1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Yet Another Half-Done Try On Post

So my plastic German/Wissner boning finally showed up from Farthingale’s Canada, which I’m using in this version for the very short vertical pieces (mostly the tab pieces on the side front piece — can’t buy pre-cut boning quite short enough), and the slightly narrower than 1/4″ boning (5 mm I think?) for the horizontal bones.  Oh, and 1/2″ for the separately cased horizontal bones. I bought enough so that I can bone my version 2.0, when I do my handsewn/linen version.

Report on the German plastic boning (more reports forthcoming as I work with it and wear it):  it’s definitely sturdier than the crappy Joann’s plastic boning, but it’s also DEFINITELY flexible.  I can’t imagine using it without using some steel to reinforce.

So of course I got distracted from Michael’s costume — nothing is more interesting than your OWN sewing!  I stuck all the boning in, and machine sewed around all the edges.  I sewed in one side of the separately cased 1/2″ horizontal plastic bone, and thought I’d better do one more try on, just to be sure that the placement was going to work.  The horizontal boning (both the narrow – there are 4 rows of that) and the wider bone definitely seem to curve the stays even more, although I would say the difference seems slight.  If you’re looking at the pics below, I have the 1/2″ horizontal bone in on the left side (ie my right).  It didn’t do anything WONKY tho, so I’ll go ahead and put it in on the other side.

I also finally patterned the strap, which is coming in to the front at a slightly weird angle.  The original pattern has the strap sewn to the front and laced in back; I’ve seen this on a few other pairs of stays, but it just reads as weird to me, so I’m flipping it.  I’m not sure if it’s because I changed the width of some pieces, but the strap is fitting well but not coming straight down over the shoulder — more at an angle; mostly I can see this when I curve the end of the strap.  I decided to go with it and not try to do anything funky, because hey, if it works don’t fix it, right?

I also wanted to test out the petersham I’m going to use to bind & cover the seams.  I looked HIGH and LOW for some kind of silk ribbon that looked like the silk ribbon I’ve seen on extant stays.  Yes yes, “all” stays were bound with leather or linen tape — actually, no they weren’t.  Higher end stays were often bound with what most sources call “silk ribbon”; and I’m sorry, I’m just not excited about snoozeriffic natural colored linen tape (can’t even find it in white!), and leather is squicky to me (sad critters don’t need to die for my costumes).  I looked all through the 18cwoman list, all over the web, every fabric/trim store I could find, and it doesn’t seem like anyone has a better option than petersham — because the ribbon needs to have some real weight to it to stand up to its job.  From what I can tell in the images of extant stays that I’ve found, it looks like silk taffeta or possible faille — the pink 17th c. stays (yes, a century early) from the V&A that are on the cover of Historical Fashion in Detail have a very ribbed faille look.  The only currently available possibility that had the right look was vintage (in order to get the right fiber content — silk or rayon) seam binding, so I bought a little bit off Etsy — but it’s SUPER lightweight, so that’s a no go.  Plus it seems like the widest available is 5/8″, too narrow for binding.

So yeah, back to the rayon petersham I bought forever ago!  The plus is that I was able to get both narrow (for covering the seams) and wider (for binding) in a matching color.  And I’m happy enough to go with rayon, since silk seems totally not doable.  I want the look of the 1770s red V&A stays (also in Historical Fashion in Detail), so I went with ivory colored ribbon.  The narrowest I could find was 3/8″, so I held that up to the stays to see how it would work — definitely too wide.  So I folded it in half and hand stitched some lengths of it, and it looks right to me!

Wow, I can yammer about piddly things, can’t I?

And no, I’m not going to split the tabs until I’m 100% ready to bind the bottom — just don’t want to mess with the fraying!

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  • Reply Kira from Oz February 11, 2010 at 6:19 am

    I gotta say this again – if you’re finding that the german plastic boning is too flexible, do try the heavy-duty cable ties! You can get them at hardware stores for very little, or to get the really heavy-duty ones you might need to try an elecrical supplier, but give them a go! I boned an entire pair of Elizabethan stays in them and it gave me AMAZING support! (I’m a busty lass like yourself) I do also own a steel-boned Edwardian corset, which is admittedly a bit firmer (although the boning placement is quite different) but I’d say that the cable ties are a sort of intermediate firmness between steel and the regular plastic. The trick I found is to make sure the channels are quite firm around the plastic, so there’s not much room for the plastic to move.

  • Reply catherine scholar February 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    William Booth Drapers has silk grosgrain in white only, but dyable…
    click “tape and lace” then scroll down.

  • Reply Katherine February 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Kendra: Looks fabulous! I especially like the narrower welting.
    Catherine: Oooh, thanks – I will order a swatch and report back with a review.

  • Reply Madame Ornata February 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Kendra, I totally love what you are doing and that colour is gorgeous.
    I’m a total newbie to historical costumes, I’m learning lots and loving it. I am making my first pair of stays at the moment and using the cable ties (I’m doing this in preparation for making a robe a la francaise). I’m no longer wee and like you busty so need ‘the look’ and some good support. I found the cable ties work really well and are strong. I agree with Kira’s comment about creating channels with a good tight fit. The only drawback I found was length limit.
    I’m near the end (so exciting) and I was hoping that may be able to offer advice on eyelets , I want to hand sew (using an awl) but I am unsure of which stitches to use. I’d like max strength and I’d like it to be as historically accurate as feasible (my friend said your research was “impeccable”)
    So if you offer any advice on this (or anything else) I’d be very grateful for your help . Many thanks :-)

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