Historical Sew Monthly Challenge 1: Foundations

In which Bron finds the challenge in ‘challenge’ . . .

When the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge 2015, hosted by Leimomi aka The Dreamstress, was announced in December, I was very pleased to see that Challenge 1 is Foundations. I’ve been working on new stays to replace the short stays I made last year. The short stays didn’t have enough support for my gravity-challenged ‘girls’, and I wanted stays that would encourage more of me to ‘stay’ in a fashionable Regency shape. But I also need them to be easy to get on and off, and not panic-attack-inducing trying to pull on over my head.

The Utrecht wrap stays documented by the amazing Sabine at her brilliant blog Kleidung um 1800 seemed to be a solution . . . if I could make them to fit my short, too-plump, short-waisted shape.

My niece Lauren came to visit just after Christmas and as she’s going to the Jane Austen Festival as well, we used Sabine’s pattern, adjusted it for Lauren’s measurements, and it’s worked wonderfully for her fit, youthful figure.

After Lauren went home, I did a couple of basic mock-ups for me, and notwithstanding the difficulties of trying to fit a mock-up on oneself, by oneself, without the aid of a mirror, I thought it would be okay. . .

Three layers, boning and finishing later, it wasn’t:
Too-big short stays - front Ill-fitting short stays - side Ill-fitting stays, back view

I’d put two strips of boning at the centre front because I didn’t have a busk, but that wasn’t strong enough. Replacing it with a paint-stirrer busk did improve things a little, pulling the cups closer in. But still there’s so much wrong with it – the huge gaping in the back is the main issue, but there’s also not enough depth in the armholes. Please note that this is not the fault of the pattern or of Sabine’s instructions; I totally redrew the pattern to my measurements and didn’t have anyone help me fit it, so the problems are mine!

The design of these stays is ingenious, with the back and straps cut all in one piece so that the back is on the bias. Theoretically, that should give a better fit. In looking at the fitting issues with mine, though, I’m leaning towards the view that the design may be much better suited to women with a longer torso and a defined waist – neither of which I have. I’d be very interested in opinions from others who have tried the stays.

I could do more stuffing around and try to fit them to me better . . . but I’ve got too much to do in the next couple of months so I’ve decided that’s not the best use of my time just now. If they fit any of the other ladies in my JAFA group, then great – they’ll have a new set of stays!

With not a lot of time before JAFA and at least 4 dresses to sew (not to mention a novella to finish and a book to get solidly underway!), I decided I can make-do with my existing stays with a bra underneath, or just a bra. But I do need a petticoat, and had started cutting one out a while back, so out came those pattern pieces. I put aside the bodice pieces I’d cut because I’d improvised them in a hurry and wasn’t quite sure how they would actually work. I’ve since bought the La Mode Bagatelle Regency Wardrobe pattern, which includes a bodiced petticoat, so I cut out the bodice pieces from that.

I’ve made a few small changes to the pattern – drawstrings to tie at the waist and at the top of the back, making it flexible since I plan to lose some weight. I lightly boned it pretty much as the pattern suggested, although with an extra bone in the side seams.

I am very happy with it. Even worn without stays, it provides support and shape and is very comfortable. So it’s my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly Foundations Challenge!

Regency bodiced petticoat


Pictured here with the short stays I made last year – and the petticoat does give the ‘girls’ more support than just the stays did.

The Challenge: Foundations

Fabric: Quilters Homespun Deluxe from Lincraft

Pattern: Bodiced Petticoat from La Mode Bagatelle

Year: Early 1800s

Notions: Cotton sewing thread; plastic boning; metal boning tips; grosgrain ribbon.

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. It’s all cotton, based on a reportedly period accurate pattern. I know there’s debate about whether bodiced petticoats were boned. It’s machine-sewn (except the hem and waist-band facing) but I used my 1925 Singer treadle sewing machine, so no electricity involved 🙂

Hours to complete: Maybe about 10?

First worn: For photos

Total cost: Approx 4m of fabric @ $3.99AUD/metre = $16AUD; assorted notions from stash.

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