1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part One

As much as I was dreading it, I eventually need to make a pair of stays.

I'd previously made a couple of Victorian style corsets, with varying levels of success, but stays are unknown territory to me. This coupled with the fiddly nature of them, and the fact that the rest of the outfit depends on their fit and shape, meant I wasn't looking forward to making them.

I chose the 1780's stays pattern from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, and used Ralph Pink's version (now no longer online) to save me scaling it up.  However much I was dreading making them, thinking about what colours and patterns I wanted was fun.

1780 stays concept image one

From these initial three I loved the one on the left, but I preferred the lighter blue of the middle. So onward I went...

1780 stays concept image two
...and fell in love with #5 in the top right. The colour palette for these were influenced by a certain film we all know and love.

(I wanted to call it the Cupcake Corset but correct terminology thwarted my alliteration.)

I knew from the start that I wanted to use reed. It's period accurate and worked out to be about as expensive as cables ties. I had never ordered reed before, so I hedged my bets on a bundle of Round Reed #6. I could have gone with a smaller size, but I had no way of knowing until i'd seen and handled the reed for myself. Personally I quite like the chunkier look anyway.

I made a mockup without any alterations to the pattern, and to my great surprise, it fit pretty much perfectly! It was also comfortable! A mistake on my part meant I ended up with four boning channels on the centre front, and as a result it was slightly too wide, and the untrimmed reed dug into my armpits. I still wore it for six hours comfortably, and with the correct centre front it will be perfect. I hope.

1780 stays mockup fitting front

1780 stays mockup fitting side

The stays aren't laced at all properly in these photos, and there are no straps, but you can get the general idea.

And so, with a goal in mind I bought a stack of new materials, trying to find the closest matches I could to those in my concept images. In the interests of time I was limited to my local handicraft/sewing supply chain and one other fabric shop, but I was lucky enough to find some lovely pink floral cotton for the lining at half price.

sewing fabric and materials

fashion fabric lining stays materials

Now all I need to do is embroider...and embroider some more...then keep embroidering.

1780 stays embroidery


  1. please keep showing your progress ! I just cut out my fabric from Ikea to start with this pattern ...

    1. Thanks for the comment! I'll be showing all of my progress, there's a big update coming in the next few days :)