Monday, January 15, 2018

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How to Lengthen/Shorten 18th Century Stays


The #1 question we receive about Simplicity 8162 (and will with Simplicity 8579 as well) is how to lengthen or shorten the stays. Particularly with Simplicity 8162, the body block used came up a little short and most seamstresses are needing to lengthen the body of the stays a bit (I know I needed to).

So how do you do it?

Don't worry! The alteration is really easy.



The proper fit for stays should have the tabs "breaking" right at your natural waistline. The very top of those cuts/splits for the tabs should be at your waist - too high and you don't get a nice shape; too low and you'll have pinching.

{As always, make a quick mockup to test the fit on your body. For stays, lightweight cardboard and masking tape can do the job, or you can use a heavyweight fabric and just tape some of the bones in place to check the fit. Make a note of how much the stays need to be lengthened, then make the adjustment on your paper pattern.}



If your stays are too short, measure up about 1 inch from each of the tops of those tab cuts. Then "connect the dots" to draw the adjustment line. This line will be on an angle for most pieces.

Then just cut along that line and move the pieces apart as much as you need to lengthen the stays. Make sure the distance is the same on all pieces (example - 1/2 inch for all pieces). Tape the pieces to a new piece of paper and "true up" the seamlines by re-drawing the line with a ruler (this is particularly necessary when altering angled lines or curves).

Also check that your seams still match up.

See how the tabs flare over the hips? Special thanks to Maggie for this photo
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You can also use that adjustment line to shorten your stays, but and easier way is to just cut the tabs a little bit higher. Remember, the tabs should break just at your waist. If they are too low, a little clipping up on those lines on-the-body will set it to rights.

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See? That wasn't so bad!

Extra Tip: Now when cutting out your new, adjusted pattern, give yourself some contingency and cut all pieces with extra seam allowance, particularly on the neckline edge. This gives you wiggle room for re-marking the neckline should you feel it's still too low.

Happy sewing!
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13 comments:

  1. Ah, thank you. I'm starting stays from your 8162 pattern and I can't wait! Got the fabric today.
    -Beatrice

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  2. But here's my million dollar question: how do you make them BIGGER? I'm about a size too big for the Simplicity brand, boo!

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    1. If it's just one size off you might be able to make the largest size and just have a larger gap in the lacing. But if that doesn't work, you can slash and spread the pattern the other direction to add width. To see an example (but on a post-edwardian corset) check out this post from Bridges on the Body.

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  3. Ah, I was confused as to how to fit them without the bones which I thought would probably change the fit a bit. Thanks! I am less terrified of my stays now!

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  4. This is much needed!! I have both stays patterns and I made the one from 8162 and knew immediately I would need to lengthen them but was unsure how to. So I forged ahead anyway without, they turned out alright (i have a slightly longer torso) but now I can make a new proper fitting pair!! Thanks Lauren!!

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  5. I know this is a stupid question, but I've never used a commercial pattern before and my English is not so great with terminology like this. Is there a seam allowance included in the 8162 stays pattern? The instructions mention basting 1/4" from the edges in places and turning down the lining by 5/8". Is there only the notches along the sides? I'm sorry, I don't mean to waste your time.

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    1. I believe it is! Seam allowance is 5/8" unless otherwise noted on the pattern piece. If you read everything on the instructions, carefully, I think you will do great! Also, the instructions are great. :)

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  6. This is going to sound like a silly question but I've seen historical stays without tabs on them. Is it possible to remove the tabs from both stays patterns?

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    1. It is, but you're going to be very uncomfortable if you do. The purpose of the tabs is to spread the pressure out over your hips. Without them, the stays cut into your waist in a sharp line and are quite ouchy.

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    2. the examples I've seen the side pieces extend down to where the tabs (if they existed) would end, similar to the 19th and 20th century corsets. by extending the pattern piece it would still spread out the pressure of the stays/boning.

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  8. My natural waist is directly on top of my hips. It's maddening, I always have to cheat belts and waistband up to my belly or they get crushed. Will this affect the tabs on the stays at all? Will I need to change them because of my lack of distance between waist and hips?

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