Making Half-Boned Stays, 1776

So I guess this counts as another Stay Study post! But I’ve decided to drop that title since I failed miserably at keeping up with that series. It was supposed to be a study of stay patterns from the book “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh, with the final project being a fully boned set of 18th century stays. But that didn’t happen and I haven’t even mentioned the series for a whole year. Oops!

But this post is about making a set of stays from the book “Corsets and Crinolines”!

I’m making these stays for an 18th century ensemble that I’ve had in the works for the last few weeks. I already posted about making a shift for this project, and this is the next layer! I decided to base my pattern off of the one shown below.


I copied that pattern onto paper and made a few alterations. I added a half inch to the back, and a quarter inch to the front. I also took it in a little at the bust and removed the horizontal bones. I realize those add extra support to the bust but I didn’t think they were necessary for my body shape. After making a mock up I chose to lower the neckline as well.

The alterations were really minor, other than being slightly to small this pattern is pretty much perfect for me.


I traced the pattern onto twill canvas (a cheaper alternative to coutil) and added half inch seam allowance around the outline. I used the twill pieces as a guide to cut out the front layer of fabric, which in this case was lightweight muslin. I added seam allowances to the muslin too, so the muslin layer ended up being a bit larger than the twill layer.

Then I marked all the boning channels with a colored pencil and pinned the layers together.


And it was time to stitch all the boning channels! I used a beige colored thread because I was running out of ivory.


When the boning channels were sewn I went ahead and added the boning. I used a mixture of flat steel bones and plastic boning, with the steel bones placed at the center front, center back, and sides. Only one of the diagonal boning channels has steel in it.

I tipped the metal bones the way I usually do, with athletic tape dipped in nailpolish!



Then the seams were “bound” which means the seam allowance was turned inward and sewn down with a whip stitch. This is why I cut the muslin layer to have larger seams. The muslin can wrap over the twill seam allowance to create a finished edge with less bulk…which sounds very confusing but makes sense during the process!

The finished edges were stitched together with heavy duty upholstery thread.


Here you can see what the bound seams look like on the inside. At this point I trimmed all the edges and covered them with bias tape binding.  I managed to get really smooth curve on the top edge, but I wasn’t so lucky on the lower edge.



The lower edge has tabs. Tabs are horrible things which I hadn’t encountered before. I knew they wouldn’t be fun to finish, but they ended up being way worse than I had expected.

I waited until all the other edges were finished before cutting them out to prevent any fraying.


I pinned and sewed bias tape to the front edge, then turned it under and sewed it to the underside. I gathered all the sharp curves because I figured I could get smooth edges that way. I was wrong!

My biggest problem was not looking at how other people do binding. I realize now that most people use really small binding (a quarter of an inch wide) and mine was twice that width. When the binding is very thin you don’t have to gather it over curves, so looks much smoother.


But I persevered! They don’t look very pretty, but they are functional! At least I’ll know how to do a better job next time.



In the photos above you can see the eyelet holes are marked, which should be a clear hint about the next step! The back edges were turned over and sewn down. Then the eyelets were punched out with grommet pliers, made larger with an awl, and stitched.



And it was time for the final step: lining! The lining was cut using the same pattern. All the edges got turned over and pinned down at once. Usually I try to attach my lining in sections to avoid having a million pins in a garment at once, but this time it was unavoidable.


But I managed to stitch it down without pricking myself to much. Okay, that is a lie. I pricked myself a lot. But I didn’t get any blood on the stays!


So that’s it! They are done! I’m pretty happy with these because they actually fit. My last two attempts at making stays ended up in the trash – one was uneven and too long in the waist, the other was too big and never got finished. So this being functional is a huge improvement haha.

And even though they aren’t the prettiest thing in the world, all the things I don’t like about them can be resolved if I make another set. So I feel like I learned a lot!


Here they are worn – I took these kind of quickly and didn’t end up with a front on shot, which is dumb. But there will be more photos taken of these at some point, i’m sure.



There are about four inches open in the back when laced to the point where they are supportive. Which is perfect! It also means I could lace it a little tighter if I was aiming for any waist reduction, or if the stays stretch over time. In this picture they are laced the modern way instead of the historically correct spiral lacing. I find it a lot harder to get an even gap with spiral lacing which is why I did it this way.


I think that’s everything! Thanks for reading!


17 thoughts on “Making Half-Boned Stays, 1776

  1. Krista says:

    Very cool. I have been researching stays for the last couple weeks so this post was a surprise! (Though my research has focused on the 16th century). The end result looks lovely, and I really like the ivory colour on you. You may already know this but from my research the tabs are actually pretty important. They make it so the weight of the dress doesn’t press in on your ribcage and stomach causing pinching and pressure. From a distance I even like the look of the crinkled edges on the tabs! Yet another wonderful post.

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Thank you very much! Yeah the tabs definitely matter, even if they are a pain to execute. They make the stays much more comfortable to wear too, since it prevents the bones from digging into the tops of your hips. I suppose they do look okay from a distance, but i’m determined to get them smooth next time!

      Good luck with your stays/research 🙂

  2. Crimson Needle says:

    I recently finished my fully boned 18th century stay, and I have to say your half boned version looks so clean and pretty! I based mine from a pattern in the Costume Close-Up book by Linda Baumgarten, but I’ve been very curious of the Corset and Crinoline book for quite some time. It’s good to see there is some good references in there.

    I also had biais tape that was akwardly far to wide ease of sewing at the bottom. After sewing the front, I ended up cutting a good quarter before sewing the back.. We sew, we learn.

    Great work!

    • Angela Clayton says:

      Thank you! I love the Corsets and Crinolines book, i’ve used patterns from it for…seven foundation garments? It’s really great if you are open to altering the provided patterns.

      Ahh that’s clever. By the time I realized mine was too wide I was already pretty committed to it. But hey, we’ll know for next time!

  3. Grace says:

    Your finished stays look beautiful! Might be a silly question but how did you trace the pattern and boning channels from the paper onto the twill? Did you use a tracing wheel? I’m attempting to make a pair of stays and just am still stumped about this part of the process.

  4. Sarah says:

    I love your posts on stays, very interesting. I came across this blog I thought I’d share with you. It has a lot of information on antique dolls, but if you dig through the posts she has some excellent posts about stays and corsets that are period accurate. I found a lot of it very cool!

  5. D'vorah says:

    You mentioned above that you had trouble getting things to align properly when using historically correct spiral lacing. There’s a legitimate reason for that, and here’s the solution: As a very-beginning-seamstress with one — count it, ONE — completed garment to my credit, I can swear that it does work. That one garment has its faults, but by damn, the edge alignment along my eyelet edges aren’t among them!

  6. Rachel says:

    What were the measurements of the pattern you made, I want to follow your steps but I don’t have the book so I don’t know what measurements I can use and adjust,


  7. Alyssa Janco says:

    The corset looks just lovely! Oddly enough, I am curious about the chemise. Did you have a pattern for that? I am looking for a good one, and that design looks like what I’m trying to find.

  8. Willow says:

    Hi Angela! I really love and admire all of your work. And also your sense of style is AMAZING! : ) Anyways, I was wondering where you buy your boning and what kind you get ( Pre-cut or hooped? What width do you generally buy? Etc.)? Also what do you use to cut steel boning? Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s