Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Altering Regency Stays for a Smaller Bust

This is another of my recent makeover projects. I found myself wanting to make a new 1810's dress lately and although it will probably be a while before I make the dress, I need to get the undergarments in order. I knew I'd probably have to either redo my current regency undergarments or make new. For many months they've been buried beneath my 1860's things in the big wall trunk and I've put off getting them out and seeing what needs to be done.

I made my stays last summer and since then have adopted a ketogenic lifestyle (just passed the 1 year mark!) and lost the last bit of baby weight that stubbornly clung like a soggy donut to my mid section. During the past 11 years I've pretty much been in a constant state of pregnancy or breastfeeding and that changed my figure significantly. Now, my two and a half year old toddler is mostly weaned (she does still nurse, but infrequently and only for a few minutes before bed/napping) and I feel fairly confident this is the body size and shape I'll be dealing with for the foreseeable future. So the stays I made last summer were now 2 cup sizes too large and did not give the hoisted high and separated look that was so desirable in the early 19th century.

Normally I'd just make new stays but I put so much work and love into these that I wanted to fix them if I could. I found that I needed to take in each "cup" about an inch so I picked off the front binding, removed the gussets and cut them a little narrower. I sewed them back in, put the binding back on and evaluated. It still looked pretty bad and didn't give much lift.

I went a little crazy and got super frustrated with various attempts at fixing this problem. In the end, it was the simplest solution that worked best! I put a drawstring through the front binding as is sometimes seen in extant examples of stays, like these:
1820's Corset from V&A
Before I tried this I thought it would give a bumpy look to the bustline but I find the opposite is true! The drawstrings pull in the top of the gussets just enough to create a supportive cup for the lower part of the bosom to rest and my shift (which thankfully still fits and works without alterations!) contains the top of the bosom, which is just how it should be.
The gussets are maybe a teeny bit long for true early 19th century
fashion, but still give a passable shape and will work well
for 1820's and 30's too.

I still didn't get a lot of lift but eventually realized that I needed to shorten my straps to pull the bust up to the right height. I just took in a tuck at the back of each strap to shorten them. Another solution would have been to cut the straps off to the right length and rebind and rework eyelets in them but a tuck was way less work. :D

The stitching joining the bust gussets to the stays looked horrible after so many attempts at redo, so I covered up the stitching line with decorative embroidered chain stitch. Not perfect, but it looks a lot better.

My petticoat required taking in at the underarm to take in the bust but that was a quick and easy fix. Now I am ready to make a dress whenever I find decent fabric, time (always the hardest thing!) and get struck with inspiration.

1 comment:

Thank you for your lovely thoughts!