’t history till it hurts.” New this past weekend was the Busk Bust Blister (Bursting) which didn’t make History hurt, but sure did bring a sting to the wind-down afterwards.


These new stays are, so far, the best I’ve ever had and well worth the blood, sweat and swears it took to make them. Gowns do seem to fit better over these stays; they held up well at muggy Monmouth and in polar Princeton, but the last two rounds at Ti left me feeling like I’d taken a hoof to the ribs.

What gives, kidneys? At least this time I made it past Fort Ann and all the way into a private room in Glens Falls before I had to free the sisters and release the lower back.


But this time, there was a bonus: the previously indicated Bust Blister. On the left side (I’m right handed), I developed a fairly robust .25” x .125” blister that crowned the top of a nearly 2” red mark, mirrored on the right by a less red and slightly less long mark. The culprit?

The Busk of Doom, of course.



Strictly speaking, I should not sport a busk when I desport as Captain Delaplace’s serving woman, or as a refugee cooking up the last of the bread, eggs, and milk. I’ve earned these marks and (potential) future scars by dressing above my station, and need to adjust accordingly.

Step one: Rounding down the busk edges (now in the capable hands of Drunk Tailor).
Step two: Foregoing the busk when working.
Step three: Wearing partially-boned stays when working.

Two is the easiest; three is the hardest. Which do you think I am, therefore, actually contemplating as a necessary next step?

But of Course: Step Three, Pathway to Finger Cracks and Stained Stays.

d'oh! surgical tape made this *much* better later.

d’oh! surgical tape made this *much* better later.

Fortunately I have people close to me who will ensure that I work through steps One and Two before embarking upon step Three, but I certainly want to know more about (and will look much more closely at images of) working women in the third quarter of the 18th century. My suspicion is that women who are performing labor that requires movement– up and down before a fire, back and forth across a floor, bending over a tub– may not be wearing stays made in exactly the way high style stays are made for ladies who bend over an embroidery hoop, glide back and forth across a ballroom floor, or move up and down the stairs of a well-built home they supervise.

Or my busk pocket is too big, my busk edges too square, and my actions too fast and continuous.

Paul Sandby. At Sandpit Gate circa 1752 Pencil, pen and ink and watercolor. RCIN 914329

Paul Sandby. At Sandpit Gate circa 1752
Pencil, pen and ink and watercolor. RCIN 914329

What are these women wearing? They certainly look fully boned. What can I change to make my stays work better for working? No matter what, where there are variables, there are experiments to run, and that’s what really makes history fun (even when it hurts).