{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

Diderot Stays: stays of 1775

stays of 1775

1775 Diderot stays, Corsets & Crinolines
by Norah Waugh
(pg 40)

cotton/poly broadcloth, cotton drill (interlining), bias tape, cable ties & Regeline to bone

My first pair of 18th century stays. I only had to refit them twice after they were "finished" to get them right. :P

Completed October 2004.
Revamped May 2005.



The Results:


May 2005
My stays after some tweaking. I added an extension to the sides and divided the tabs more. The straps are still a little whacked out but it's much more comfortable now!






October 2004
On my dressform.






October 2004
First photos of my new stays.






Dress Diary:

September 2004


This pattern was recommended to me by the amazing Suzi, as a corset she has made successfully for years.

- Eva's Diderot stays
- La Couturière Parisienne
- Sarah's article on boning materials

September 3 2004

I had thought about using reed boning in my stays but decided to use cable ties instead. I really like the fact that I can get the ties locally and they are easy to use. After having seen them in person (and in action) in Casey's ren corset, I'm confidant they will give me the shape I want.

Today I cut out the stays toile. I had enlarged the scaled pattern to the original size months ago. Suzi had mentioned when I saw her in London that they would probably fit me in the original size. We'll see.

September 9 2004


I love it when things go right! I made up the stays toile today. It fits just about perfectly… that is a first! I do need to take just a bit off the top, so the gap is an even 3" at the center back. I think I'll take it off the side pieces. Hunnisett mentioned avoiding altering the center back on this type of stays when possible. I also need to lengthen the sleeve strap a bit as the gap is too far.

It may look like it in the pics but I didn't bone the toile at all. Pretty cool huh? I cut each piece from two layers of an old sheet and laced it fairly (but not too) tight. The extra layer made the seams nice and stiff, especially as I had basted the layers together first. The pics are a result of good posture and the smoothness of the layered, tightly woven fabric.

All in all, I'm thrilled. I adore the shape, it's just what I wanted. The neckline is perfect and the tabs/waist appear to be perfect as well. I'm trying to decide if I want to make a "boning toile" to test the actual boning pattern. I don't know, I'm kinda anxious to just move on and get to the real thing.

September 14 2004

Well I managed to cut out part of the stays tonight. I'm constructing them via the Mara Riley method. This worked well for my last corded bodice. It also seems to be the method Hunnisett uses as well. So I've cut out the fashion fabric and will mount that to uncut drill.

September 15 2004

This morning I spent, what seemed like forever, cutting the interlining shapes, transferring the boning pattern and basting the outer and interlining layers together. Tedious does not begin to describe my morning!

Well it's done now and the stays are all ready to go. I need to go buy the cable ties before I can start though, to make sure I make the channels the right size.

September 16 2004


My quick trip to Home Depot for cable ties turned out to be a few hours worth of errands. How is it that always happens?

When I started to sew up the channels, I had a bit of panic moment. The cable ties turned out to be thicker than I thought they would be. They are a good 3/8" wide by 1/8" thick and therefore required ½" channels to fit properly. I sewed a few and thought it couldn't be right. I just knew I had bought the wrong thing and I would hate such thick channels.

After some consultation with Casey, I calmed down a bit. Her cable ties were exactly that size as well. I decided that if that is what she used then I'd continue on. I've seen her Ren corset in person and liked it. In other words I didn't look at it and think "Oh wow, look at those huge boning channels", which is what I was concerned would happen with the stays.

I really think I've been working with ¼" and 1/8th" hemp cording channels too much lately! It can't be healthy when ½" is looking huge.

I finished all the stitching on the front pieces and honestly, now that I see a complete piece, I don't think it's that bad looking. If I decided I really hate the finished stitching, I can always turn the self "lining" into the outer fabric and not show the boning from the outside at all. Clever huh?

So the fronts are all ready to be trimmed… on to the backs! They should be a breeze as there is less boning. One nice thing about big boning – it means less channels which means less sewing. Works for me! *grin*

September 17 2004

I didn't get too much sewing done today. I am in a baking mood so I spent most of my day in the kitchen. I did get the channels in the back done and the pieces trimmed. I also cut out the lining pieces. I decided that I preferred the "plain" side better so I won't be showing the stitching after all. Beyond the large channel issue, I did a rather sloppy job with the stitching and I just a-soon hide it. Mom's take on the subject was that it didn't look like a corset if you couldn't see the stitching. Oh well!


