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


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.


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!


    • Ryan

      January 24, 2018 at 6:00 PM

      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.

  • Unknown

    January 26, 2018 at 5:48 AM

    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!!

  • Andrea

    January 27, 2018 at 4:10 AM

    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.

    • Anonymous

      January 29, 2018 at 12:11 AM

      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. 🙂

    • Unknown

      January 28, 2018 at 9:17 AM

      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.

    • Anonymous

      February 8, 2018 at 4:17 PM

      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.

  • Samurai Mom

    July 18, 2018 at 9:18 PM

    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?

  • Reveurs

    November 18, 2018 at 7:10 AM

    Help! I made a mockup and everything seemed fine so I went ahead and did a lining and have put in all the boning (and extra boning, I'm a curvy girl) and then tried them on and realised I had my bra on for the mock up and now my cup runeth over a lot (I'm a G cup). Can I add a halfcup/shelf to stop the girls running wild? Thanks

    • Anonymous

      December 13, 2018 at 3:26 AM

      Your chemise and fichu (if tucked under the stays) can do a lot to keep the ladies under control. As you're tightening the laces, keep adjusting your chemise so it's smooth and tight across the front. What you're going for is, in effect, the same as what the Edwardians did: stays/corset for shaping, chemise for bust control. If you wiggle things in just right, hopefully your shift will protect your modesty and lock those puppies in.

  • mightyterp

    January 12, 2019 at 4:24 PM

    I made the stays following the pattern but found that when wearing them over the course of the day the girls sorta slid down inside. Im tall but short-waisted and full through the tummy but only a C cup. Should I shorten the waist? Did I not lace tight enough? When I would sit it seemed like the stays would be right in my armpit. Not sure what adjustments to make.

  • Unknown

    July 30, 2019 at 12:27 AM

    Curious if anyone has experience altering a corset/stays pattern for a similar issue: my natural waist bend is right above my hips, which for about an hour in these stays is no problem. However, I’ve also had spinal fusion in about the same spot, and after a few hours the exaggerated curve in my low back is quite aggravated by being laced in. I’m considering making another set (my third from this pattern, I love it!) and raising the back pieces significantly to keep pressure off my low back. Has anyone tried anything like this? Thoughts? I’m more concerned for my comfort and health than historical accuracy 😉

  • sam b

    December 3, 2020 at 12:52 AM

    I made my first set of Simplicity 8162 stays before seeing the post about lengthening the waist, so I wear them as late 1780's/1790's stays instead, and eventually dismantled the fronts to re-cut for prow-front (not an alteration I'd recommend, better to plan it from the beginning), and stitched in a waist-tape at the top inch of the tabs holding them closed. But for my second go, instead of making the full adjustment, I got lazy and just raised the front edge. It's working pretty well so far (and I used the tape straps from the other pattern instead of the built-in straps). Also, for if I go somewhere and only want to bring one set of stays but cover both earlier and later in the century, I made a boned stomacher to wear under the short-waisted stays for a straighter front and to fake the longer waist. The idea came from all the museum images of stays with matching stomachers–those might have been for ladies whose weight & size fluctuated a lot, or who were simply very busty and needed the extra support (not a problem I'll ever have), but it works for my purposes as well.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 3, 2020 at 7:21 PM

      All of your experimentations are excellent – I love when costumers take the patterns and make them their own. My first pair of the 8162 stays made from the pattern as-is were also too short (a common problem for me) and your idea to wear them for the later periods it's really a good idea. Now that you mention it, I was thinking of selling mine but now I think perhaps I could keep them.

      Stomachers are awesome. I also made one for my current pair of stays and I'll never skip it for front-lacing again. It makes such a different to the shape, and also being able to pin gowns without fear of stabbing one's self.

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