Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Handmade 1780s Stays - The beginning

I recently attended a stay making class taught by Luca Costigliolo at the School of Historical Dress.  I don't think I've properly mentioned them before on my blog, but I am a big fan of their work on researching (and educating students about) historical clothing, and I've attended a few of their classes before.
If you're not already familiar with the School, they're the authors of these three books on 17th century clothing, written in association with the V&A.

When Janet Arnold died, she left her archive of unpublished patterns to the School.  Patterns of Fashion 4 was published posthumously by them, with Jenny Tirimani providing additional material.  The School's intention since then has been to continue publishing books in the Patterns of Fashion series, and a further three books are currently planned.  Excitingly, Patterns of Fashion 5, which is going to concentrate on women's stays and padding from 1600 -1795, is due out this year.  They were all hard at work on it while I was at the School for the course, and it was thrilling to get a sneak preview of a very much anticipated new book!

The course itself was an intensive five days, in which we examined extant stays from the School's collection, were shown primary information from Diderot and Garsault, from which we could extrapolate how the original stay makers might have drafted and constructed their stays at the time, and finally, we all had a go at drafting and starting a pair of stays ourselves.

The drafting system was the most fascinating part for me, as it involved using curved bust and waist lines in the draft in order to get that lovely front dip, rather than the usual straight grid we expect in modern pattern cutting.  I actually found it much more intuitive this way, and am really keen to try my hand at it again before I get too rusty!

I've been enjoying the construction of the stays.  I opted for making them entirely hand sewn, so even when choosing to make them half boned rather than fully, the channels are going to take some time to do.  We actually sandwiched paper between the two layers of linen in our stays (wallpaper lining is a good approximation of the type used in period), and it gives great additional structure to each piece - very useful for half boned!  At this point I've got all my sections cut and tacked, with all the channels marked out in pencil, and I've made a good start on stitching the channels.  I also had a go at whipping one of the side back seams during the class, just so I have that to refer back to later when I get on to the rest of them.

I think this will be a good hand sewing project I can pick up in the evenings and potentially when I'm commuting too.  School of Historical Dress classes always make me feel so enthusiastic for sewing and learning, so I cannot recommend them highly enough in case you're ever able to attend one of their classes yourself.

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