I had the seams almost all pinned together when I realized that I'd forgotten the horizontal bust bones and to cut the tabs. The tabs are marked on the interlining and I'd planned on attaching those casings to the inside so I have to take them all apart now. Sounds like a good stopping point to me!

September 18 2004


I began my day by cutting the tabs. I then marked where the horizontal boning will go. Silly me, I forgot that because my front is in two pieces, I can't sew the casing on until the pieces are sewn together. Duh! No worries, just as well probably. If I have to adjust the length at all I'll have to do it from the top (I'm not messing with those tabs now!) so there is no sense in placing the boning there until I fit it.

Once the seams were sewn up, I started work on the boning. Having a pair of very sturdy scissors helped a lot but it was hard, slow going, cutting and shaping all those bones. I hope I don't have to do that again for a while! Good news is that it was very do-able and that I had enough boning. I bought two packages (10 24" pieces in each) and I should have 3-4 pieces left over. I do need to buy some more Rigeline though. I ended up needing narrower boning in a few places to get the original boning pattern to work. I've found that Rigeline folded in half width-wise makes sturdy ¼" boning.

Once all the boning was in place, I ran a very sloppy (machine) basting stitch along each edge, just to hold everything in place. Then I took some pics and cleaned my room. Next step is to do the math, mark and sew the eyelets so I can try the thing on. It does look good though so far, even on Narcissa. I can't wait to try it on but I'm slow with eyelets so I'll have to exercise a little patience.

Sterling virtue, patience. Too bad it's really not my thing.

September 21 2004

The past few days have been packed with "real life" stuff so I wasn't able to even look at the stays again until late last night.

I sat in front of a DVD and marked out the eyelet holes. I got two of them stitched before sleepiness lulled me to bed. Actually I stitched three, but I had to rip out the first one. I'd stitched it from the side and couldn't leave it looking crappy.

Sewing late at night is always risky. :P

September 21 2004

I just finished up the last eyelet on the stays. Yay!

I'm hoping I'll have time to try it on and fit it tomorrow morning but it may not happen until Thursday. I have to take a friend to the Richmond airport at noon and then I have a "date" to get together with Bridget while I'm on her end of the world. Ah, the price of friendship.

September 22 2004


Well the fitting didn't go as well as I'd hoped it would. I was really worried about the length issue but that turned out to be just fine. The problem du jour is that the back is too small. Specifically the bottom part of the back. Curse of the hips strikes again!

I could try to make do I suppose by my main concern is that the back edges are under too much strain. Those pieces are designed to be more or less up and down, sitting in the small of the back. At the moment they are angling over the waist and hips, sticking out in an odd way. I really don't think I can fudge it so I will have to completely remake the back panels. I need to redraft the pattern first, adding a triangular extension to the side seam. An inch and a half at the bottom should straighten everything out nicely.

The front looks great so I won't mess with that, just the back panels. The only issue with the front is that the sleeves pull a little but I think fixing the back with also help fix that problem. I am SO glad I constructed the stays the way I did. It makes ripping out the side seams and replacing them an easy thing to do.

All in all it could have been worse. I have to fix it but it's a fairly painless, if slightly time consuming, thing. Luckily I have lots of fabric to play with and some boning left over if I need any. *sigh* I think the problem is due to using an historic pattern on a modern body. Oh well! I still love the pattern and the shape it gives me… the gown is going to be such fun to make!

September 25 2004

I worked on the stays tonight, correcting the pattern for the back panels. I ended up adding that 1½", angled from about 8" up. I also decided to add a ½" to the center back. During the last fitting, the stays were really laced too tight for comfort. I'm trying to anticipate weight loss in the next year, which makes it so difficult to judge. I decided that, if the extra to the CB turned out to be too much I could always take it in. Taking it in would be fairly painless, either at the side seam or the center back it's self.

I decided in the end not to take any length off, something that had been suggested to me. I think once the stays fit better the back waist will be okay. I did angle off the very back slightly but I want a fairly severe point at the center back of my gown so it makes sense to keep it a bit long there. Hopefully I've done the right thing.

I cut the interlining and transferred the boning pattern, again using a hot-iron transfer pencil. I had to fudge the pattern slightly from the original but not too much.

