Thursday, December 22, 2011

Regency Stays Part 2

My Mantua Maker stays are nearly done (finally! I did most of the work last spring, then left them unfinished for months!), and they're good enough to post about now.

Overall, I like this pattern - I recommend it with only slight reservations. It fits well and goes together easily, and has thorough instructions. My version is a new printing, so it's even been updated to increase the size of the back (a common complaint on internet reviews). Originally I was going to leave the length, but I did end up reducing it 1" because I'm shortwaisted.

But - the shoulder strap placement drove me NUTS. It's so wide in the back that they dug into the back of my arms, and constantly fell off. I scoured the internet for pics of these stays made up, and every picture I saw has the same issue, so I decided to just go with it - no one else seems to complain, so maybe I should just shut up and deal.

Then I went to see the Fabulous! exhibit at FIDM, and they had a pair of regency stays on display. The straps on these stays were much closer together in the back, but still sat wide at the shoulder and at the front. The shape reminded me of a racer-back tank, though less severe.

I did more internet research of extant stays, and over and over I kept seeing the same thing -
the way these stays from the MFA are displayed show this concept - see how they're narrow in the back and wrap around the shoulder to be wide in the front? Seemed like it would solve the strap-falling-off problem.

So even though my stays were all but finished, I just wouldn't be happy if I didn't try to fix them.
Here's how I tried my new racer-back concept - remember, my stays were basically finished, so I had to get a little creative to attach the new straps. I had even done the binding at the top and had to remove that. ARGHH!!! :)

I put the stays on Beatrice, and tossed last year's Jane Austen Evening dress on top and marked the neckline with pins to use as a guide for how wide to set the straps. 
I kept the shoulder strap on grain, and wrapped it from back to front. It's basically just a rectangle with a little flare at the back seam. The angle of the strap at the seam is the important part to get right.

Shoulder strap trimmed down.

This side view shows how the original strap placement in the Mantua Maker pattern is under my armpit. No wonder they're so uncomfortable!

New strap placement.

Here's the finished version, on my properly padded form - they are much more comfortable, don't fall off as easily, and hopefully are still wide enough for a nice evening neckline! My new straps are slightly too long now because the stays were sitting too low on Beatrice when I "draped" the strap, but oh well. Adding another hole won't make a big difference to these frankensteined straps!

(As previously mentioned, I did choose to do cross-lacing instead of the period-correct spiral lacing at the back. Without a maid, it's just too hard to lace up a spiral-back-lacing corset!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting a little Christmas spirit...

Last weekend we headed out to Chris's office party, and I decided to wear the sparkly white lace dress I recently got from Banana Republic (part of their "Mad Men" line, but it's only vaguely 60's...but I liked it, so moving on.) It's pretty but rather plain in solid white, so I decided to make a bow belt to dress it up. I wanted to look like a present, all wrapped up! I think it worked. :)

I used Tilly's Bow Belt Tutorial to make this - the only change I made was to fold the corners of the belt so that the ends were skinnier behind the bow. If I make another one, I'll miter the corners before sewing, because folding them back is a bit too thick. I was planning to make a hair bow at the same time, but the bow was a little to large for my pin-head. Just need to scale it down a little! So I wore a poinsettia in my hair, instead.

Chris wore a 1930's 3-piece suit to the party - he wears a modern suit every day for work, so he wanted to dress up extra so that the party felt special. I was expecting him to be heckled for wearing weird old clothes ;) but I'm not sure anyone even realized it wasn't modern. Classic styles last forever!
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