First off, hello, hi, I’m El, nice to meet you, you probably don’t know this but I’ve been putting off making this tutorial since the summer of 2017. Yeah. I have the illustrative pictures, I’ve worn the stays, I just. Haven’t written this until now. Welcome to my life.
So, let’s get into it!! (Note: if you want to skip my hilarious exposition and rambling, skip to the ***)
The reason I wanted to make 18th century stays (and the cause of my headfirst tumble into historical fashion) is the musical Hamilton. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past three-four years, you’ve probably heard of it. If you have–well, first, are you okay, and second, it’s a hip-hop/rap musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, created by Lin Manuel Miranda, whom I would lay my life down for.
After listening (and not seeing it because I don’t bleed money), I, of course, forced my friends to listen too, an action that has made many cry, thank me, curse me, and become altogether too obsessed.
(Don’t worry, this happens a lot with Drama Club kids, they’ve done the same to me.)
So my friend Sophie, my first victim, brings up the idea of being the Schuyler Sisters with me and our friend Erin for Halloween.
Our response was “Hell yes,” quickly followed by my “I’m going to MAKE my costume” because I’m just Like This as a person.
As a person I also like to obsessively research.
So, first came reference pictures. Then came sketches to get the general idea of shape, and then I read all of Viscountess’s “Eliza Schuyler Adventures” tag on tumblr, and the references to panniers in one of her posts lead me to another google search, which brought me to “The Dreamstress” (go check out her blog, sometimes I cry because its 3 AM and I’m binge-reading her amazing posts and I just get really emotional about historical fashion, okay???). Leimomi’s blog was really my first dip into historical fashion, and I’m really glad it was, because her posts are informative and helpful, and her blog is usually the first I turn to when I’m looking for historical fashion information and advice. I read through her posts on corsets because I really wanted to get the right shaping, and I was increasingly interested in making my costume as historically accurate as possible. “Terminology: What’s the difference between stays, jumps & a corset” was particularly informative for my research, and that lead me into looking for stay patterns so I could make my own.
Things to glean from this: I like research way too much for it to be healthy, and this is just Who I Am as a person.
Anyway, I picked up Simplicity 8162 from Joann’s to make my stays and chemise, which made my mom freak because she loves the show Outlander
and wants Jamie Fraser to seduce her.
Okay, most of my rambling exposition is over, so for those of you that skipped it (I really don’t blame you), the pattern I used for my stays is Simplicity 8162.
Simplicity 8162 was designed by the wonderful ladies over at American Duchess. Their other patterns for Simplicity include two other Outlander-inspired patterns, 8161 and 8411 (the first of which is historically accurate, the second of which is as much as the original show’s design will allow), and two other 18th century patterns, 8579 and 8578. You can find their recently-released book here, and they also sell historically accurate shoes from many different time periods here.
Sorry for so many links, but credit where credit is due, and their blog is another incredible resource and the patterns of theirs that I own are wonderful.
Onto the actual tutorial part! I’ll skip the sizing run through but you should know if you’ve made corsets from Big 4 patterns before that they tend to not include the necessary negative ease and that means you will need to go down a few sizes to get proper fit. THIS IS NOT THE CASE HERE. You want to cut the size that you measure as, since this pattern is made competently and with an understanding of stays and corsets.
I measure at a size 16, so that’s what I went with.
Now, what I like to do is, instead of cutting the pattern tissue, I unfold it and lay a see-through plastic sheet over it (such as a cheap tablecloth), and trace the pattern pieces onto that. Remember to transfer pattern markings such as arrows, grain lines, dots, etc.
My pattern pieces are undamaged, the tissue folds up nicely and fits back in the pattern envelope, and I find it easier to merge sizes this way.
As you can see from the photo, there are five pieces you will need to trace. The front, the back, the side back and side front, and the strap.
You’ll need your fabric(s) now. I decided to use more than one, and used this for the front and back panels:
Fun fact: this is actually an old shirt of my mom’s. The print is wonderful! The shape of the shirt, however? Not so much.
For the side front and back panels I used a plain black cotton. For the middle strength layer, I used a thick bedsheet I got from the thrift store.
Pin your pattern pieces to your fashion fabrics!
See? All pinned (tip: pin parallel to the lines when cutting pattern pieces, and perpendicular to them when sewing).
Next, cut those pieces out along the pattern lines (Don’t worry, seam allowance is already included).
You could probably just use your plastic pattern pieces to cut out your strength layer, but I ironed out my fabric pieces, pinned them onto my strength, and cut around them because I wanted to make sure they were exactly the same shape.
Should you follow my example and create more work for yourself? Probably not, but that’s just Who I Am as a person!
Look! All of them all cut out! Since no one will see the strength layer when you’re done, you can mark the absolute shit out of it.
Featured: my little sister’s washable markers,
stolen borrowed for this endeavor.