September 28 2004

I basted the new back interlining to the lining then moved on to the horizontal boning casing on the front panels. I couldn't figure out another way to do it, so I hand stitched it to the inside. SUCH a pain! The casing was really hard to sew through so it took me forever. I did manage to stay awake long enough to finish though.

I must admit, I'm really curious to see what sort of difference the horizontal boning makes and if it is comfortable.

September 29 2004

I mostly worked on the back panels today. I got all the channels sewn before I had to put it aside for church and dinner. Later I clipped threads, trimmed the pieces and cut the tabs. I also cut the boning for the horizontal channels and inserted that. Unfortunately the boning didn't fit in the casing once it was sewn in a curve. In the end I had to insert the boning behind the casing, not inside. Very annoying. If I'd know that I could have just used some bias tape or something. It would have taken me half the time, and sans the sore fingers. *pouts again*

I have a pic or two of what I've been up to but I'm feeling very lazy about going all the way downstairs to download them so they will having to wait until later ...

September 30 2004


I spent this evening working on the stays. I cut the outer fabric, sewed the seams, inserted the boning and basted the edges to keep it all in. In other words, I have the stays to the handwork stage. Next up are the eyelets and whip-stitching the side seams down. Oh yes a finial fitting and the binding.


I have two "tips" this evening:
1 – when your stays involve tabs, cut only the lining layer's tabs. Sew the lining & outer layers together, baste around the tabs, Then cut the outer tabs (using the lining as your template). I did that this second time around and it was much easier to baste the tabs with one piece uncut, as they didn't want to move so much. It came out much neater too.

2 – If your stays involve horizontal boning, wait to insert is until all other machine stitching is complete. Trying to machine baste the back panels, with the horizontal in place was a serious pain in the butt. If I hadn't already planned to attach all the binding by hand, tonight would have convinced me to do so. Wrestling with an independently minded pair of stays while trying to sew around a tabbed bottom is an experience I hope to avoid repeating. Not my idea of fun.

You know I think I'll skip starting the eyelets tonight. I'm anxious to get them done so I can try the stays on but I'm ready to hit the sack. I think this is the thing I hate the most about corset making. You get to the point where it looks like a corset but you can't try it on until you sew the eyelets. Suddenly unbidden thoughts of a deformed and ugly finished product flood one's mind.

I'm trying not to be too stressed but I am concerned about the fit of these wretched stays. I noticed a few things as I was sewing tonight that are a cause for concern. I have little fear of changing/altering patterns but I'm not good at anticipating how those changes affect other areas of the garment. That gets me into trouble a lot. I do not want to redo any part of these stays. One re-do is okay, a little fudging is fine but I've reached my limit on this project. I'm ready to move on.

*crosses fingers real tight* This time had better work or I may have to steal a pair of stays from somewhere.

October 5 2004


The eyelets are done! *cheers*

I tried the stays on the they fit!! *throws much pink confetti*

Whew, that is a relief. They still gap a bit at the bottom but I think that is as good as it's going to get. I could probably lace them tighter or try adding more eyelets but really I'm happy as is. So now I need to trim the straps so there is a gap, then work those eyelets before it's onto the binding.

I think I'm going to take a break from the stays though and detour to my pocket. My Wooded Hamlet order arrived yesterday so I finally have the supplies to finish that up. I'm a little burned out on the stays (particularly eyelet making) at the moment but I don't want to lose my momentum. I really want to actually finish something (anything!) for this ensemble, ya know?

October 14 2004


I worked on the stays today. First I measured the overlap on the sleeves and trimmed. I then pinned and stitched the top half of the binding. I just have the sleeve eyelets and the bottom binding to go… almost there!

October 15 2004

Right now I'm taking a break. I've been working on the stays most of the day, not that I've gotten much done. I've worked the last four eyelets and pinned 2/3rds of the binding on the bottom. I HATE binding tabbed bottoms. I really do. Tabs are cool, when they are finished, but the process of binding them is such a pain.

I think it takes me longer to pin the tabs than it does to actually sew them too. Sewing takes a long time as well. Problem is I'm not a fast hand-stitcher. Also my back aches and my fingers are sore from all the stitching and pinning this week. I wish I could have my finished stays without the work. I really must marry a billionaire one of these days! *rolls eyes*

*sigh* Don't mind me, I'm just tired, sore and ready to move on to something else. However, I'm trying to be good and finish everything up before starting the next thing.

