Should I stays or should I go? (Okay, really bad pun, forgive me). But seriously, why do we need foundation garments? Should I skip them? Well, from the research that I’ve done so far. NO. The point of a pair of stays (or corset, although that word didn’t come into use until the 19th Century) is to support the bust, slim the waist, and create a smooth shape. It also supports the dress, ensuring that it fits correctly.
I found this photo on this blog that shows it best I think.Okay, so now that’s out of the way, on to me actually attempting to make a pair of stays.
For those of you who don’t know, this is what stays look like.
They can be front and back lacing, or just front, or just back lacing. I’m opting to make some that are both front and back lacing, just to give me a little bit more control. Claire’s pair in the show (as seen in the deleted scene of her getting dressed previously linked) are just back lacing. However, I’m not fully convinced that these are going to fit me, so I want that extra room to be honest.
So what material do you use for stays? This I found really confusing because different websites were telling me different things. The sewing pattern calls for a layer of Coutil (£13 a metre, I think not), but nowhere else called for this, most said stiff cotton would work or linen. I found this article really helpful.
Next I started researching pattern cutting and all that jazz. I’ve never used a pattern before, so the whole thing is a little confusing to me. I found this YouTube channel called Astar’s Place incredibly helpful. She has a whole section on pattern cutting (she’s also highly entertaining to watch).
So now I had the pattern cut out in my size and the rest of the pattern had been put away (poorly because I just could not get that bastard to fold up the way it had unfolded!) I folded my stiff white cotton in half and pinned the pieces to it, making sure that the arrows on each piece lined up with the bias of the material.
My fabric economy sucks I know, but I still managed to get four pieces of each out of it (two boning channels of each side.
I then picked out a floral cotton to be my inside lining. It wasn’t historically accurate but pretty and I was the only person who would see the inside of the stays, so I didn’t think it would matter. I now had six of each piece and today I drew out the boning channels where needed.
This is still confusing me a tiny bit I have to admit, I’m finding it hard to distinguish which channel is which, but I’m going to spend the rest of the day doing some more research on YouTube, starting with American Duchess (who used this pattern to make her own stays).
Next post will probably be when I add the actual boning which will be when it actually arrives (the perils of buying nearly everything online!).