When last I blogged, I mentioned that I’d been somewhat sidetracked from the WA Challenge by a couple of historical costuming projects. This is the first: A “Transition Stay” Fashionable Circa 1796-1806 (#030) by Past Patterns. The booklet includes a few pages of historical notes, explanations of hand stitches, the actual instructions, and a paper doll(?!). I read over the instructions for sewing it completely by hand, had a chuckle, and sewed it mostly on my machine using the method I used for my Victorian corset (sew lining and fashion fabric separately, then join at center fronts with right sides together). All I did by hand was make the eyelets, finish the binding, and attach the breast band casing. Oh, I guess I also overcasted the center fronts because the reeds there didn’t seem to be fitting tightly enough. Plus, it kind of fakes that it’s handsewn, right?!
Overall, this was a very quick make. I found fitting to be quite easy (for once). I made a straight size muslin (unusual for me, but since it laces with a gap I figured I’d try it) and ended up just taking in the top front a bit at the side seams. Since the stays end at the waist, you don’t need to worry about fitting at the hips at all.
I used a heavyweight linen and lined it with a mediumweight linen. The pattern calls for “oval-oval” reed, but I couldn’t find that anywhere so I used flat-oval reed. It seems to work fine. I actually bought my pattern from Wm. Booth Draper, which also sells the metal bands that the pattern calls for.
By far, the most tedious part was sewing all the boning casings, but it still didn’t take that long. You may also notice in the top photo that I crisscross laced it although the pattern calls for spiral lacing. Well, the pattern didn’t say to offset the eyelets and even though I know better I didn’t offset them, either. So if you try spiral lacing, one side ends up pulled higher than the other. Crisscross it is!
I admit, the two main reasons I decided to go with this particular pattern after having tried short stays were (1) it doesn’t have straps–for me, a bane of fitting the short stays–and (2) it laces in front (my cats are not very helpful when it comes to assisting me with dressing . . . ). I’m very pleased with how the finished stays turned out! Like I said, they were quick and easy to make (if you cheat by sewing on a machine, hahahaha), fitting was simple, and after wearing them all day today I can report that they were comfortable and held the, ahem, ladies up where they need to be for this style of dress.