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.


Lauren said...

Ok, those childhood pictures are absolutely adorable. And your 18th c stays are incredible--and you look great in them.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous job on the stays! They do exactly what they're supposed to - which is the highest compliment one could give, lol!

I've just started boning the stays for my project, I hope they turn out half as great as your's!

I found it interesting that you were told stays were primarily lined with a check or plaid linen. I wonder if this was an American thing. Out of the 10 or so sets of stays I've examined in England (and one set in Toronto) I think only one was lined with a check the others all just a plain natural coloured or white linen.

I know it's a minute detail, but it raised potentially interesting questions about the differences and similarities between consumption and sewing practices in the colonies and the "home" country.

Anyway - well done you!!!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done.Both the corset and the opera.

Chole said...

The stays look wonderful. Congrats on getting them finished!

One thing I noticed is that your spiral lacing seems off. It looks like you are bringing the lace from the underside of the stays on both sides of the lacing holes, rather than bringing it through the underside on the left & through the top side on the right. If you laced the stays completely together you should only be able to see a single angled cord from the left to right as in this image.