Thursday, May 7, 2015

18th Century Stays

It is beyond thrilling to me that I have finally completed my 18th C. Stays. My sister Heather had a pattern from the JP Ryan company which she let me use. I completed a mock-up in early February but then got cold feet. I knew the stays had to be well-fitted, and I wasn't sure how I would achieve that.

After my brother Jared & my sister-in-law April gifted me with a dress-form, this became more feasible.
The mock-up on my dress-form. I later used this as the lining. 

Making the stays ended up being more of an undertaking than I realised, especially as I was doing the sewing by hand. I had made Regency-era short stays by hand before from the Sense & Sensibility pattern, and that had been delightfully easy. Creating 18th century stays, however, is much more time-consuming. There are three layers to sew together, and more pieces, not to mention the boning!

A thicker cotton for the outside layer. 

Pinning all three layers together. 

Sewing the boning channels.

I was hoping to finish the stays by the end of April. I didn't complete them till the beginning of May, which was not too much over my intended date.

There are two JP Ryan patterns available - one for half-boned stays, and the one I have for fully boned stays. I did not have the stamina or patience to make mine fully boned, but tried to put in enough that it would be stiff and supportive enough. There are extant versions of both kind of stays:

18th century stays, half-boned, Victoria & Albert Museum

18th century stays, fully boned. 

Despite the somewhat tedious nature of hand-sewing 18th century stays, I enjoyed the challenge. I was also grateful to improve my skill as a seamstress.

Hand-sewn eyelets, as metal grommets were not available in the 18th century.

A close-up of the front of the stays

The back. I think I should have laced them a bit more tightly in the middle! 

And now I have the correct foundations ready for when I complete my 18th century dress. I am planning a copy of a dress seen in the Kelvingrove Museum, but I confess, my new-found enthusiasm for the 18th century is becoming difficult to check. I may have to make a few more ensembles after the Kelvingrove one is finished!

On to the next project!


  1. Impressive. You look lovely in them; truly And the close-ups on
    your work are a delight to see. You ought to be proud of yourself!

  2. Very impressive work, Mairi!