This post is a summary of my more long-winded, narrative-style posts about these stays as a work-in-progress: toile, #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5. Progress photos from these posts have not been re-posted here.
These stays were sewn in preparation for my thesis work, for which I am recreating a ca. 1810-1815 dress in order to better understand early 19th c. dressmaking. Please note, I realized I have not yet added the gusset flossing. I will update below if needed once I do that.
The Basic Information
Pattern: Laughing Moon #115 “Ladies’ Regency and Romantic Era Corset, Long and Short Versions c. 1805-1840”
View Made: A, with cording (the historical view)
Size Made: 14 (bust and hip)/16 (waist), bust gusset 7.5, hip gusset 6.5.
Fabrics: 100% cotton twill (leftover from my lab coat) and 100% cotton muslin
Notions: White Gutterman universal sewing thread, white Coats’s Button Craft thread (both from stash), 12″ curved wooden busk from Redthreaded, Lily Sugar n’ Cream 100% cotton crochet yarn from JoAnn’s for the cording, 1/4″ flat reed for boning from The Basketmaker’s Catalog.
Time to Complete: August 16th, 2021-February 18, 2022 (6 months)
- August 16, 2021 – Was measured, calculated adjustments, started tracing pattern.
- August 17, 2021 – Finished tracing, adjusted the pattern, cut out and pinned pieces.
- August 18, 2021 – Started machine basting toile.
- August 23, 2021 – Finished toile and did first fitting.
- September 2021 – Consulted with mentors on fit of toile.
- November 1, 2021 – Made further adjustments to pattern and cut out in final fabric.
- November 11, 2021 – Cut gusset slits and began stay stitching them. Began seaming backs to sides.
- November 15, 2021 – Inserted hip gussets.
- November 16, 2021 – Inserted bust gussets.
- November 17, 2021 – Pressing.
- November 28, 2021 – Working on tracing and sewing cording channels. Completed embroidery on front waistline.
- December 2, 2021 – Almost done sewing channels. Started inserting cording.
- December 7, 2021 – Cording completed and all pieces washed.
- December 12, 2021 – Basted together, second fitting with mentors.
- January 7, 2021 – Work on alterations from fitting, back eyelets completed, third fitting.
- January 15, 2021 – Work on new alterations. Began binding.
- January 18, 2021 – Busk slit, lower edge binding, and drawstring channel completed.
- February 18, 2021 – More alterations, straps binding and strap eyelets completed.
Breakdown of Costs
- Pattern: $16 + $8 shipping (I got a paper one before they switched to PDF only)
- Fabric: $0 (stash leftovers)
- Thread: $0 (stash leftovers)
- Curved Busk, 12″ from Redthreaded: $18 + $5 shipping
- Cotton Lacing Cord, B&T: $0.80 (didn’t end up using-didn’t buy enough)
- 18th c. Aglets, B&T: $1 (didn’t end up using-didn’t fit through my eyelets)
- Lily Sugar n’ Cream Crochet Yarn 100% Cotton, JoAnn’s: $3.59 + $.25 taxes
- Reed Boning, The Basketmaker’s Catalog: $6 + $9.25 shipping (did order extra in case any snap)
- I removed 2″ length from the body on the lengthen/shorten line (I’m short-waisted).
- I later found that I had to add those 2″ back into the hem because they hit in the middle of the stomach rather than on the hips.
- I added a panel of twill to reinforce the busk pocket.
- I added 1.5″ to the center back.
- The straps were moved closer to the CB and down a little, as I have a narrow back and shoulders.
- I did hand-sewn eyelets instead of grommets.
- I added small darts on either side of the bust cups to get a better fit. This eliminated the need for a drawstring.
- I cut my final pieces with 1-2″ extra length (on top of my expected alterations) on the upper center front edge and lower edges (this also applies to any gussets in those areas) and then trimmed them after fittings.
- I ended up cutting my straps twice, as they were too short the first time. The second time I simply cut them to the longest length and then trimmed them in a fitting.
- Instead of enclosing the center back edge very early on, as in the instructions, I left them open. I did the cording channels right to that raw edge, and once I was sure I did not need to alter the CB edge line I unstitched the cording channels to the appropriate amount from the CB edge and finished it by adding the channels, eyelets, and turning the edges in and ladder-stitching them shut.
- Before doing anything with the cording channels, insert your busk into the busk pocket to test that it is the right width. If the pocket is too narrow and you have already done your cording channels, it is going to be a lot of work to alter it because you would have to change the cording channels too. Alternatively you could try sanding down the busk a little.
- I am not sure why the pattern suggest doing the embroidery before doing the cording channels (other than it might then be more difficult to put in an embroidery hoop?)
- It is much easier if you draw the guidelines for stitching the cording channels on the pieces before inserting the gussets. I used a washout sewing marker for this.
- The cording is the easiest part of this whole thing, I promise, it is just tedious.
- Once my pieces were corded, I hand-washed them in warm water with detergent to both remove the marker lines and to allow for shrinking in the cord before trimming their ends.
- I did opt for the boning on the outside of the cups.
- I doubled up on the reed, for extra strength. They were too weak otherwise.
- Adding another gusset (or replacing one with a wider gusset) should be very easy to do as long as you haven’t bound the edges yet.
- The eyelet pattern given does not work with spiral lacing, yet the instructions say that you are to spiral lace. You will either need to adjust the placement of the eyelets or order much more lacing. Fan lacing is another option you may want to look into. The pattern does not really give much guidance on how much lacing to buy. I ended up using around 5 yards.
- I did a busk slit instead of leaving the binding open.
- I did use bias binding – the straight edges are self-bound with the twill cut into 1.5″ strips, and the straps are bound in the lighter-weight lining fabric, cut slightly smaller. I wish I had done the whole top edge in the lighter-weight fabric for a less harsh edge that might show through a gown.
- It is much easier to sew the top edge/straps binding first, because after that the boning goes in and the stays become very cumbersome to handle.