Transition Stays

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?!

transitionstays_eyeletsOverall, 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.

transitionstays_backI 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.

transitionstays_metalbandBy 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!

transitionstays_leftI 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.