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Full size downloadable patterns for late 17th century stays (corsets) based on two extant English examples. View A, based on the stays in the Museum of London are fully-boned, five piece stays featuring an optional front busk, integral shoulder straps, back laced closure, and integral tabs at the waist. View B, based on the stays in the Victoria and Albert Museum, features a front opening, stomacher, integral waist tabs and optional sleeves. Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All sizes included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.
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plain or twill weave linen or silk
lightweight silk or fine linen for lining
5oz. linen for interlining
Outer Material 1 yd at least 45" wide
lining 1 yd at least 45" wide
interlining 2 yds at least 45" wide
sleeves (optional) 2 yds at least 45" wide
7mm or ¼" half oval or round reeds or ¼" corset boning
silk ribbon, cloth tape or leather for binding
wood or horn busk
ribbon or metalic braid trim to taste
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Since the 1660s, stays and bodiced gowns without their skirts were practically synonymous. Except for a place to attach sleeves and skirts, stays and bodiced gown linings are the same in construction. One would think stays went into dormancy while the bodiced gown made them unnecessary. Yet throughout this period, stays are still being worn in undress, casually with just a simple oriental robe or wrapper thrown over them. When the mantua became acceptable for wear outside the house, the bodiced gown saw its last days and stays came out of the wardrobe again.
The biggest distinguishing mark of the Stays from this period is the width of the neckline. Stays tend to have shoulder straps designed to draw the arms back into the proper fashionable position. These shoulder straps run around the outside of the arms, off the point of the shoulder. By the 18th century, they will cross that point again and return to the shoulders.
Stays could be closed center front or center back. Center back closures drew closed. However, front closures usually included a stomacher over which the stays were laced. This stomacher and even its lacing were designed to be seen. With the open-front style of the new mantuas in the 1690s, seeing this detail would have been desirable.
There are three notable stays survivals in museums in the UK. The first is in the collection of the Museum of London (accession number A6855) and pictured at right. This set of stays dates to 1670 or 1680. They are back closing and closely resemble stays of the mid-to late 18th century. The front of the stays are blue-green figured silk with a small straw-coloured woven pattern. Almost to indicate that they were not meant to be seen, the sides and back of these stays are dark blue wool, woven with a darker blue patterned stripe. The stays are lined with linen and the shoulder straps are tied with silk ribbons.
A set of pink watered silk stays are accession number T.14&A-1951 in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Backed with linen, stitched with pink silk thread and boned with narrow strips of whalebone (baleen), these front-closing stays with matching stomacher are a delight to behold. Matching tafetta sleeves and unboned gores set in between the tabs give the impression that this set of stays could be worn as an undergarment or as the bodice to a gown. Pink silk grosgrain ribbons with tinned iron points bind the edges, decorate the seams, and complete the look. Beautiful detailed close-ups of these stays can be found in Hart and North’s book, listed in the bibliography.
The third set of surviving stays from this period are almost identical in construction to the V&A example listed above. The most dramatic difference is that they do not have sleeves and the back tabs are not filled in with gores (though the fronts are). These stays are red satin trimmed with blue ribbon and the boning channels and thread eyelets stitched in blue silk thread for a lovely contrast. Unlike the V&A stays, the same blue ribbon does not adorn the seams of this set of stays. Instead the seams are trimmed with metallic gold braid in a rather gaudy contrast.
They are housed in the Gallery of Costume in Manchester (accession number 2003.109/2). They carry a date of 1620-1640, but they are undoubtedly contemporary with the V&A stays.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c1660-1860. 1964: Macmillian Publishers Ltd., London.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. 1972: Plays, Boston.
Halls, Zillah. Women’s Costumes 1600-1750. 1969: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.
Hart, Avril and Susan North. Fashion in Detail. 1998: Rizzoli International Publications, New York.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
Waugh, Norah. Corsets and Crinolines. 1954: Routledge, New York.
Waugh, Norah. Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. 1964: Routledge, New York.
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This information © 2006 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History