Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Corded Stays, 1860s

Using the suggestions in The Dressmaker's Guide, I adapted the Simplicity 9000-series shaped-seam corset into corded stays for Mom.  For a wide variety of reasons (most pertinently, that her first/only-planned event is a 4 mile walk) I think she'll find them more comfortable--or at least less unfamiliar--than the steel-boned corsets I favor.

In an ideal world, after the initial measurements, I'd baste some plastic boning onto a single-layer toile, adjust the fit and then build the real corset sandwich style, putting the seam allowances between the layers.  Since I'm on a time budget, fitting over a distance, and likely to be recycling/remaking this garment in the future, I instead kept the two layers of each piece together and have the seam allowances visible on the inside.  This allowed me to do some of the cording before fitting (adjustments will be made at the seam lines, so cord channels down the center of each piece will be safe).  I also worked the button-closures and set the lacing-grommets in advance, as those portions are straight lines and fastening points, ie, unlikely locations for seam tweaking.
Handsewn eyelets and buttonholes for corded stays.
Corded pieces, showing eyelets and button holes
My grommet setting tools, however, had ideas of their own, and went into open rebellion while working on the back pieces.

With the pieces basted together, Mom tried on the ultra-lightly-corded stays; I pinned out excess fabric at the seams, until the garment fit smoothly and snugly.  After re-stitching the seams along their new lines, I added additional cording channels along each.  Finally, the raw upper and lower edges were finished with self-fabric bias binding, and the seam allowances were  whip-stitched against fraying.
Mid-19th century corded stays with front button closure.
Finished Stays
Vital Stats: Front fastens with 9 bone buttons (hand-worked button holes); back adjusts with 26 hand-sewn thread eyelets; stiffened with two 1/4" spring steel bones at center back and approximately 92 vertical rows of cording running down the center of each piece, at the center front and back openings, and along the seams.

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