Chemise and Stays

This is the first in a series of posts about my regency/war of 1812 outfit that I am making. All these posts will be tagged "Blue 1812" if want to see them all when I’ve finished posting them. First up is the chemise and stays.


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Crappy picture I know, it’s the best I can do unfortunately! The chemise is extremely simple. I took a rectangle of light linen, about 10 cm to wide on each shoulder and cut out triangles that tapered out to about halfway down the length of the fabric. This narrowed the shoulders to the appropriate width and also provided me with gores to add to the sides. The sleeves, as you can see, have square gussets in the underarms and simple short sleeves. The chemise is entirely hand sewn with linen thread and all seams are finished. The neckline really could be cut a bit squarer I guess but I don’t think I will go back and fix that. There’s a drawstring all the way around the neckline of linen embroidery thread that I doubled up with a drop spindle.

    

Here are some links to other versions of these stays:
http://romantichistoryclothing.blogspot.com/2009/10/1790s-transitional-stays.html
http://www.koshka-the-cat.com/1790s_stays.html
http://ladyofportlandhouse.blogspot.com/2009/09/finished-stays.html

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I particularly liked the commentary from Sarah’s version, the first example above, and used some of her suggestions in my own. I used two lengths of spring steel in the centre front in what became a vain attempt to create the regency separation. What I eventually found happening was that when I bent over the bone pressed horribly into my stomach. They were practically unbearable so today I opened up the binding a bit up top and fiddled around with the bonding. I thought I might shorten them a bit and floss them into place a few centimetres up from the hem. However, what I eventually ended up doing was this:

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I bent the bones a bit to curve over my stomach. This rendered it much more comfortable. Since these stays are intended to be worn with high-waisted things it really doesn’t matter so much what goes on below the waist seam.

These stays are made with lapped seam and are hand sewn with linen thread. There are two layers of medium weight linen everywhere except in the cups. The edges of the cups are neatly tucked away between the two layers making the inside and the outside essentially the same. I did run into one problem with the narrowness of the twill tape I used. On the cups the stitches attaching the twill tape are only 3-4 threads below the cut edge. When strain was applied, as there would be when the straps were attached, the twill tape actually began to pull away. To correct this I applied a flat piece of tape to the inside and sewed across it lengthwise a couple of times including one time across the bottom edge of the binding itself. This was very effective in reinforcing the fabric and, while I haven’t worn them for any long periods of time, I believe it will hold nicely. You should be able to see the extra twill tape in the image below. I’ve increased the contrast a bit.

And one final image will show you that there is no boning in the back unlike the versions above. At least for me, any boning in the back will really serve no purpose. The stays are just not long enough to offer any support with boning. Also to note is that one of the tabs is tucked under in this picture.

In personal news, I still haven’t heard back from either of my potential grad schools but I won’t worry until the end of March. I keep reminding myself that these things take time! In the meantime I’m applying to a bunch of museum and archaeology jobs. I’ll need something to occupy myself for the summer at least, no matter what happens.  Only four weeks left in the term and classes are just starting to wind down. I have final papers to write and last minute club activities to do. Life goes on, no?

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2 thoughts on “Chemise and Stays

  1. I’m so looking forward to seeing this dress! You have no idea. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about squaring off the chemise neckline either, unless you’re going to have a low, very square neckline on your dress and you’re nervous about your under garments sneaking into view. But even then, you’d probably be wearing a fichu so it wouldn’t matter.

    1. I went ahead and squared it off anyway. Some of the stitching popped on the drawstring casing so I wanted to go over the whole thing with a backstitch and I figured I might as well! Next up: drawers and a petticoat!

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