So, the foundation of every garment must start with the..uhh..foundation garments.
For 18th century, that means stays.
Luckily, there are a whole lot of knowledgeable people on the internet who have made stays before, and I pored over their blogs and posts to decide on materials and construction techniques.
- Mrs Gainsborough Stays (paid subscription required)
- La Couturiere Parisiene
- Wonderful sketch showing the evolution in the shape of stays
- Various posts on construction and pictures from Diary of a Mantua Maker
- Kendra’s amazingly detailed dress diary on two sets of 18th century stays
And here is my pinterest board on 18th century stays (and other undergarments)
I would like to fully emphasize, this is not Great Research. I’m not really studying primary sources here (extant stays), I’m maaaybe using secondary sources (as many of these ladies are actually scholars who seriously know their stuff). But for now, it’s good enough to get me something wearable and reasonable accurate.
I’m using this pattern, as printing it out is a lot easier than scaling something up from Corsets and Crinolines, and I didn’t feel like spending money on a pattern. I’m vaguely sorta kinda aiming for something 1770s here.
Per Kendra’s research, I’ll be using 5mm German Plastic Boning. The best price I found was Farthingales Corset Making Supplies, even taking into account the exchange rate. I prefer this to cane for all her reasons, plus the fact that I’ll be putting this into checked luggage, and I don’t want my stays to snap in half during transit.
Channels will be machines sewn, because lol there is no way I’m taking the time to handsew my first pair of stays. Also, I want this done this month.
I’ve got some linen canvas from William Booth Draper for the strength layer, leftover linen from my De Heere dress for the outer layer, and some random linen for the lining.
(On that note, does anyone else anguish over using stash fabric sometimes? Like, this linen was by far the best quality and most expensive linen I’ve ever purchased at $20 a yard. I’ve rarely bought silk that cost that much. So I’m like “maybe I should save it for something better than stays”. But using the fabric I have now is more cost effective than buying more fabric, and not using the linen. Silly brain. And I still have over a yard left even after cutting out the stays, since I bought way too much originally.)
The binding will be leather chamois I got from O’Reilly Auto Parts, as this was cheaper than anything else I looked at (silk petersham from Wm Booth Draper, vintage rayon petersham frm etsy). Ok, it wasn’t cheaper than polyester ribbon from Joann, but ick. (And actually, the piece of leather is big enough that it might even be cheaper than that. There is certainly enough to bind multiple pairs of stays).
The vast majority of stays only lace in the back, but I’m definitely making mine front and back lacing (whee twice the number of eyelets), as I don’t have a maid on hand to lace me into my stays.
Ugh and this means it’s time for my least favorite part, fitting a new pattern. Even worse, fitting a foundation garment where it’s nearly impossible to know how it fits until the end.
I TOTALLY agonize about using stash fabric, although Trystan reminds me that over time, the amount you paid for it amortizes (ie once it’s been in the stash long enough, it’s basically free).