18th Century Stays (HSM #10)

October was a whirlwind of sewing projects, one right after another, in preparation for Halloween. I started sewing for tonight back in January but, like it always seems to happen, everything bottlenecks in this month. In the past few weeks I’ve made almost a dozen garments so I figured that at least of them would fit for this challenge. Haha.

The prompt, Sewing Secrets, was a rather clever one. I was really eager to participate in it, though I had a hard time coming up with anything overtly secret to make. Thinking on it, though, I realized that the stays that I made for myself had a few secret things about it, however small.

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They’re made from Butterick 4254 View A — with a few adjustments. I’d made a pair of stays for my sister from the same pattern over the summer so I had a good idea of how the pattern, without any adjustments, would fit me. So, to make mine, I raised the top three inches and cut two inches off both back pieces. I improvised the boning pattern.

The garment, in and of itself, is a secret one. It’s meant to be hidden under my outer layers so not many people will ever see it.

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It’s made up of three layers of cotton duck and one layer of a turquoise synthetic I’ve had forever. One of the secrets in this garment is a busk. I cut about fourteen inches off of a yard stick and rounded the edges (using nail files – I lost my sandpaper!) so that it would fit nicely down the front of my stays. In the past, busks were often intricately carved and decorated and they made great gifts from one’s lover! Sadly, mine is plain but it’s a fun secret addition.

Secondly, I also like to think of the color scheme as a secret. I picked fun colors, not worrying about staying too accurate, and I had fun with the ribbons at my shoulders. The bright pink goes well with the turquoise and ended up matching the flowers I wore in my hair tonight!

I posted a few in-progress shots in my instagram, so you may have seen it along the way.

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Final view. Please excuse the smudges. A pirate wench can’t be too clean. 🙂

I reduced my waist about 4 inches tonight, pretty much the max that I could do and still be comfortable. It takes forever to lace – I guess I put in too many holes – and the string I have to use is absolutely gigantic. About 12 yards long. Eep. I used zip ties and duct ties for boning and I would call the stays fully-boned, although there are a few small gaps here and there.

The Challenge: Sewing Secrets (HSM #10)

Fabric: White cotton duck (1 yard), turquoise synthetic (1/2 yard)

Pattern: Butterick 4254

Year: 18th century (early-mid)

Notions: Off-white quilting thread, off-white bias tape, black grommets, duct ties, cable ties, yard stick (busk)

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. Except for the fact that it’s largely machine-stitched. It’s hard to put a percentage to it.

Hours to complete: 10 days.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: Cotton duck ($6), blue synthetic (stash), cable ties (stash), duct ties ($5), yard stick ($3), bias tape (stash) = $14 total.

I am really really happy with how these turned out. I’d made a pair of very lightly boned stays over the summer, but this was in a completely different league. So much intricate sewing and detailing went into the garment and I put a lot of effort into adjusting the pattern to fit me better. I feel like I’m getting a lot better at making adjustments, which is excellent. In all, I have some that will make me happy to wear, even if no one else can see it. 🙂

Happy Halloween!!