Use your own markers, color-coded or not, to mark out your boning channels. A quilter’s ruler will be helpful, but you can probably do without one too if you’re careful. If you follow the instructions included with the pattern (which you should), you’ll be using industrial cable ties for boning. The ones I’m using are ¼” wide and decently thick, so I drew my lines ⅜” apart.
And if you decide on another boning: DO NOT USE STEEL. You do not want fully boned (or even half boned) stays done fully in steel. They will be heavy. Very heavy, and I’ve heard it said they’re not as comfortable. Reed and whalebone are period-accurate boning materials. You should be able to find reed easy enough, but please leave the whales alone. They’ve been through enough. Unless you’re using reclaimed materials from an old corset, you probably won’t legally be able to bone your stays in whalebone. German plastic boning is the modern alternative, but it can get quite pricey. This is why I definitely recommend you follow American Duchess’s advice and use industrial-grade cable/zip ties.
Look at all the pretty colors! I used purple to mark seam allowances and eyelet/grommet areas. Red was used for the areas that will be boned, and I colored in the empty areas. Now, the pattern provides a perfectly satisfactory boning pattern for half-boned stays, but I wanted fully-boned ones
because I’m extra like that. I followed Lauren of American Duchess’s pattern hack on how to redraw the boning pattern, and came out with this. Since I’m quite busty, I also followed her advice to create a “pocket” with horizontal boning for extra support.
(You can find video tutorials of all the Outlander pattern hacks at this YouTube playlist here.)
After you have all your lines drawn in, you’ll want to sew along all of them. Yes. All of them. I know there are a lot. I’m sorry. I feel you. You have no one but yourself and me to blame. Now sew.
(Also holy hell can we talk about that dramatic lighting? Why didn’t I notice this when I was taking it??)
This next part I don’t have pictures of because I was too tired to think of taking them. Listen, when I get into a project, sleep doesn’t happen nearly early enough.
Anyway, you’ll want to take your industrial-strength zip ties, measure a boning channel, cut the zip tie slightly smaller than it (You can use any decent-strength scissors you don’t care about. Do NOT use your good fabric scissors, for the love of all that is holy. I also hear dog nail clippers work well).
You’ll then want to sand the edges of the bone down so it’s smooth. Do not skip this part. You will regret it if sharp plastic is poking at you when you’re wearing your stays!!
Then, slide the bones in! They should fit snugly, but you don’t want the channels to be so tight that it’s extremely difficult to get them in.
Repeat this step for every boning channel. Yes, I know you hate me. I’m sorry.
Now, I bent my own rule slightly when making my stays, because I was worried about the cable ties warping when laced tightly. This was probably nothing to worry about, but still, I took a roll of spring steel boning and cut pieces for either side of each lacing channel, to be slid in along with the cable ties. If you want to do this, read on for how I cut and tipped the steel bones. If not, just scroll past it.
So, here’s my roll. I measured how long I needed the bone to be, marked it with a sharpie, and took to it with my pliers.
I cut along the flat line, then I turned the bones and cut into the edges, then I bent the steel back and forth until it snapped off. Sounds a bit weird but it works!
(Ignore the busk in the background, that was for a commission.)
Now, for tipping the bones. There’s definitely a joke and some eyebrow waggling in there somewhere but its like 2 AM and I’ve been typing for at least an hour and a half so you’re not getting it unless I go back later and edit one in.
Anyway, for this project I used liquid electrical tape to tip the bones.
It looks like this:
You can find this at your local hardware store. It’s waterproof and dries kind of soft, so it’s a good option for tipping bones.
You open it up, either brush the liquid on the end of your bone or dip it in (I like to dip it in personally), and then lay the bones down to dry–I lay them down on plastic sheeting because they don’t stick to it. It’ll take around a day or two to dry, depending on how thick the coat was.
Another way I like to tip bones that’s probably easier is to wrap it in electrical or medical tape then seal the edges of the tape down with nail polish.
OKAY STOP SCROLLING IF YOU WANTED TO SKIP THE STEEL BONING PARTS.
After that short optional interlude, here we are. When all of your bones are inserted into their channels, sew your pieces together! Remember to not sew the two backs or the two fronts to each other unless you’re aiming to only lace up on one side.
While you’re at it, you’ll want to cut out the straps in your lining fabric (should be all natural, like cotton, to allow your skin to breath), and flatline them to your fashion fabric straps, then sew the straps onto the stays.
After everything is sewn, get out your iron and ironing board, and heat that sucker up!
Look at how nice and wrinkle-free those seam allowances are. Makes me want to cry.
Now, clip those suckers!!
WHIP-STITCH TIME! Take your good old-fashioned needle and thread and whip-stitch the seam allowances down. This reduces bulk and keeps things nice and tidy. Why is sewing the only area of my life that I make look neat and presentable? The world may never know!!!!!!!!!
