Monday, May 9, 2016

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18th Century Stays - Q&A about Simplicity 8162

Continuing on with the Simplicity "Outlander" Pattern Hacks, I thought it would be good to cover some questions about the pattern specifically.

I've finished my stays made from this pattern, but as you will see I have made a few small changes:
  • Spiral lacing instead of criss-cross lacing
  • Fully boned instead of half boned
  • Stays bound and then lined rather than lined then bound
Some additions and materials choices:
  • Seams covered in 1/4" strips of leather
  • Stays bound in leather
I did not change any of the pattern pieces. I just cut and sewed my size - size 12 - with no alterations to the fit. All of the fitment comes through the lacing - tightening or loosening the front and back laces as needed.

Some questions you may have...

Q: What Size Should You Cut?
A: Cut your size according to the back of the pattern envelope. No ease has been added to the pattern; in fact, the stays have negative ease, which means they are smaller than your body measurements when laced on. This is essential to creating a structural foundation garment.

My natural body measurements are bust 34" / waist 28" (it keeps getting bigger, lol). I cut a size 12, which is for bust 34" / waist 26.5". Now, the waist is an inch and a half smaller than my natural waist, so I was expecting to have some adjustments in the front and back lacing. Keep in mind that the waist is very flexible and squishy, so when I laced my stays I kept the bust loose and the waist quite snug.

Q: What If You Have a Full Bust and Small Waist?
A: There are couple ways to deal with this:

1. Cut out both sizes for the stays. The pattern tissue has each size printed individually instead of overlaying one another. So if you have a size 16 bust but a size 12 waist, cut out both sizes, then lay the pieces over one another and  redraft the seams, tapering the line from the size 16 bust down to the size 12 waist.

2. There is a full bust adjustment patterning change that looks like this:

Jill Salen "Corsets" - the front piece on the right hand side has a curve at the top and front lacing that accommodates a full bust
That S curve on the diaganol side seam of the front piece gives you more room in the bust but keeps the waist the same measurement. If you choose to use this method, cut your size according to your WAIST measurement, and alter the front piece for your bust measurement.

I am working out an easy tutorial to follow for this change, so stay tuned if you want to use this method for the Georgian FBA

3. Use a stomacher. Cut your size according to your WAIST measurement. You will have a gap between the front lacing at the top of the front. To fill this, use the stomacher pattern from Simplicity 8161, or draft your own, to create a boned stomacher to lace your stays over.

Q: Are The Stays Supportive?
A: Yes, very. I have made these stays fully-boned with 1/4" zip ties throughout, and 1/2" zip ties on the front and back edges. They are very supportive and lightweight. Half-boned stays will have the same effect but may be a bit bulkier depending on the boning you choose.

If you have a full bust, you can still use lightweight boning for fully-boned stays, but you may wish to add a little extra boning horizontally in the bust area. I will show you how to do this soon.

Q: Why Did You Change to Spiral Lacing?
A: Both spiral and criss-cross lacing existed in the 18th century, but served different purposes. Criss-cross was primarily decorative, while spiral was stress-bearing. Spiral lacing doesn't slip in the lacing holes the way that criss-cross does, so you can lace up quickly, securely, and snugly without fighting the laces. I have a very quick and easy tutorial for converting to spiral lacing on the way.

Q: Why Leather Binding? Was It Difficult to Sew? Do You Have to Use Leather?
A: I chose leather binding because it's durable, period accurate, stretchy/flexible, and comfortable. It was indeed harder to sew than the other binding options, such as linen tape, self fabric, bias tape, or petersham ribbon. A thimble is recommended! However, my binding will last a long time and keep the boning from wearing through to poke me.

Leather binding cut from chamois cloth from the automotive store. You can also use any very thin, stretchy leather such as glove leather. The thinner the leather the easier it will be to sew.

Now that I've worked my way through the stays pattern, I will have individual tutorials for you soon. These will be:
  • The Georgian FBA - What to Do About a Full Bust in Stays
  • Spiral Lacing vs. Criss-Cross Lacing
  • Changing the Boning Pattern on Your Stays
  • Dressing Before Dressing - Putting On Underpinnings in the Correct Order


  1. I love your color scheme! Super cute stays and cap.
    I am wondering about the pattern adjustment you reference in Jill Salen's book. Doesn't that curved pattern piece create the "prow front" thrust of 1780s and 1790s stays?
    I am looking to create two new pairs of stays, one for mid 18th century and one for late, so that's why I ask.

    1. It does, but this corset dates from c. 1750. From the photo of the original corset, it is half-split in the front with lacing on the upper half, for adjustment. It appears to have one of those hugely bowed fronts that won't lay down flat. This must have been for a large-chested woman with that amount of space and adjustment in the front.

  2. Really enjoying this hack series and all the videos. Keep up the good work!
    Just some thoughts in reference to you comments in the video about wearing your stays on top of your petticoat. I have worn 18th century stays A LOT for living history events over the years. I've made both a 1750s pair from the JP Ryan pattern and a more fashionable 1770s pair drafted straight from an original pair in a friend's private collection. With both pairs I actually prefer to wear a petticoat under them with a second (and sometimes third) petticoat and jacket or gown on top. I find having an under petticoat a little more comfortable (especially with the JP Ryan pair which don't have enough curve built into them) and it helps to add fullness to the hips. Unless it's going to be super hot at an event I always wear at least two petticoats. I think it's a matter of personal taste and comfort for each of us. :)

    1. That makes sense, especially if it's cold. I do shift-stays-bumpad-petticoat-petticoat-petticoat, but I was thinking recently that if you did wear a petticoat or two under the stays that it might help keep the front of the gown flatter/straighter. Will have to try this...

    2. I don't think I would wear more then one petticoat under the stays, it would likely be too bulky. Worth experimenting though. My under petticoat is linen, having that extra layer gives a little extra comfort to where the tabs of the stays splay over the hips. And when its cold, and I'm been to some COLD events, out come the wool and quilted petticoats! Hooray for layers! lol!

  3. What other adjustments can be made to the pattern? I am very long waisted. I have reviewed J.P. Ryan's stays pattern and was not sure how to accurately adjust it. I usuall need to add 4-5 inches in the neck to waist measurement to adjust any bodice in any pattern, 18th century or 21st. In doing this is often throws the pattern out of alignment with the insertion of the boning material. So can I easily adjust this pattern for my use/needs?

  4. I have just purchased your pattern and all the supplies needed to make 1818. However, my Home Depot only had the 1/2" heavy duty long zipties. Where did you find your 1/4" ones? The 1/4" by me were only about 10" long.

    1. Sorry, I mean pattern 8162. Multi-era costuming is confusing. I drive my boyfriend crazy when I say things like "the 60's," because he doesn't know which century I am talking about.

  5. Hi! I need stays for my 18th century...ish dress, and I am considering buying this simplicity pattern. But I am worried about how to make it comfortable. My lowest rib bone is kind of poking out, the measurement over my lowest rib is bigger than right under my bust. But these stays are really flat with no curves, how is that going to fit me? I have an hourglass style corset that I modified to fit me, and it still looks good even though I got extra room for my rib. Can I do that modification with 18th century stays or would it look totally wrong?

  6. I am excited to see your The Georgian FBA - What to Do About a Full Bust in Stays because I really need this. 18th century stays are my favorite and I have a few rococo patterns I want to make but I want proper foundations. Halloween next year :)