Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When 18th century sewing gets too overwhelming...

The short story: There are times when I get frustrated with most of my 18th century sewing because - lets face it - sometimes it can be a bit tiresome... and complicated. So what do you do? Bring out the regency to the rescue!

The long story: I've thought about starting making costumes for other periods than just the usual 1770s/1780s for a long time but never quite got around to do it. It was just recently when I realized I really am the social kind of costume maker and by that I mean that it's very hard for me to finish, or get even started on anything at all that I can't wear to events or with friends. So it's not a coincidence that I'm going to start making very late 18th century/early 19th century costumes now that I've become friends with Noora. It's so nice to have someone to talk about your costumes in real life and even more fun to know that you'll have someone to take your new clothes out with, sooner or later. Conveniently, also Merja started making herself costumes from this period a while ago.

Finally, here's proof of what I've been making...

Transitional stays - yay! And I'm near to finishing, only having the tabs of the other half to bind... Of course I ran out of twill tape just when I was about to finish. *sigh* So now I have to head to town to get some more before I can take more photos of the stays on body.

These stays are made out of just two layers of fabric - cotton for the outside and linen for the lining. 

The pattern is from the book Corsets by Jill Salen, with only a couple of alterations. I replaced the bust gussets with breast cups and narrowed the shoulder straps. Also, I increased the amount of bones from five on each side to eight, based vaguely on the transitional stays from V&A. Another pair of stays that I used for inspiration, mainly for the cups, is from Kent State University Museum. However, the shape of the cups (especially on the top) was heavily influenced by the pair from Met.

You can see the final pattern I made for the breast cups in the photo below. I had to make three mock-ups for it until I got it right. The first two were far too small and honestly, the third one could be just a bit larger but it works anyhow. 

It took me a while to figure out how to construct these stays, as the original in the book is also made out of only two layers of fabric so that you don't bind the stays before adding the lining as it's common. Eventually, I constructed the stays by joining the panels by whip stitching  them together after I had turned the seam allowances in between the outer layer and the lining of each panel. Photos will do much better job explaining than I will.

I admit being lazy and stitching the tape on top of seams and the boning channels by machine. :)

Somehow I managed to mess up while measuring the original pattern because I though it would fit but it turned out to be way too small and I had to slice it in two at the back and add eyelets for lacing. I'm quite sure your stays are not supposed to have lacing at the front as well as at the back but this was just so much quicker a solution than starting the whole thing over from the beginning. 

And since I'm quite sure you're all eager to see how these stays look when worn, I give you these two photos snapped quickly with my phone the last time I tried the stays on. Please ignore that I didn't lace them up properly. Also, I'm wearing my 18th century shift under the stays so you can see I definitely need another with a wider neckline and short sleeves. 

I was aiming to be able to wear these stays for costumes from about 1794 stretching into the 1810s, even though the stays itself date to about 1794-1800. I believe I did a pretty good job getting the suitable shape for that period. Or what do you think?

I'll share the rest of my thoughts in the next post once these stays are completely finished.