In Progress: Regency Short Stays

Oh, look! I actually remembered to take a picture of something in progress! I’m the worst at blogging progress on projects unless they’re of a massive undertaking.  This is borderline time consuming, so here she is!

I’m working on making up my first pair of Regency short stays.  Short stays are basically a Regency equivalent of a push up bra.  You could either wear full length stays (corset) or wear one of these.  I have made two pairs of full length stays, but my last pair don’t quite fit as they did when I made them so I thought it was time to try out a pair of short stays.

Now, I’m giving a disclaimer.  I’m not doing these in the period correct way. They’re not hand sewn, and instead of using period fabrics I’m using two layers of cotton coutil (what you usually make Victorian corsets out of).  I’m also doing guerrilla cording (not the correct way at all), and pretty much all of this is the “quick, let’s make a set of short stays in three days even though we’ve never made them before” project.  We, as in  me and my sewing machine (or fancy pants “we” as in Queen Victoria.  It’s much too early to put much thought into writing since I have not had my tea and stayed up til 1am sewing, so I’ll write long run-on sentences instead explaining why I don’t want to go back and edit them and make silly excuses that are probably of no interest to my readers. So there).

Since this is a last-minute project, I tried my first real pattern e-download.  This is from Sense and Sensibility’s Regency Underthings pattern.  Now, I’m telling you, I am a straight up old fashioned paper pattern girl.  I thought I would never even consider buying an e-pattern.  But when the prospect was before me of actually using the Simplicity version I bought of this and putting the extra time to figure out what ease they added to it, or getting the e-download and saving me some extra headache, I chose the download.  Ideally I would have used the paper pattern from Sense and Sensibility, but I didn’t have the foresight to order it ahead or the time to wait for it in the mail.  I will admit, now that I’ve tried them, that downloads are not my thing.  I spent entirely too much time taping together pieces. I’m sure, if I had actually watched the videos she linked to in the email I would  have saved myself the headache of trying to match together pieces (though my printer threw them out of order anyways.. oh, that dreaded sound of paper maneuvering itself out of order in the print tray…), and if I was smart I would have had the foresight to print the stays only, instead of the ENTIRE pattern and wasted paper.  I wasn’t that smart.  Don’t be like me. Do what the pattern says to do and watch her videos and read the instructions.

Actually, now that I’m writing it, this entire sewing project seems to be a “oh, duh” sort of project.  Do you ever have projects like that? You start with the best of intentions but your brain only running at half mast, and create all sorts of problems for yourself that could have been easily avoided?  I usually do that when I’m on a time crunch, or after I’ve completed a series of really good sewing projects. When the brain SHOULD be probably focused, that’s when I foul up.  And I admit I seldom read instructions, as I usually work through any issues in the mock up stage. But if I had done THAT properly, I would have realized that not only did I put the straps on facing the wrong direction (and would, therefore, have probably not had to “fix” them as much), but should have paid attention to my mock up fabric, which ended up having too loose of a weave and stretched on me when I put it on.  No WONDER the mock up fit so well! It was stretching to fit me!  So much for saving fabric from the pile of “to get rid of” fabrics. That glaring orange should have been my warning sign.  All of my kooky problems aside, I only had to do a few changes to this.

Now, when I was thinking of starting this project I scoured online for pictures and reviews and blog posts and found actually very few.  Since these patterns are hugely popular I thought there would be many more reviews online, so, since I thought this and found few, that’s why I’m writing my post.

The alterations to this pattern are VERY figure specific.  Obviously, no pattern will fit the same for all people, but when you get to undergarments it gets even trickier.  Think of all the problems you have shopping for bras (or maybe you’re lucky and don’t, but I certainly do).  In fact, a friend and I were talking about this project.  After I did my mock up and pattern changes I relayed my changes and she relayed her. By sight we’re really NOT that different.  We pretty much wear the same size clothing, or very close to the same size, but our changes with the pattern were night and day different.  So, that being said, it is very hard for me to give watch points or change guidelines for this pattern, but I will relay the changes I made for me.

