Thursday 17 January 2013

Regency Stays Finished

My Regency stays are done! It took a while, I’ve been working on them on and off (mostly off) since 2010, but as of this afternoon, they are finished. 

Finished stays! Excuse the 18th century shift.

I had hoped to get them done in time for the Historic Sew Fortnightly’s first project deadline, but that didn’t happen. The last days of sewing didn’t go very smoothly at all. First, after being laced up by Tobias for fitting, I noticed that the bust gussets were way too small. It looked beyond ridiculous. I decided this mishap must be due to me not taking my new, post baby figure into account, but went along with what I had cut out before pregnancy. 

Not the most neatly laced stays; uneven and unlaced
 the last few inches at the bottom. The lacing cord snapped...

The stays were also a bit small in the hip area, and wouldn’t lace even with the rest. That could have been solved easily enough, if I had chosen to, with gussets in the side seams. As the originals didn’t have hip gussets, in the end, I redid the side seams, taking a little away at the top instead. 

The stays laid flat. The drawstring in the upper binding is seen.

They are still not perfect (they are still a bit uneven, but this time it’s partly because I had to hurry as baby was waking up, and partly because the cotton tape I used for lacing snapped, and I just couldn’t bother to do it all up again. I tied it up and left it at that, so the stays aren’t laced all the way…), but as I’m not usually doing regency (not yet anyway), I’m not going to use these stays very often at all, but made them as a sort of trial run. If I start using regency clothes (or empire, as it’s called here) more, I’ll make a new pair, which will hopefully be better. 

The shoulder straps ties in front.

But oh, the bust gussets! They needed instant replacing. When most of that was done, I woke up last Saturday morning with blocked milk ducts. It’s the second time I’ve had it, and apart from hurting, giving me a touch of fever, and generally making me feel under the weather, it also felt stupid. To get plugged ducts after nursing for thirteen months! Needless to say, I hardly got anything done. Apart from not feeling up to doing much, one doesn’t want to put ones poor bosom in an unfamiliar position with possible pressure (as Regency stays unavoidably does) for fittings, when having (or just suffered through) blocked milk ducts. So I fell behind schedule. 
The busk is inserted in the channel from the bottom, 
and is kept in place with cotton tape.

Anyway, now they’re done. They are pretty comfortable, and give a good imitation of that typical "two globes on a (rather curvy) pillar"-look fashionable at the time. That curvyness would not have been in fashion, and stays would have been made to smooth the figure as much as possible. Because of the curviness, and since there are so few bones, they pucker a bit at the sides over the hips. Not pretty, but won't show under a petticoat and dress. I have an hourglass figure, however, and that is difficult to spirit away... Another thing that annoys me is the shoulder straps slipping down. Not sure what to do about it, I already angled them up toward the shoulders a bit. Well, for you doing the HSF here is the info on them:

The Challenge: #1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial. Sew something from __13, whether it be 1913, 1613, or 13BC
Fabric: An old cotton sheet for the outer layer, and tan cotton twill for the lining.
Pattern: Based on a small scale pattern taken of an extant example in a Swedish museum, found in the book “Underkläder – en kulturhistoria”, by Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen. There are also good photos of both the front and the back of the stays in the book, so I’ve been able too cord mine pretty similarly to the original. 
Year: The stays are dated to the 1810’s, and would work tolerably well in 1813.
Notions: Cotton tape for the binding and lacing, cable ties for some boning, artificial whalebone for the long bones in the back, thick cotton string for the cording. Cotton thread.
How historically accurate is it? The material is not ideal; the top layer should have been cotton satin, like the original, and the thread ought to have been silk, not cotton. The tape used for binding should have been whalebone twill, but mine are plain tabby. But with limited means I had too use what could be found in my stash. At least all of the materials (except for the plastic boning…) would have been available at the time. The sewing, however, is of course all done by hand, using the same kind of stitches as in the original. I waxed the thread for strength and durability. All cording and boning are located in the same places as on the original, and the cording “pattern” followed closely, if not exactly. I did add extra boning and cording to the centre back though. So all in all, I think they’re pretty accurate.
Hours to complete: No idea, I’ve been working on these on and off (mostly off) since 2010.
First worn: Only for the pictures. 
Total cost: Nothing at this time, as all materials came from my stash.

The cording, boning and busk channel on the front piece.

And now I must hurry if I want to finish challenge # 2 in time.


  1. Åh, Sarah! Den ser fantastisk ut!

  2. Så fin den blei! Veldig moro å sjå, særleg fordi eg jobbar med omtrent same korsettet sjølv ;) Kan eg spørre kva du brukte til innlegg i matelassésømmene og til planchett?

  3. Beautiful,and inspirational! I love the boning and cording, so detailed :) Was going to do the short stays for #3 but might think about these longer ones(I get a bit claustrophobic thinking about lacing myself into these longer ones though hehe)

  4. They turned out very well. I think I started reading your blog just as you started the stays, so it was a treat to see them finished! Beautiful.

  5. Your Regency Stays is so gorgeous! It looks so fine on you. I am deeply impressed and I admire your patience!

  6. They do look beautiful...and the front cording and stitching is truly lovely.
    Hopefully you will be doing more empire in the future :)


  7. Thank you all, very much!

    @Solfrid: I used ordinary household string, of a thicker kind, and made the busk from a piece of wood in my Dad's workshop.

    @Turina Hira: I don't think short stays would give me enough support. Also, the long stays take some of the weight of the girls of my shoulders, which is nice.

    @The Choll: Amazing that you even remember that!

    @Sabine: I hope so too!

  8. They look beautiful!

  9. I know I am very late to this "party" but I must comment
    on your amazingly fine hand stitching. It is so small and even,
    I feel that I could never be so consistent. Have you ever
    blogged about your hand stitching?
    If not perhaps you would consider doing a tutorial on your
    method of period medieval stitching!
    Thank you for this wonderful blog and sharing your journey!

  10. Thank you! I have a blog about medieval living history (mostly clothes and sewing so far) where I've also made tutorials for different stitches. You can see it here - only in Swedish though:


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