Monday, January 26, 2009

18th Century Completed Stays

I hereby declare the never-ending 18th century stays project complete!!! This is the first garment I ever made that was drafted and crafted for my measurements.
I hand-bound the edges of the stays with a very soft goat leather. The wooden bones don't poke through the leather. Any future corsets that I make with wood will have leather binding! The inside of the stays are lined in a checked linen. Apparently plaid and stripes were the most commonly found linings in 18th century stays.I picked up this handy little tool at the Williamsburg stays' workshop. It's a bodkin, and is used to help lace up your stays. Sure is a lot easier than using shoe lace plastic tips (and more period correct)So here I am modeling the corset. Caly wanted to be in the picture too. You would not generally wear a petticoat underneath the corset like I am doing, but my shift is very sheer so it's for modesty's sake.Here's the side shot. I have the perfect mid 18th century flat front. Without the flat front, you can't properly fit the 18th century gown which requires a rigid foundation.Whoa...cleavage shot. What I'm really trying to show here is the nice triangular shape that my torso has taken by wearing the stays. Again, this is part of the 18th century aesthetic. Here you can see how the corset is laced up. Rather than using a modern lacing technique (where it looks like you're tying a shoe), this corset is spiral laced. The eyelets are off center, and the corset is laced from the bottom up. This pushes everything up as you lace the corset, which is the desired effect for the 18th century. I never realized how lacing can be so important to giving the corset the right shape: this same corset looks different if I start lacing from the top and doesn't look correct. Victorian corsets are laced and tied in the middle, so that the waist is nipped in.
On an unrelated note...I've been finding old childhood photos, and I found this picture (I'm on the far left, my sister is the next one over). In one of those "as-luck-would-have-it" moments, my sister and I got to be walk-on girls for the Opera Eugene Onegin. I was nine years old. The Opera was in Europe, and this was long enough ago that the visiting opera troupe was known as the Opera of Leningrad. Wow was their costume room fun!!I loved having the little curls at the side of my head, and I thought my dress was so lady-like (my sister was very unhappy when they put her in a shorter gown and bloomers because if her age, but she was as cute as a button!). As we were leaving every night, the performers would come out in their enormous white ball gowns that seemed to stand out a mile, with lots of tulle and satin (if you've ever seen the movie version with Liv Tyler, this is toward the end where Onegin sees Tatiana at a ball and finds out she's married). I think these photos mark the beginning of my fascination with historical costumes.