Well, enough of my rambling. I've checked my friend's list, played a game of Tetris and scribbled here so I guess I've had my break. It's back to the grindstone ...

October 16 2004


The stays are finished! Woo hoo! You are reading the entry of a very happy little girl. I finally a pair of 18th century stays! I've only been wanting to make/wear some for 5 years or so.

The binding is the pre-packaged single fold bias tape you find at Jo Anns. I'm too lazy to make my own and this was just laying around the house longing to be used. The ribbon at the straps is some 7mm silk ribbon I found in my old ribbon embroidery stash. *sigh* I love silk ribbons.

I'm not sure when I will have "official" pics of me wearing the finished stays. Maybe when I wear them for my next fitting. Or I may wait until I actually dress up in the outfit, whenever that is. Pics with the proper shift and my hair done sound worth waiting for.


Oh yes and some pics from yesterday evening of the binding pinned on. Ouch! I tried to be careful but I do have scratches on my hands, arms and legs from all those pins. *overly dramatic sigh* How I suffer for my art!

*much giggling*

October 20 2004


I tried on my stays this morning. I needed to take measurements with them on so I could work on the gown toile. I also took the measurements for the shift and a few pics in the stays.

April 10 2005

I began work on tweaking my stays today. I've been putting it off for a while now ... revisiting costumes is not something I really enjoy. I adore my green stays but they are not without their issues. They are my first pair after all. They are a bit small, particularly at the hips and the sleeves don't want to stay on.

The most painful issue is also the easiest to fix though - the top horizontal bone digs unmercifully into my arm if I hold my arms in a forward position. It can get very uncomfortable after a while. It's an easy fix, just some snipping of the glorious cable ties and comfort is restored!

I'm hoping that will fixing the fit will fix the sleeves at the same time, if not I'll worry about them later… as in after the Belmont tea. I decided to add the needed girth to the side - it's less fuss, less fabric (although I have tons of fabric still) and no new eyelets to sew. I unpicked the stays sections in about 3 minutes – may I just say I love this way of constructing corsets - then cut a little side inset toile out of 4 layers of old sheeting, quilted the layers together for stability and sewed everything up again before trying it on.

The stays were so much more comfortable (duh!) but the little toile does need to be tweaked a bit for a snugger fit. I decided I'd had enough for the day and left it at that though. I think my busy weekend finally caught up with me because I'm wiped. I've just finished dinner and think I'll spend the rest of the day vegging in front of Mrs. Pacman, nibbling on See's. I can't think of a better way to end my weekend!

April 14 2005

I finished fitting the stay tweak today. I fixed the fit and began my cutting day with the little side extensions. Luckily I have plenty of the original fabrics, so those are all ready to go.

April 15 2005

I cut out the extensions from the green broadcloth and cotton twill. Very exciting I know!

April 18 2005

I just realized that I need a total of 4 layers of green fabric and I only cut two. *slaps forehead* Duh! I'll have to get the fabric out tomorrow and cut some more first thing.

April 19 2005

I cut some more green fabric and sewed the stays back up. I still have the binding and handwork to do but they are wearable for fittings at least.

May 7 2005


Despite my silence on here, I have been working on my outfit. Real life keeps getting the way so I haven't gotten much done though. I decided to finish my stays before trying them on again (which I need to do before continuing with the petticoat). The process of reattaching the binding where I had added the extensions took forever (wretched tabs!) but I finished that up last night.

So the stays are officially finished… again.

January 18 2006

I recently had a query from a friend on LJ of how I had treated the seams on these stays and thought I would post my answer here as well.


I believe both Hunnisett and Farthingales recommend pressing the seam allowances toward the back, which I managed to do on one seam.

The front seam I pressed open to avoid any unnecessary bulk at the center front (I did double stitch this seam first to make sure it was sturdy though). My side seams are a little wonky because I had to put in that little adjustment panel after I finished the stays. I pressed the seams in the way that made sense for the tabs, as you can see. I then whip-stitched the seam allowances down by hand. I did the same thing on B's 1740's pirate stays by the way, managing to press all those seams toward the back like a good girl.



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