Wednesday, February 13, 2013

18th Century Stays-Finis!

I recently finished completely handsewing my 18th century stays. My project began last September at a Burnley and Trowbridge workshop with the wonderful Colonial Williamsburg tailor, Mark Hutter, who helped us design a custom fit for our stays. My pattern was based on the extant pink pair of stays found in Costume Close-Up that are in the CW collection, which were originally lavender. This makes my own lavender stays special.


After our three day workshop we went home with a great understanding of the function, usage, design and construction of stays.

Then began the endless monotony of hand stitching the boning channels. I even took my stitching to the CW Prelude to Victory a week later. There's only one picture but just imagine...

I can stitch in the sunshine...

I can stitch while I dine...

I can stitch in the wind and rain...

I can stitch despite the pain...

I can stitch at the Raleigh...

I can stitch near a buzzing bee...

I can stitch to the beat of drums...

I can stitch while waiting for Washington to come...

I can stitch them here and there...

I can stitch them anywhere!


And that is the secret for copiously stitching endless amounts of channels post haste. On a side note, which number is greater? The number of miles Washington's soldiers marched from the north to arrive in Williamsburg for the seige on Yorktown, or the number of hand stitches in my stays?

During Superstorm Sandy I bunkered down in the family room to bone my channels, which I conquered in two days. Because we had to take in so much of my stays, I had to have enormously skinny channels in some sections. That created a huge challenge in wittling down the bones to about 1/8". I feared I'd never succeed at stuffing them, but it worked and the channels are super strong. I'm quite impressed! These stays definitely have the feel of the reproduction stays the CW tailor had at the workshop.

A couple of days later I returned to Williamsburg with the fruit of my labor, of the double time efforts for another Burnley and Trowbridge workshop, so I could have a silk gown draped upon me. (more details at link) Here are my fairy godmothers fighting over the perfect draping decision, then the mantua maker arrived with her expertise hand. The stays are under that bodice! Yea! This was five weeks after my stays workshop!


Then I came home and laid my stays down due to numerous busy tasks of homeschooling and holidays. By the end of January, I picked up my stays again, determined to complete the leather binding.

And here they are after having worn them to a first person interpretation workshop yesterday in Annapolis, Maryland, taught by the CW Marquis de Lafayette! The organizer of the program asked us to wear our costumes, so I wore my CW reproduction chintz gown to the workshop, stays underneath. It was fun with all the admiration all the ladies and even one of the gents gave to my gown...of course enhanced by an enviable pair of 18th century reproduction stays! Some of the ladies even asked me questions about my stays to which I kept saying that the tailor is the master and that I highly recommend the B&T workshops!

There are no pictures of me in my gown, but here are my stays.


I wore the stays for 9 hours in the interpretation workshop. They were comfortable and 18th century restrictive. I was not able to move as much or as easily as the others during our acting exercises. However the coordinator asked us to wear our costumes, so as 18th century ladies in the 21st, we make do the best we can. =)

Now for the HSF details:

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #3 Under it All

Fabric: wool, linen

Pattern: self-drafted with help from the CW tailor

Year: last quarter of the 18th century

Notions: linen thread, lacing, reed boning

How historically accurate is it? 100% accurate

Hours to complete: Tons

First worn: gown draping workshop

Total cost: lots since it was a class

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