First of all, I found this too broad in the back, so I took in the back width one inch.  I also took in the width of the shoulder strap 1/2″, lowered the neckline at front by 3/4″ (to hit lower, as I have heard that is more flattering to small bust-lines), and altered the angle of the straps (probably entirely my fault, as relayed above).  I also decided to make the back scooped, instead of square, especially after reading Beth’s blog post on her research for her stays.  Even with my changes, some were not accurate, since, as I said, I made a poor choice of mock up fabric. This pattern has choices of gussets depending on your bust size.  I had read a review online that suggested selecting one size smaller for the gussets, and since I’m borderline sizes I went with the A.  BUT, since my mock up was stretchy, after I actually got my gussets in my coutil and tried it on, they did not fit right and were too small.  They all got ripped out and replaces with the size B gussets, which fit much better.  I want to say that I’m thankful for the options in bust sizes!  Often times patterns are only available in a certain range, and I’m glad she had us smaller girls covered in this pattern.

Another issue I’ve been reading online has to do with the “spring” at the front lacing. If you are unfamiliar with corsets or stays you probably have not heard the term, but it is an intentional gap left for comfort, and, I’m sure, other really good reasons.  I fit mine to have a 1 1/2″ to 2″ “spring”.  Nearly all the photos I’ve seen online do not have this, and butt up right next to each other, or have a very little spring. I’m not sure if I’m doing it correctly this way- I’ll have to get back to you after they’ve had a “test run”, but I thought it would be more comfortable and I remember seeing an engraving from around the same period of a lady in short stays and she had the “spring” in front of about an equivalent of that size. In fact, you can see the image on Kalen Hughes site, here.

The cording I added on my own. It’s a little messy, so don’t mind me.  I used the Sugar n’ Cream cotton yarn for cording and butted it right up to my zipper foot and sewed in instead of pulling it though channels (which is probably why it’s so NOT uniform).  I made it up after seeing various versions online.  I also forgot to mention that I decided to add 1/2″ seam allowance to the center front of this so that I could turn back the stays on themselves and sandwich my boning at my front edge instead of making a separate bound casing.  I still have to put in the boning, work my eyelets, and bind the stays, but they’re getting there!  I really wish I had paid more attention to my mock up, as my gussets are a bit off now, but for a first try they’re not half bad.

I’ve never been one to have patience with period undergarments (other than frilly Edwardian lovelies).  I usually need AT LEAST one try before I figure out why they work the way they do or why I need to change things.  I’m actually quite proud of myself for starting these when there is not either a class or sew-a-long, as I have little dedication to sewing period undergarments. I love seeing other people’s versions of them but don’t like sewing them much myself.  These I actually did have fun with, especially the cording.

So there she is… a near self-induced sewing disaster, but for some odd reason I’m actually a little proud of them ;)  This is actually a really great little pattern.  I loved the pattern and will certainly be making it up again in the future.

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8 thoughts on “In Progress: Regency Short Stays”

  1. It looks great for all the snags you hit. It is so very tricky fitting period undergarments! I have made three corsets, so far. Probably need to make more as it has been a while and they don’t fit as well as they use to. I haven’t tried cording yet, but when I make another that is what I want to try. I even might try your short cut! :)

  2. Your short corset looks very good. Trust me, if Jane Austen could have made her short stays in three days – she definitely would have done! (I always wondered how all of that cleavage was created in those Roman columnar style gowns. ;)

  3. Oh, I can definitely relate! I have machine sewed two sets of 18th century stays for myself to quickly see if they even work, and they didn’t. When it was too late with both, I finally had my “duh” moment and my next project is to machine sew set #3. I’ll save my properly handsewn set for a class that I hope to take that will help me with perfect fitting.
    I do need to make Regency stays and had no idea where to start. Perhaps I’ll try these. I’m like you…I’m going to mail order the pattern. I don’t have the patience to figure out e-patterns.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Laurie

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