Revolution Dress – About Those Stays

The Dreamstress asked me to share a little about the stays I’ve been working on.

Those extra grommets at the bottom are me messing up.  Ignore those, pls. 🙂  I apologize for vague modern underwear sightings as well.

These stays are cut for the 1780s “prow front” fit, which means that the bust is pushed upwards, while the waist is pulled in.  This differs from earlier styles that are flatter in front and create a more conical shape.

All the undies on together.

The pattern has a major change in the shape of the front pattern piece.  Instead of a straight edge to meet the Side Front piece, it is quite curved.  This pulls the stomach in and creates a very curved front – you sometimes see this with German and Italian bodies of the 16th c., too.  Another change with the 1780s styles is the boning patterns.  Half-boned stays appear, but don’t let the name fool you, there is quite a lot of hardware in the front of this thing – two layers with vertical stays (1/4″), another two layers at the top with horizontal stays (1/2″), all tucked neatly away under the lining.

Click for notes.

I chose to make my stays front and back lacing, so I can get into them myself, and adjust as needed.  While this breaks the line of horizontal boning that spans the chest, the support is really quite good.  Prior stays have been too short-waisted for me, which put them too low in front, and caused all kinds of weirdness, including muffin top, but with this pattern, I extended the strap tab quite a ways up, and ran one boning channel right up it, containing a 1/4″ cable tie (not too stiff) – something like this is seen in the Diderot stays pattern.  It makes a huge difference in controlling side-boob.

Diderot Stays pattern, showing boned strap tab, and also the horizontal stays across the chest.

The ribbon straps I have no documentation for.  I simply made them up, the reason being so the strap tabs in front would be pulled in close to the body instead of sticking out, because they contain that one channel of boning.  I also despise straps that manage to *always* show underneath the necklines of gowns, and since I like low and wide-cut necklines, I opted for something discreet and that could be easily removed.

What’s historically accurate?  the patterning, the boning pattern, the resulting shape of the torso
What’s not historically accurate? the metal grommets, my undocumented ribbon straps, my boning materials, the bias-cut binding, and my method.

Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques  (pgs 10-25, the 18th c. stays patterns)
Costume in Detail: 1730-1930 (pg 44)
Diary of a Mantua Maker : Stays Sketches
The Diderot Stays Pattern


  • Lauren

    May 6, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    Really lovely!! I'm totally inspired. I've been procrastinating on making a new pair of stays for… oh… 6 years or so 😉
    I love your version!

  • Anonymous

    May 7, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    Pretties!!! Lovely pattern and fabric. Those side-strap tab thingies really are indispensable for avoiding side boob. Damn side boob!

    Excellent job, and I do love that petticoat.

  • Melissa Officinalis

    May 7, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    Having two directions of boning around the bust is very interesting. I just finished the lacing holes on my latest pair of stays, and will be trying them on tonight. [Crossing fingers that they aren't too big.]

    Looking forward to seeing the progression of the other layers.

  • Samantha

    May 7, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    loved reading this!! i have the same long-waisted torso. i made my stays without shoulder straps and i'm really regretting it! so much muffin top and side boob 🙁 next stays will have shoulder straps, and i'll bone the strap tabs like you did!

  • Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne

    May 7, 2011 at 3:30 AM

    I feel tired every time I even think about making new stays, which is why I have lovely people like you do it for me! (BTW, the yellow ones are a dream!)

  • Rowenna

    May 9, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Very pretty! And those extra grommets weren't mistakes…they're something to lace spare ribbon through for easy toting. Right? Right!

  • Cynthia Griffith

    May 10, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Very nice! I love my back-lacing stays, but having to wait for my husband to help me into them for fitting garments, and wondering what I'll do if he's traveling when an event comes up… I've been thinking I need to make some front-lacing stays as well. It's very helpful to see the different types people make and how the stays work for them. Helps me decide what I might want to try later. Thanks for posting!

  • Lauren Stowell

    May 10, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    Hahaha, Rowenna, good idea,I'll hang things on them, lol.

    Cynthia, front and back lacing stays are great because they're very adjustable. I've never had a "lacer-inner." I mean, Mr. C tries, but I feel weird asking him to lace back-lacing stays, especially if they're spiral laced. Poor confused man!

  • Cynthia Griffith

    May 10, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    I know what you mean. My poor hubby had issues originally trying to figure it out, but he's getting the hang of it. He decided to take a few photos with his iPhone to remind him for the next time. He's a big help to me — both getting dressed in these outfits, and even sewing and picking out fabrics 😀


Leave a Reply