At this point, it’ll start to feel like you’re so close to being done you can almost taste it. Hold on to that feeling.
Now, you’ll want to take your plastic pattern pieces and use them to cut out the rest of your pieces in your lining fabric.
(Remember to mark your pieces as needed.)
Pin your lining pieces together and sew.
You should have two linings now, one for each side of your stays. Iron the seam allowances flat and pin them to the corresponding sides of your stays, wrong sides together.
Next comes the fun part.
That was sarcasm!!!! Next comes the part that makes you want to fucking die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That’s right, fuckers. Binding.
You can either buy premade binding or make your own using strips of fabric. I opted for the latter and used another set of bedsheets from the thrift store to make the contrast binding.
Here is a tutorial the Dreamstress made on making your own bias binding (Have I mentioned that I love her? Because it should be obvious by now).
You may be thinking that this doesn’t seem as hard as I’ve implied. Think again, honey, because you’ll be sewing all this by hand.
This is non-negotiable unless you want to try and fail to get a clean finish on binding the tabs with a machine. You will not accomplish this. Trust me. Take out your needle and matching thread and get ready, your fingers are about to fucking despise you.
Now, unfold the binding. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’ll make for a cleaner finish.
Pin, right sides together.
Knot your thread, and hand sew (with a running stitch, a straight stitch, back stitch, whatever) along the first fold line (first from the edge of the pinned fabrics.
The horror of the tabs: an illustratration.
Then, fold the binding over the raw edges, and tuck the binding’s edge under on the other side. Pin.
Pin a lot.
On this side, I whip-stitched the binding down. I find it works well and gives a flat finish. Doesn’t look too bad either.
Cry but in a good way when you finish the bottom.
This looks a tiny bit messy, but it works fine and looks good on the outside. You may find that, like me, the corners required you to fold the fabric diagonally. That’s fine, don’t worry. Also, make sure you fold the edges of the binding under at the ends so no raw edges are showing.
Do this for both the top and bottom of one side.
Cry, but, like, in a good way.
But also think about repeating that on the other side and cry in a bad way.
Side note: before you bind the top, whip-stitch the edge of the lining down where it meets the strap.
Yeah like that.
Do the binding for the bottom of your other side.
Cry when you finish that and take pictures of the finished bottoms.
Yeah like that.
Repeat the pinning.
Victory is so close you can taste it.
When I was taking this picture I just kept repeating “So fucking close, so fucking close,” to myself, over and over and over again.
FINISH THE BINDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FEEL LIKE GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IF YOU CAN DO THIS, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, onto the last part: Grommets.
I used the Dritz brand with a ¼” inside diameter. I was looking for grommets and these were the only brand available at the craft store. They’re really good, but way more expensive than when buying different brands online.
Anyway, make sure you’ve marked out your grommet placing correctly. I say this because I accidentally didn’t copy one placement on the front when I was tracing my plastic pattern, and I had to go back and add it when I realized my mistake.
So, I used a thick needle and then a nail to make a small hole at the placement. Then, I took one of my knitting needles and widened the hole, then repeated that with a slightly bigger knitting needle until I had a big enough hole.
The grommet side (with the longer shank) is inserted from the fashion fabric side, then it is covered by the washer side.
You want this to be on top of the bottom part of the setting thing, with the grommet fitted snugly in its little indent.
Fit the top of the setting thing in the grommet hole.
Once it’s set in, you can stop hammering.
Cry because it’s almost done.
Repeat on the other side.
When it’s done, you can then lace up the back. I like to keep my back lacing at about a 2” gap.
Shortly after this I realized the front didn’t match the pattern picture in terms of grommet numbers. I then checked the pattern, realized my mistake, and added the missing grommets.
Pull your stays on after a short bout of crying because you’re finally done.
These were taken right after I finished making them, but before I had made my chemise, so excuse the pajama pants and tank top.
I used spiral lacing, but I fucked up in the back. I have since re-laced the back so it’s not sitting so uneven, rest assured.
And then here’s a picture after finishing my chemise!!
I do love these stays. They’re comfortable, they lift my “assets” quite a bit, and they look fucking great, if I do say so myself.
I will say that they’re a bit short, so I’ll be making a longer pair for earlier 18th century attire.
Honestly, I’m pretty damn proud of these. I put my blood, sweat, and tears into them, and I think it shows.
A post on my Eliza costume and the Angelica costume I made for my friend Erin will be made eventually, and I’ll link that here when it’s up. Well, it’s almost 4 AM as I get ready to schedule this post for tomorrow, so I think I should stop rambling for now.
Anyway, tell me what you think! Is there anything I neglected to mention in this tutorial/sew-along? Anything you’d like clarification on? Patterns you may want me to write about in the future? I appreciate any and all feedback.
Thank you so much for reading! ❤