Finished Project: Regency Half Stays

They ain’t pretty, but they seem to get the job done…

I’ve finally finished something!  I’ve been experimenting with Regency stays for a bit, trying out different designs, and I think I’ve got the silhouette I want.

Some time ago we talked about Regency boobs, and how high and mighty they were (and how hard to achieve).  In my experiments, I found these things to be true (for me anyway):

  • Cording or boning beneath the bust cups will help keep the bust in place
  • A busk will help raise and separate the bust, but needs to be long enough – that is, just some boning in the front edges of very short stays won’t work – the busk needs to extend down the front of the body.  The 9 inch paint-stirring sticks from Home Depot are a good length (or longer, for long stays).
  • Using a drawstring to pull in the top of the bust cups will also control the oomph of the bust, as well as the line of the stays under the gown.
Drawstring bust cups
Regency stays are strategic, a departure from earlier varieties that sortof just pushed and pulled the body into position.  They’re not laced tightly, because the aim was not to reduce the waist.
Laced in back.
I’ve made mine waist length, laced in back – this is so the front busk can work effectively.
The other particulars:
  • Cotton muslin lined in cotton osnaburg
  • Corded with hemp, and zip ties for the CF and CB closure
  • Hand bound eyelets in back (my first, yay!)
  • Bound in self bias.


  • Katie Lovely

    April 10, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    I would argue that earlier styles of stays were no more or less strategic than the styles that came about in the regency period. For example, the seaming and boning patterns of late 18th century stays were designed to give a very distinct shape, different than that of the mid 18th century. I believe the currently popular term for that silhouette is "prow front," although I can't say that I've seen that term used in contemporary sources. In any case, that style is constructed using different shapes than stays from say, 1760, where the ideal was more conical with less forward thrust than in the 80s or 90s. Has your research indicated otherwise, or did you mean something other than to imply that earlier styles had a lesser degree of refinement or engineering, so to speak?

    • Lauren Stowell

      April 11, 2013 at 1:12 AM

      Hi Katie – let me clarify. I mean in regards to the bust. The 1780s are the first period that appears to give any attention to shaping the bust, other than just squishing it flat to create the conical shape that was in fashion for the previous several hundred years. Even then, that prow front is as much to do with the treatment of the waist as it is the bust – primarily that the waist is what is being manipulated, with the bust is being supported in a full way, rather than just smooshed into position. The appearance of gussets and bust cups in the 1790s marks the first attention really paid to the lifting and supporting of the breasts specific to them. All corsets, stays, and bodies have refinement and engineering, just with different objectives. I did not mean to imply that Regency stays are more complex or less complex than other stays, absolutely not!…just that there appear to have been all sorts of ways and means (strategies) of lifting that bust up to the unnatural, fashionable position.

    • Scene in the Past

      April 11, 2013 at 10:28 PM

      I'm really confused by your statements that nothing before the 1780s did anything but squish the bust, or that the prow look just resulted from waist treatment. I've made and worn 18th century stays, and I've also watched a lot of experienced people with a wide variety of figures and shapes make and wear their own stays. Different styles give the same figure different shapes, no matter how large or small the figure is, and different figures wearing similar styles have similar shapes. I guess that's why I'm confused: I don't see everything pre-1780 as "squish the bust and tiny the waist"; I see a continuum of development from the 1500s onward. I'd love to learn differently, though, if that's what your research has shown! It's SO TRUE that "the more you know, the more you realize you don't know."

      By the way, in my experience, the tightness of the lacing has zero to do with the fit or style of the stays. Stays that are loose are not going to fit right. They won't provide support or shape, no matter what shape is desired. But they don't need to be tight, either. They just need to be firm. My 1790s stays need to be laced on the snug side, because I cut them to raise my bust point nearly two inches. I need that snugness to keep my bust from slipping down as my rib cage changes size with breathing. But I don't pull them tight, and it has nothing to do with the waist.

    • Lauren Stowell

      April 11, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      Hi Scene – sorry I was not clear enough. I have made and worn stays of each period as well, and my conclusions are based on my experiences. The point I am trying to make is that pre-1780s stays and bodies compress the various parts of the body – waist and bust – distorting it to create the fashionable shape. 1780s, transitional, and Regency era stays treat the bust differently. The 1780s are still compressing to create the shape, but they are supporting and lifting and rounding out the bust in a very different way than previous styles. The 1790s and 1800s stays that feature bust gussets or cups are the first to support the breasts in this way, lifting and supporting them, but not compressing them the same way that previous models did.

      All stays, bodies, and corsets fit snuggly, obviously, but they fit tightly in different places, for different reasons. 1780s stays, without a doubt, compress the stomach (but not exclusively). This is what the curved seams are designed to do. Regency short or half stays do not. They fit snuggly, of course, but their purpose was not to trim the waist, but instead to lift and support the bust.

      Does this clarify?

    • Scene in the Past

      April 11, 2013 at 11:52 PM

      I think we're mostly saying the same thing, except that I use "shape" instead of "compress," because to me "compress" implies reducing the size. And you can change a bust measurement, but you can't actually reduce volume. Make sense? 😉 Experience is different for everyone, too, so that's why I look at what it looks like on people of different sizes.

      I'm afraid I'm confused again how stays can be tighter in some places. Unless different laces are used, like on some later Victorian corsets, the gap tends to distribute evenly when some parts are under more tension than others. Unless you mean that the cut of the corset/stays put more pressure on one part than the other? Then I guess I'd just say cut or shape, not tighter. Maybe we just use different words to mean the same thing! 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      April 11, 2013 at 11:23 PM

      the bust is tricky – for these I measured across each boob, and compared it to the waist measurement. There was a 2 inch difference, so I added two 1 inch gussets to each side. (two gussets seems to work lots better than one single gusset). Even made specifically to the boob measurement, the bust cups still wanted a drawstring on the top edge. This make a really big difference, and I highly recommend it! I'm not sure my explanation made sense…?

  • Sassy Countess

    April 11, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    The bottom one makes a lot of sense because not everyone could afford a lady's maid. I have seen a lot of dresses of later periods that have hooks in the front for that very reason

    • Lauren Stowell

      April 11, 2013 at 4:59 AM

      Lol, the truth? I was stupid and didn't account for the depth of the wooden paint stick, so when I sewed the channel for it, it didn't fit! Live/Learn

  • Anonymous

    April 11, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    I had a regency corset made for me last year, I had the same idea when I saw the corset at the LACMA exhibit. I bought the book and it had the corset image to send to the person as a guide. It didn't work for me. The lacing was all confusing. I wish there had been more info or pictures about the lacing. I still needed help because I couldn't push my breasts up and tighten the laces at the same time. Maybe because I'm not use to wearing corsets. I ended up lacing it up the traditional way. If someone is successful with figuring out the lacing, let me know.

  • M'lady

    April 11, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    Love the stays. It's almost exactly the same as what I had in mind for myself after (your post inspired me to go back and look at) finishing the wrap stays I gave up on. Which are working OK. (Still feel a bit silly in them but they seem to be giving me the right shape). I'm still only at the wearable mock up stage. On my real pair I'm going to add some chording under the bust cups as I get too much slippage (but can't pull the straps any tighter)…
    It all clicked into place when I realised that by shelf they don't mean horizontal to your chest (that's only the cartoons) in all the portraits it looks more natural. Its just about lifting above the empire waistline whether its lot or high IYC.

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