Stay Study – Project One

I’ve started a new series, because apparently I don’t have enough things in progress already! This one is a little different from everything i’ve done before, and i’m very excited about it.

I’ve always been sort of fascinated with sets of 17th and 18th century stays and bodies, so much so that last year I bought a first edition copy of “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh. It’s a really amazing reference, and i’ve spent days reading through it and studying patterns and information included.

But up until now I’ve had a few things stopping me from making anything from this book. The first is that the patterns really scare me. Stays can require sewing over two hundred boning channels, and if any of them are misplaced, sewn crookedly, or just a quarter inch off it can ruin the shape and wearability of the garment.

The second is that they require so many techniques that are foreign to me. Stays don’t have seam allowances, they are all hand bound together. They have hand embroidered eyelets, cross cut boning, curved bindings and lot’s of other tricky things I don’t have any experience doing.

And the final thing is that I couldn’t figure out which one to make. I really like, and think I would get use out of a lot of the designs in this book – it’s impossible to pick one!

Last week I sat down and looked through the book again, and realized that I would never magically acquire the proper experiences to make anything from this book. To learn the techniques needed to make a set of stays, I would actually have to make one.

And since I couldn’t just pick one – Why not make a few? Starting with some of the easier designs and building up to a fully boned set of stays.

I’m calling this the “Stay Study” even though two of these projects aren’t technically in that category. These predate that term and would usually be called a pair of bodies, since they were made from two main pieces  (though I have heard them called “Renaissance stays” before).

The goal is to complete four stay-related projects from this book, and I’ll document the process here! I’m going to aim for every other week updates, but I’m making no promises. In the end I just want to learn as much as I can, and i’m not going to rush that!

I’m also not making these in a historically correct way – I’m using plastic boning, twill, and machine sewing my boning channels. If you are  looking for historically accurate recreations, this is NOT the right blog for you!

This is the first project I decided to take on.

DSC_3993I started by scaling the pattern to be full size, then made it a little bit larger. Due to lack of information on these garments (which are talked about significantly less often then regular stays) I wasn’t completely sure how they should fit. I ended up leaving a 1.5″ gap at the front.


Then I marked the boning channels and eyelet holes onto the material I had cut for the lacing panels.

I used a layer of heavy duty twill sandwiched between two layers of muslin.

DSC_3903I sewed over all my markings and trimmed the edges with pinking sheers so they wouldn’t fray.


I embroidered the eyelet holes – which was less challenging then I had expected! I might go back and reinforce these with more thread later on (because I didn’t do that great of a job) but for now they are fine.

I also made a bit of home made half inch bias tape which was sewn around each panel.


Once that was done, they looked like this!


Which meant it was time to move on to the body of the garment. I repeated the process of marking out all the boning channels onto the twill. I also left a one inch “seam” allowance on each side.


I sandwiched the marked panels between muslin.


And sewed around them.


And then the sewing of boning channels began! This wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had thought. You just have to go slow and follow the lines.It’s when I rushed, or got distracted that I made mistakes.


Adding the boning was the most enjoyable part for me. I cut each length and then filed the ends so they weren’t sharp.


I wish I could say these pieces were finished – but they were far from it. Each piece needed to have the edges bound.



Bound edges are done by turning over the seam allowances (twice) and stitching them down. Then the bound edges are stitched together to hold the garment together.

To do this properly I purchased some heavy duty upholstery thread – the cotton thread I usually use would have snapped in an instant!


And this is what the back panel looked like! Four of the edges are bound and two of them are stitched together.


Not the prettiest stitching in the world, but I think I will get better at it.


I repeated this process on the side/front panels as well. Then I added more home made bias tape to the curved edge.


Once that was finished and all the pieces were sewn together it looked like this!


I just had to bind the bottom edge, sew the shoulder seams together,  and sew on the lacing panels.



For the shoulder seams I used a cross stitch. The insides ended up looking really messy, so I sewed a small panel of lining over them.


And I was finished! Overall it has a lot of issues and ugly hand sewn bits, but I learned a ton (which was the point) so I’m happy with it. It’s also a lot more durable and comfortable then I had expected – I honestly have bras that are far more uncomfortable then this.

I did forget to order the right lacing for this, the one i’m using now is too thin and if I pull it tightly i’ll wrisk tearing the eyelets. I’m confident I can lace it in another inch if I had the correct mm of cording.


So that’s that. I think my next project from the book will be the Neuberg bodies, but I may decide to take on the more challenging partially boned stays next, hmm…

Thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “Stay Study – Project One

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Looking at the picture in the book, and several images from other sources it seems this type of bodies closed at the side or at the front. I’m quite certain I have them on the way, but if I don’t then oops! I guess that shows my research abilities.

      The way these fit they really would not work as a back closing garment the way most stays/bodies do.

  1. treaa says:

    I don’t exactly know what a stay is meant to be, but reading your walkthroughs on how you make your pieces teaches me a lot more than what we learn in class! (I definitely agree that patterns are scary to use it’s easy to mess up, but I don’t know how to drape and I don’t know if there are other methods of sewing clothing items so i guess i’m stuck) ^o^

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