Back in December, I went to a birthday party for Jane Austen hosted by the local JASNA chapter. I posted pictures of my final outfit, but thought some more details might be helpful. One of the first things I needed was new stays. I posted about an attempt at making short stays earlier on this blog and if you read the associated posts (here and here), you will know that I ruined them. Basically, they were very comfortable and gave a great shape for everything but driving. Since I have to drive to almost all local events, I decided to add cording and boning to the short stays. This turned out to be a really bad idea and completely ruined the shape. Modern lifestyle strikes again!
I decided this time to make a more traditional set of Regency stays. For these stays, I was inspired to try to recreate the stays from the Ohio Historical Society by an article on Foundations Revealed. The stays have a pattern that is readily available from 19th US Regiment of Infantry Capt. Angus Langham's Company 1812-1815. Actually they have a bunch of really neat information and surviving garments. Here is the information page on the Ohio Historical Society stays.
The pattern shows the placement of all the cording and has simple pattern pieces. I took this pattern and sized it up using photoshop. The original pattern has a 22.5 inch waist! To keep the overall proportions to the pattern, I figured out which measurement (bust, waist or hips) would be hit first in upsizing. In my case, it was the bust. Once I had the bust measurement correct, I figured out how much bigger I needed the hips and waist and simply drew alterations to the pattern. The only other alteration I made is that I wanted to add some steel boning to help support the back lacing. I made this decision after reading the article on Foundations Revealed in which the author spoke about the lack of support she found on a mock up with just cording down the back. To make it easier to add a steel bone down each side, I straightened the back panel center back. The picture to the left shows most of my pattern pieces, it does not show the shoulder strap and the straight center front piece. I did use the pattern piece for the strap, but the center front is dictated by your busk and is simply the width needed to accommodate the busk.
These stays were super easy to put together! I made them out of linen lined in sturdy cotton. The cording was natural tone cotton thread done in the same manner as the short stays. Here is an image of the cording from the lining side of the stays.
The front busk is a shaped piece of wood specifically for Regency stays that I have had laying around in my stash of stuff forever. To make the busk removable, I left the busk pocket open by binding only the outer layer of the stays across the busk pocket. I carefully hand hemmed the lining at this point. I then hand sewed some small eyelets through which a ribbon is laced. The ribbon keeps the busk in place when the stays are worn.
Here are my finished stays! One thing I noticed is how very narrow the arm holes are and how very far out on the shoulder point the straps sit. However, they are very comfortable on, even if it feels sort of odd to have the straps so far out.
As you can see, the stays don't fit my poor dress dummy very well. She has no squish and the boobs cant move up like they do on a real person. However, since she can wear them without a chemise and has a blue body, you get a much clearer image of how they sit and how odd the straps seem. I had a friend come over and take a quick pic of the stays on me so you can see what they look like on a human. I love the subtle shape they give and they are so comfortable. I was very worried since the front busk is 14 inches that they would be impossible to sit in, but the are completely comfortable.