Saturday, December 14, 2013

1790s Transitional Stays, the Frankencorset

I've been doing a bit of research into Regency Stays, and I have to admit, I find myself in unfamiliar waters, which makes me a little nervous. The idea of stays that don't do any body shaping at the waist is just...weird. The main function of Regency stays was to present a lady's bust on a platter. Since the skirts fell down straight from the underbust and the natural waist was essentially hidden, there was no need to have any waist shaping. Regency stays are basically the wonderbra of historical undies - lift and separate.

So, when looking at the different styles, there are basically four different sorts of stays - Transitional Stays, which were a cross between the conical stays of the 18th century and the bust shelf sort of the Regency, Short Stays, which look a lot like modern bras, Full Stays, which go down over the hips and have a wooden busk down the front to help keep the girls aloft, and the Wrap-around Stays, which look sort of like a cross-front sports bra. The Oregon Regency Society breakdown of the different sorts is an oft pointed to resource when Regency stays are brought up, and with good reason. Here is the page.

There are aspects from each style that I like (except the wrap-around stays, my girls would just laugh and bounce right out of those suckers), so I've been debating about staying true to period, or if I should take aspects from each style that I like and make a Frankencorset that suits my tastes. I was really leaning towards frankensteining something, but after a little more digging, I realized that most of the things that I liked could be found in very early transitional stays.

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O138889/stays-unknown/

This is a typical set of transitional stays. They still have some of the conical shape from earlier in the 18thC, and a lot of them resemble half-boned stays, but they end above the natural waist, usually around the diaphragm. There are tabs for some reason, though they are completely unnecessary. They have the bust cups of later Regency stays, but they are usually gathered cups and not gusseted like in later styles. Most of them lace up the front, which is strange since a majority of 18thC stays laced up the back, and Regency stays do away with the front-lacing in favor of a wooden busk. It is the Frankencorset. It has all the things.

There are a lot of things I like, and since I'm shooting for the 1790s anyway, these are sort of what I'm leaning toward. I love front-lacing stays, they are sooo much easier to put on yourself and adjust. I also like that they are a little more structured than later Regency stays. I know, I know, my waist won't show in my gowns, but I don't like feeling all flibbity flubbity. The only thing I wish was a little different is the length - I would be happier if they went all the way down to the natural waist. From other costumers that have made transitional stays, they mentioned that the tabs can sometimes dig into your sides (which is likely why later styles did away with them; they weren't just uncomfortable, they were also unnecessary since they didn't need to curve over the hips). Then I found some earlier examples of transitional stays, which seemed to have just what I wanted!

http://metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/107910?img=0

You know what else I like about these? Underwires! There is boning under each cup that looks just like modern underwire bras. I love that! And it's longer than the example before it, coming almost to the natural waist. The cups are gathered with a little drawstring to make them fit. I absolutely love this set of stays, and I'm pretty sure that is the one that I want to recreate.

Like I said, there are things about the others that I like - the full stays have the length that I like, but they offer little to no boning, and having that fabric wrapped snugly around me without any sort of boning would make me feel blob-ish, even if it was heavily corded. I'm just too fluffy to forgo boning. The short stays would likely be the most comfortable option, and I may actually make a set of these for events like picnics and such, where we'll be lounging around on the ground and running after kites and things, but I think I would be most comfortable in the transitional stays in the second pic. (I'm also a lot more comfortable drafting a set of stays like that second one, since I do much more 18thC stuff.)

On a side note, while searching for examples of transitional stays, I came across this oddity.


Weird, huh? They don't look 18thC to me, they look more Elizabethan, but I've never seen them with bust gussets before. They're just...weird! This pic was posted on a livejournal entry that didn't offer the original source, so I have no idea where they're from, but the poster was German writing about Swiss fashion...soooo...yeah, I have no idea. If anyone knows more about them, please let me know!

My set of transitional stays will commence shortly. ^^ I'm really looking forward to finally having a proper Regency wardrobe!

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