Phew that took a long time! The worst part of making stays? Binding. Ugh took forever! But they are finally done and photographed. Photographing them was almost as much work as making them. The photos were taken in two different sessions with helpers and with a selfie stick, so the hair and chemise change sometimes. I learned a lot about how to do (mediocre) photo shoots though! But here it is – a comparison between four different 18th century stays patterns.
I am a modern size 14/16 so this gives a good idea how these patterns will look on the average lady of today. Compared to the standard measurements of these patterns, I am slightly longer waisted between waist and bust, and slightly shorter waisted from bust to hip (details like that matter when making corsets). My waist is wider than the assumed waist on the patterns because I am apple shaped, so I sized the pattern using bust size. I am reduced three inches which is about the maximum for most 18th century stays. They are not really designed for tight lacing.
High Level Comparisons
Stays: Larkin & Smith, Reconstruction History Front & Back Lacing, Reconstructing History 1790’s, JP Ryan Diderot Stays
Contestant # 1 Larkin & Smith Front and Back Lacing Stays
I have worn these to several events and they are VERY comfortable! Great for most of the 18th century, these will get you through both the French & Indian and Rev war (unless you are going super high style, then use the Contestant #4 JP Ryan stays). These are easy to get on and off and give me a nice (as can be expected) figure. The inner layers are cotton canvas and the outer covering is red silk; construction notes can be found here. This pair is boned with synthetic whalebone, which is very light weight and thin. It was also very easy to work with. I highly recommend this pattern if this is your first pair of stays or if you only plan to make one pair. The pattern is worth its weight in gold just for the amazing instructions! Once you go through them, you can use the method on any pair of stays, including diagrams from costume books. They are easy to fit, and stays without shoulder straps are easier to move around in. Front lacing makes it so much easier to put them on and take them off by yourself. Most of us don’t have ladies maids so this is an important consideration. Here is how they turned out:
Contestant # 2 Reconstructing History Front and Back Lacing Stays
This pair of stays is longer than the others, and is boned with reed. The reed is thicker than the synthetic whalebone, but interestingly my waist measurement ends up exactly the same in this one as the Larkin & Smith stays above. Go figure! The bust is two inches smaller as it is a much more long, narrow stay. Perfect for the first quarter of the 18th century, and surprisingly comfortable! I was not sure about the reed but it worked out quite well. My only recommendation is to use steel bones on either sides of the eyelets both front and back. I did use them in the back, but not in the front. I could hear them complaining as I laced it up and I had to be careful to tighten it gradually or the reed would have snapped. The inside layers are cotton canvas and the outer fabric is blue silk brocade. Construction notes are here. This pattern has great bang for your buck as you get four different stay designs, including the rare 1790’s stay (Contestant #3 below). Drum roll please ….
Contestant # 3 Reconstructing History Wide Front 1790s Stays
These are one of the two pairs of half boned stays, and for half boned stays I use spring steel boning. The unique thing about these stays is the very wide front. This is to help create the wide pooched out front bodices of the 1790’s. They are also much shorter than the other three pair, so they are not as flattering by themselves. However I do believe they will create the perfect silhouette for the 1790’s, which is not about looking thin! They are lined with cotton canvas and the other covering is white silk taffeta. As I plan to wear them under a chemise a la reine I wanted to stick with white that will not show through the thin fabric of the dress. I cheated and used metal eyelets with cross lacing on these, because I was afraid they would be hard to lace up on me otherwise. I also discovered that it does much better if I leave off the bottom three eyelets. I cannot remember if I copied the eyelet placement from the pattern, but most likely not. You really only need the eyelets to go down a couple of inches below the waist, and the ends – which are really tabs – know what to do. Construction notes are here. Without further ado ….
Contestant # 4 JP Ryan Half Boned Diderot Stays
This pair of stays is also half boned, and therefore boned with spring steel. It has cotton canvas as the lining and green silk taffeta for the cover. Interestingly this pattern has slightly different pieces for the outer layer, but they do fit together correctly. I love the shape of these stays! One of the differences between stays in the earlier part of the 18th century vs. stays from the latter quarter is the shape of the front. Earlier stays have a conical front, that is a straight line from the waist to the top of the bust (tends to curve out a bit at the bottom on me, due to fat gut). Starting around 1780, the stays began to curve outward from the waist to the bust. This is most extreme in the example above but this pair is also cut that way, and is perfect for the 1780’s and into the 1790’s (before waistlines started to rise). They are very comfortable, but somewhat challenging to get on and off by yourself, but it can be done. I love how long and slimming they are! They are good at what they do – I feel like I am wearing a lard tutu as it squashes all that fat downwards with great efficiency. Don’t need as big a bum roll! I had some fun with this one and the new selfie stick. Pardon the side shot glasses – I just could not get a decent side view without being able to see. Construction notes are here. Last one!
So there you have it! Which one is your favorite?