04 August 2013

c.1800 Stays

With a fall deadline requiring 1800 apparel, of which I have hardly anything to wear, I'm focusing on all things transitional. Since this era is new to me, I'm starting from the inside out and my latest project focused on transition stays.

I choose this "corset" from The Met to base mine after:

Corset 1790-1810
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number 2006.545

As an exercise to think about how it's constructed, I started "Costume in Detail-style" by sketching.

Rather than start from scratch to make the pattern, I patterned the bodice from a dress that fits me well since the bodice is relatively similar to the original.

I made a muslin mock-up, a few adjustments to the pattern...

...and some fabric from the back of my stash to get started. 

I learned from a mistake that I had made in my shift (not having enough fabric for the stroke gathers) so I cut the fabric for the bust gathers twice as long as the width of one side of the bodice.

  It's a simple garment so it came together really quickly. 

There are a few mistakes and it doesn't fit right--i.e.: the bodice should be longer, the bust is a bit too "French style" for me to feel comfortable wearing in public---but it's super cute!

Here are some detailed photos of the construction...
There's a drawstring at the top of the bust that ties closed. The drawstring below the bust was just for the gathers so it doesn't tie.

I used eyes from a set of small hooks and eyes.

There are eyelets and tape that tie closed at the shoulder. I had trouble hemming the fabric here. The tab is curved and I didn't allow enough seam allowance to easily make that.

It's far from perfect and I need to make another set soon. I have a feeling that finding the right pair of transition stays/early 19th century corset is much like bra shopping: it's necessary to try on a dozen before finding one that fits comfortably. Fortunately this was a fun and quick project. I think starting with the sketch helped minimize road blocks and I'm looking forward to sketching out version two.


  1. How fun, I've been curious to try making this one, but think I might be too curvy for it. How does it hold up when worn?

    1. I've only tried it on at home, but I found that it curls up a bit on the sides/belly. In my next draft, I'm going to use a stiffer fabric and make it two layers so it's more sturdy--and make it longer so it goes over the hips.

  2. Amazing that you picked this piece of underwear. I have often visited the Met site zooming the garment in and out, trying to figure out how it was constructed. I also wonder how the curators have managed to date this in a timeline - it's so highly unusual and I don't know a similar piece. The bust line reminds me a bit of this fashion print, yet there are still lots of differences: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51592109@N08/4841510589/in/set-72157624611694164
    I'm looking forward to hearing how your second draft will turn out and how comfy it sits when wearing it for a whole day. Thanks very much for your detailed construction pictures and explanations.

    1. Thanks for sharing that example, it's so pretty!

    2. I've seen an almost identical one at Augusta Auctions, where you get more detailed pictures; http://www.augusta-auction.com/component/auctions/?view=lot&id=8807&auction_file_id=10

    3. Or is it the same one, perhaps? The Augusta Auctions one was sold in 2006, and the Met accuired their in 2006....

    4. Sarah, you have great sleuthing skills! I think you're right that The Met must have bought it from August Auctions in '06. The AA photos are really helpful, I noticed there are a few areas where I need to make adjustments. Thanks for sharing this link!


Your feedback is appreciated. :)