18th Century Stays – Q&A about Simplicity 8162

Continuing on with the Simplicity 18th Century 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 diagonal 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


  • Little Mothball

    May 14, 2016 at 5:35 AM

    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.

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 15, 2016 at 3:52 AM

      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.

  • vintagevisions27

    May 16, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    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. 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 16, 2016 at 9:50 PM

      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…

    • vintagevisions27

      May 17, 2016 at 2:30 PM

      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!

  • Anonymous

    June 7, 2016 at 2:34 PM

    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?

  • Rebecca Heiser

    June 19, 2016 at 2:39 AM

    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.

  • Anna-Mari

    September 15, 2016 at 7:01 PM

    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?

    • Anonymous

      December 11, 2017 at 4:42 AM

      Hey, I hope it's okay to reply? I would try it out with muslin (or something similar), to see how it fits. I'm sure it would look okay with the adjustment! Comfort is important! I wish you luck 🙂

  • Jessi Harm

    October 29, 2016 at 4:55 AM

    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 🙂

  • Joy Haverghast

    May 2, 2017 at 8:43 PM

    First of all–I'm so glad I've found you!! Beginning my foray into historical costuming will be so much easier and more fun with you as a guide!!

    You mention in this Q&A adjusting for a small waist and a full bust… but what about the opposite? I'm heavier in the waist than I am in the bust. Is there any pattern adjustments I should make or is it all in the lacing?

  • Unknown

    May 5, 2017 at 8:37 PM

    I just ordered the patterns, and I was wondering/worried about that too. If we can't adjust it with the laceing, maybe tip 2 in the small waist, big bust alteration can work for this problem too. But in reverse of course.

  • Anonymous

    May 22, 2017 at 3:55 AM

    Hi, I'm Robin (I haven't figured out how to register for a cute user name and don't want professional contacts to know I wear corsets! :P)

    Joy, Inge, and Anna Marie – I hear you! I would love a good solution too.

    I have a small rib cage that flares out a bit after carrying a 9 1/4 lb boy for 40 weeks and a very high waist/hip bones, so my lowest ribs almost meet my hipbones at the side. Anyway, my ribs under my bust are 2" smaller than my most compressible waist measurement.

    All of my bodices/corsets are renaissance and the conical shape of those means I end up wearing a bra underneath, otherwise as I move, my breasts get PAINFULLY squashed down into the void. This is my first foray into 18th C costuming.

    I just bought 8162 tonight. First, I'll have to shorten it. Then, I think I will try going with the bust measurement and enlarge at the waist. I am hoping with the front lacing and the relatively flexible cable ties, it will curve in in the underbust area and provide some support.

    If I actually get that far, I'll give an update on how it works.

    • Beth

      June 4, 2021 at 9:47 AM

      Please share! How did you enlarge this at the waist? I am stumped. I am already using the largest pattern pieces.

      Also, has anyone added the curve as shown in the article?

      Unfortunately I need an FBA and a thick waist alteration!

      • Lauren @ American Duchess

        June 7, 2021 at 2:34 PM

        Hiya! A really good way to solve both of these is to cut out and tape together a cardboard mockup, then try it on. I’d add extra seam allowance to all pieces. Let out and take in the seams where needed, and that should get you most of the way there. 🙂

  • Cristina

    October 9, 2017 at 1:54 PM

    I finished this pattern and have a couple problems I am hoping you can help with.

    With the pocket seams, and not wearing a petticoat underneath, you could see my bumpad and chemise. Even if I had a petticoat on underneath, you would be able to see it. Wouldn't that look bad? Should I chose a color of petticoat that would match the dress? It seems like most petticoats I've seen are white which wouldn't look good showing on the side of a brown skirt. Did I do something wrong here?

    My second problem was on the sides of my back, you could see the stays between my bodice and the skirt. Is this normal or did I need to either lengthen the bodice or tie my bum roll and skirts higher?

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 9, 2017 at 7:25 PM

      Hi Cristina – Thank you for your comment. It's a little difficult to see what's happening without photos, so I hope my comments help and make sense.

      The petticoat split sides should not bow open when worn. There should be some overlap there so the openings are hidden in the folds of the skirt. How are you tying the skirt? It should be tied with the back waist band tied around the front first, then the front waist band is tied to the back, like an apron.

      For the bodice, this is a common issue with bodices without skirts. One way to fix it is to sew hooks and bars (the flat kind) to the skirt waistband and corresponding point on the bodice lining, then hook the two together when wearing.

      It could be that the bodice waist is too short as well. That's a very commoon adjustment (I have to do this on all of my commercial patterns too). Another way to fix the issue completely, and to be very 18th century, is to add a skirt to the bodice – this will make it a little jacket. There's no skirt piece in the paper pattern, but I've included instructions on how to make a couple variations in this handout (along with a lot of other useful information): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5RoaVAG1geGYVEwSldqRnpQajQ

  • Hannah

    July 10, 2018 at 10:06 PM

    I just got a pair of stays to the lacing stage, and I must have changed shape within the last year – the waist feels snug in back, and loose in front, so I'm being squished without my bust being supported by my hips – where should I take it in? I'll definitely have to cut bones, but where will this suck the least?

  • Alyssa

    August 13, 2018 at 5:04 PM

    I am hoping to make these soon, however, I am quite short in the torso and typically (with modern patterns) have to remove several inches across the center of the armscye and above the waist and two inches out of the hip line as well. I would love to know if you have any tips as to how to achieve such an alteration.

  • Unknown

    August 13, 2018 at 7:26 PM

    So thankful for the simplicity pattern and your YouTube videos, Lauren and Abby! I never thought I'd be able to sew something like that on my own. I do have one question. I used a chamois to bind the edges. It was pretty easy to sew, but it smells awful! Any tips on how to get rid of the smell?

  • Unknown

    May 9, 2019 at 1:10 PM

    Are other colors of chamois leather historically accurate? Or was it only natural or white colors? I don't like the color combo of my top fabric with the natural chamois and have been experimenting with dying the chamois.

  • Ash

    May 22, 2019 at 10:02 PM

    I was just looking at getting a chamois to bind, and the manufacturer recommended light washing with regular shampoo. I haven’t tried it myself, but maybe test on a small piece first in case it shrinks?

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading