Thursday, September 29, 2011

Corset Calender


An ebay listing, I know many 18th century staymakers also make corsets from other time periods.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jumps? or Bodice?

On ebay, this very interesting upper body garment brings lots of questions, no answers.   No sure date, no provenance, if I were to guess I would say c1790-1800.  But.. that is a guess only. Let's take a look

 Inside view of the lining has the typical piecing of an early garment.  The quality and color of the linen lining is also correct for an early garment.

 This center front view shows lacing holes that I am guessing from the image are about 2 inches apart.  Hard to tell but they do not look like the holes accommodate a spiral lacing, but since I can document non spiral laced stays in the 18th century (center front lacing), this is not a deal breaker.

 The edges of the neck and center front are bound in ribbon, not an uncommon finish for raw edges.  The eyelets are odd colors, but I believe that is more a function of fugitive dyes than it is a planned arrangement of colored eyelets.  The eyelets look correct, the knots on the back are correct for the period as well.  The stitches are also correct.

 This little inserted gusset is also a typical fitting solution for the 18th century.
The fabric will be the big clue here.  Now we just have to find a similar printed fabric and we could possibly nail down the date.

 Back view with split tabs.

Inside view of center back.  The construction of the lining is also very typical 18th century.

Ok.. lots of observations on my part, no conclusions. But I don't think it is fake.  Comments?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Corps à baleine, France

This first pair of French stays are just lovely, described as a "Corps Alsace" and dated at 1770-80. Completely boned, the fashion fabric is an exquisite damask, and lined with a printed fabric. It is unclear what the fiber of the lining is, but the pattern is interesting. The shape of these stays do not really suggest 1770 or 1780 but much earlier. The spade and the spreading fingers at center front suggest a much earlier date. Bound in pink/peach ribbon, they are a work of art, no question. The ribbons at the shoulder straps do look original to the garment.

This Corps a' baleine, is dated 1735-1770, they are giving themeselves a wide range on this pair. Again the spade at center front and the spreading fingers. Decorative false lacing covers the center fronts. This lacing is not functional, but only for display. A beautiful gold damask is the fashion fabric and the stays are fully boned. Ignore the bows, the stylist put those on for the photos. The styling certainly suggests the earlier date.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

M. Diderot

M. Diderot in his Encyclopedia gave us these detailed drawings of some interesting stay accessories. These plates were published in 1771 as plates in the Tailor of Suits and Tailor of Bodices chapter.

From Left to Right

Single Point Lacing-Aiglet

Double Point Lacing-Aiglets-Braided


The question often arises among re-enactors who wear stays is what to use to lace them up? Here are the examples we have to go by, the aiglet is integral to the stay braid/cord. We often use bodkins or even bobby pins in a pinch to help lace up a pair of stays. How much easier to have a built in bodkin, eliminating the bulk of pulling a doubled cord through the eyelet hole.

Pennsylvania Gazette, July 11, 1754

This example of an advertisement shows us how the stay cord was listed for sale, along with other small woven goods such as ferrits (woven tape) and galoon (trim).

Of great interest is that I can find no busks for sale. None, zip, nada Unless my gentle readers can find me one! We know from extant busks that they were often personalized and carved by men for women.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Baby Stays

A new online find, a set of English children's stays, they were described by the dealer as small enough to only fit a baby. These stays have seen wear, they are not pristine and they are not fancy. Simple brown (unbleached) linen comprises the layers, both fashion fabric and inner layers. They are 16.5 inches wide and only 7 inches long at center back (the longest point). They are mounted on a baby mannequin.

The white patch is an old paper label, not a part of the stays.

Knowing that Center Back is 7 inches and we deduct one and a half inches for the protruding tab, the body of the stays at center back is only 5.5 inches long. There are two bones at Center Back, two slanted bones at Side Fronts and two bones at Center Front. The back shows the typical configuration of eyelet holes for spiral lacing.

The stitching channels shown here are not fully boned.

The top binding appears to be linen tape or folded linen fabric. It would be practical to have the entire garment washable!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A New Auction Find

Blue linen stays, bound in white kid and white kid along seam lines. According to the auction house they are American in provenance. The very pale shade of blue is interesting, since up until now I have only seen a deep indigo or logwood shade of blue used on stays. This is a much less intense shade. The lining is obviously missing, but another nice example to add to the database.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

1780s Stays (Italian?)

This set of stays is from an Italian collector of clothing from many time periods. Follow the link and you will see a number of items of interest from the 18th century onwards. These are some of the best photographs that I have seen online of an 1780s style pair of stays.
The back is not laced properly, but you can still see the offset lacing holes and the very high back of this style of stays. She is an Italian collector, but we can't assume that these are Italian, but we can probably assume they are European.

This side view gives a really good look at how those slanted channels and curved side seams shape the body. What you don't see is how narrow these boning channels actually are, having looked at many similar, I would estimate that the bones are no more than 5mm and could actually be less. Once again in this time period the outer fashion fabric is a plain shade of beige/brown cotton. The leather binding of the stays is now being replaced by linen or cotton tape. The fingers/tabs are more tooth like and less rounded than in earlier stays.

The partial front lacing allows for some accommodation to round out the shape. There are two sets of lacing holes, one to actually draw in the stays and another for a decorative ribbon. The front is very narrow with the boning pattern drawing the bust in and the shoulder straps providing support. This is a very nice pair of later stays.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Eyes Have it!

A new toy in my sewing box made me take a fresh approach to looking at eyelets as found in 18th century original stays.

This toy was purchased at Home Depot, a micrometer. Never knew I needed one, but don't know how I did research with out it! This handy gadget measures the smallest amount, in either inches or mm, and gives new meaning to stitch counter, now I can count the width of a thread and each individual stitch, accurately. Under $30.00, a must have for the totally crazed.

So armed with my new toy, and a camera with a good macro lens, off to the stays!

This first image is a close up of the eyelet, taken from the right side of the stays, these stays are 3rd Quarter 18thc. ( to be clear, these images are taken from original stays, not reproductions).


Entire Eyelet-Edge to Edge 8.40mm
Eyelet Opening:3.80mm
Whipped Edge: 2.30mm
Thread: 0.34mm, unbleached linen
Stays Fabric: unbleached linen

It is visible in this enlarged image that the threads are doubled as they are whipped around the eyelet hole, it is also very visible that the hole opening is whipped and that the buttonhole stitch is not used.

Comparing Threads

Now that I have a base line width of the thread used to make this eyelet, I went to my stash of linen threads to find a close match.

These are the threads from left to right, I did not bother to measure my fine linen threads, as only the thicker ones came close to the original threads.

Halfbleached: 0.20mm
Unbleached: 0.23mm
Bleached (ball): 0.35 mm Winner!!!!

In the past I have often used all three of the these threads for making eyelets, and they all make a nice eyelet, but it looks like the 0.35 is going to be the go to thread, which I have in bleached and unbleached.

Just for fun I will make a series of eyelets using all three threads and try to approximate the original eyelet. Next post..

Friday, June 10, 2011

Money in the Bank

Often found in early newspapers of the 18th century are articles of interest printed in London and then reprinted here in the colonies. A little slower than the internet, but an effective way to keep up with world events, politics, news of note, and gossip.

Mary Hammond, a widow of a bankrupt man, pleaded poverty up until the end of her life. She left instructions that her stays and shoes were to be thrown into a ditch upon her death. A suspicious heir- in- law, decided to investigate and upon splitting open the stays found money and notes to the value of 1300 l. as well as a quantity of silver and gold coins.

As a personal item, with connotations of intimacy, the stays were obviously not handled by anyone else in the household as the sheer weight of gold and silver coins would have revealed that the stays were being used as a safety deposit box, hiding assets from creditors as well as family members.

From the London Magazine for July 1737 and reprinted in the Boston Gazette, September 26, 1737.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Book on the Block: Stays and Body Image in London

Just arrived from Amazon, the much anticipated book by Lynn Sorge on stays and staymaking in London, . This book is a scholarly work representing the years of research done by Lynn toward her doctorate at Oxford Brookes University. Not a picture book or how to book, Lynn examines topics such as the stays trade and supply, consumption by class and gender, and body image .

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Medium Rare

Fourth Quarter Stays with Sewn Tabs

Just when you think something is rare, seldom seen, one of a kind, not thick on the ground!

These stays were listed at auction on Ebay (May, 2011), and the fact that the tabs are sewn shut and not meant to splay out over the hips seemed unusual and possibly the feature of a pair of transitional stays. It appears that the staymaker was coming late to the party and trying to adapt his old tried and true patterns to the new style. These had to be one of a kind. Linen with leather binding.


These stays were listed at the Karen Augusta Auction in March, 2011.

At first I thought the Ebay pair was a reselling of the pair from the Augusta Auction. The same brown linen and sewn down tabs. But the decorative stay tape is not the same and the binding of these linen stays is plain woven linen tape. Linen tape appears much less frequently than leather binding and more often in stays of a later date (4th qtr, 18th Century). So now there are two.

or three!

These stays from the Brooklyn Museum, now held at the Met in NYC, also has the tabs completely sewn down and in this view, the rising waistline of the changing gown style is pretty visible. The olive green linen worsted suggests the possibility that these stays were remodeled from an earlier pair. Green worsted was a popular covering for stays of the 3rd qtr. Worsted is less frequently found in the fashionable 1780s stays, where brown linen and cotton predominate as fashion fabrics.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Somethings Borrrowed and Somethings New

This past year has brought many changes and while making stays and researching stays has been ongoing, blogging has lagged behind. Will try and catch up with some new images and information.

Three new pages have been created, the first is the documentation of the process of recreating a pair of 17th century stays for an exhibit at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Yellow silk covered stays, c 1670.

The other is a page devoted to capturing images from online auctions of stays, which once purchased are lost to researchers.

These stays were at auction on Ebay.

The third new page is a listing of online images of original stays in museum collections.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Unusual Pair of Stays

For sale on ebay this pair of brown linen stays is unusual in many respects. The front opening stays do not have staggered holes for lacing, suggesting this pair laced over a stomacher in criss cross fashion, and not using a spiral lacing technique. The lining of the stays is missing and there are no tabs to splay out over the hips, suggesting a later date when stays followed the fashion of the rising waistline. Also unusual is the fact that these stays are of only three pieces and the boning of the stays makes no accommodation for the curves of the body and are straight up and down, suggesting use by a child or a slight young woman.

The full view of these stays shows the unusually high back and the odd shaping at the bottom of the center back. The dimensions of the stays are given by the seller as Front 13 1/2 inches long, Sides 11 inches long, Back 14 3/8 inches and a total of 30 inches around the top. Also odd are the abruptly angled cutouts for the armscye.

The stays are made of a very typical nutty golden brown linen, and are also bound with the typical white leather. They appear to follow many of the stay making conventions and yet appear to be somewhat primitive in design and execution. Many of the unusual features of these stays could be attributed to alterations, such as the lack of tabs, or the stays are transitional in nature between the more shaped 3rd Qtr 18th century stays and the less structured last decade of the 18th century. It would be interesting to examine these stays more closely for further information.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Costume Society of Great Britain. “Strata of Society”. Norwich, 1973.

Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. “The History of Underclothes”. London: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1981.

Doyle, Robert. “Waisted Efforts: An Illustrated Guide to Corset Making”. Sartorial Press Publications, 1997.

Koda, Harold. “Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed”. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001.

Salen, Jill. "Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques". Costume and Fashion Press, 2007.

Sorge-English, Lynn. “’29 Doz and 11 Best Cutt Bone”: The Trade in Whalebone and Stays in 18th Century London”. Pasold Textile History 36 (I) (2005) 20-45.

Steele, Valerie. “The Corset: A Cultural History”. Yale University Press, 2003.

Waugh, Norah. “Corsets and Crinolines”. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1970.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wove Stays

This advertisement for "wove" stays is of great interest. This female staymaker has wove stays in stock, and also has imported patented stay cloth for those wishing to have custom stays made in Newport. The advantage of wove stays as advertised is that the stays will wash and look as "fresh as when new". Certainly an advantage over stays that cannot be washed, having not seen or heard of "wove" stays prior to finding this advertisement, more research to follow. Gentle readers, if anyone has encountered such an item as "wove" stays please let this blogger know!

Boston Gazette, 10 August, 1767

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sullteens and Holhipt Stays

Here is a staymaker announcing that he makes childrens stays, coats (a child's boned gown), Sullteens (another child's article?), Holhipt Stays in the newest fashion (are these also for children?). Two terms that need more research, but to the customers of Mr. Clarke, terms needing no explanation.

July 7, 1760 New York Mercury

Inside Up Close

In this image, you are looking at the front section (proper right) and the joining of the next section to it of the Child's Stays. There are four different fabrics in this image, the white linen on the inside of the front sections, the nutty brown fashion fabric from the right side of the stays (turned to the inside), coarse linen buckram and another brown linen of a different weave to the right of the front section, acting as a re-enforcing strip. You can see the back side of the boning channels which were sewn with a back stitch and linen thread . Notice that the linen thread used to sew the seam allowance to the stay sections is of another quality and is used doubled, very commonly found in adult women's stays.

Rousing a Brother Sportsman

This colorful print shows us a gentleman being called to hounds first thing in the morning, one slipper on and one off! His lady still laby abed wearing her nightcap and shift/nightgown with her stays discarded on the chair, note again the stays are depicted as a light white/cream color and are showing the roundness of the body.

Still on the Inside

This image gives a good view of the interior linen strip re-enforcements and also the holes for lacing on the Child's Stays. Notice that the eyelets holes are offset, just as in an adult's pair (two close to the top on the proper left and two close to the bottom on the proper right). The eyelet holes appear rather large and could have been made using an awl or a punch. Of interest is how coarse and quick the stitching is holding down the seam allowances to the interior of the stays.

On the Inside Looking at Tabs

Continuing to look at the Child's Stays from the inside, the tabs are lined individually in white leather and both the bottom and top of the stays are bound in white leather. This is very typical, lining each tab individually allows for movement of the tabs to spread out over the hips, and while these tabs are really not necessary (children do not have have hips to spread over) the technique used in adult stays is mirrored in this child's pair.

The Inside

The lining of the Child's Stays from the previous posting is fortunately for the purpose of study missing. This allows us to view the interior and offers a great deal of information about how these stays were made.

There are four sections to each side of the stays, left and right, for a total of eight sections. A combination of white and brown linen were used for the interior and a nutty brown linen for the exterior. These stays are made with the same care and techniques as an adult's pair.

The stays are boned in whale fin, which is visible under the worn white linen at the center front sections and it appears that every channel is filled.

There is a layer of additional white linen strips re-enforcing the top interior of the stays and also a layer of brown linen strips laid in above the tabs, these additional strips of fabric provide additional strength, uniting all the sections. A piece of very coarse linen buckram lines the bottom half of the front sections of the stays, adding firmness and strength to the center sections.

The seam allowances of the 8 sections are turned to the inside (wrong) side of the stays and whipped down to the stay sections. The whipping is done with doubled linen thread and very large stitches, not a pretty sight, but they do the job.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Original Child's Stays

An original pair of child's stays from a Connectictut estate sold on Ebay. The stays measure 8 and 1/2 inches in length at center front and 9 and 1/2 inches at center back. The width of the stays is 19 inches. A current industry standard for children's clothing has a two year old child with a chest and waist of 20 inches and hips of 21 inches, making this set of stays suitable for a very small child.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prices for Stays

Mr Ewen has done this blogger a great service by giving in detail his method of selling and pricing stays. He will make an entire pair of stays for 6 dollars and a quarter or three dollars for the making only (labor) or plain stays without any taby (tabby) or trimmings are 5 dollars or two dollars and three quarters for making only (labor). Childrens stays are priced in proportion to the size of the child, two dollars and half or dollar and a half, labor only would be a dollar and a quarter and up also based on the size of the child. The prices given are those in Newport, Rhode Island and they are in local currency (not English pounds or shillings), which poses a problem to determine what the value of the local Rhode Island dollar held against the British pound.

May 8, 1769 Newport Mercury

Making a House Call

This print based on an early sketch by Hogarth, has the staymaker fitting a client in her home. Her son is looking on with great curiousity as another child is busily pouring a drink into fathers hat. He is lounging in banyan and cap while playing with the baby. The client is very interested in the fit of her stays and has her maidservant holding a mirror so she can check the fit of the back.

First Staymaker in Providence

Mr Mahon is the first staymaker "contiguous" to the ladies in Providence, Rhode Island. Of surprise to this blogger is that the date of this advertisement is 1772. Up until that time the ladies must have been relying on Newport, Rhode Island or Boston, Massachusetts for their custom stay making needs.

January 4, 1772, Providence Gazette

Children's Sizes

Mr. McQueen while a stay maker himself is also importing stays from London to be sold in New York. He frequently offers in his advertisements children's packthread stays, in this posting he also details the sizing of the stays. "first, second and third size Packthread Stays". Could one assume the terms small, medium and large would apply? Also unknown to this blogger is the term "cushcats (sp) for Ladies Morning dress".

April 29, 1765 New York Gazette

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Red Calico Lining

Mr. Douchardy of Trenton, New Jersey, is advertising the loss of a number of garments including a pair of stays lined with red and white Calico. Many linings on surviving stays are blue check linen, plain lightweight linen or plain cotton. These must have been a colorful pair of stays, and the owner must have been fond of red and white as there is a short gown also gone missing of red and white large stamped calico.

August 20, 1764, New York Gazette

Going Out The Window

This print entitled " A Late Scene at Barnet" c 1770, has the typical lover jumping out the window upon discovery. Unknown to this blogger is the significance of the word "Barnet". It could be a manor, town or even be referring to a person but it has some meaning to the 18th century public purchasing this print and could even be a political statement of some sort. Of interest is the set of stays tossed off to the side of the bed on top of the chair. These stays have the decorative cording often seen on stomachers and shoulder straps.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At the Sign of the White Stays

Mr. McQueen can be found on Smith Street, near the Mayor's and his trade sign has a pair of white stays as the visual shop advertisement, with the usual promise that his stays are made in the newest fashion direct from London!

March 17, 1766, New York Gazette