Sunday, July 7, 2013

Leather Stays Again!

From the Summer 2012 Thread-Headed Bust-or-Bust Collection, we proudly present yet another pair of leather stays! 

(I'll quietly wait here as you drool over my contorted flesh.)

Mmm... Squozen.

I pretty much continually obsess over leather stays. That's normal, right? I think about them more than I think about housecleaning (har!) or eliminating my increasingly obvious mustache combined.  (Not that there is much else to do here in the great state of "93% Humidity" in the town of "Flash-Flood Warnings Since Monday.") And yes, you read the "2012" correctly at the top. I cut these out almost exactly a year ago, and haven't gotten around to posting about them til now. Please feel free to make up your own excuses for me; I've grown weary of providing my own.

Construction and tools are pretty similar to my very first pair, except that I used the previous stays as my starting pattern rather than going back to Drea's Elizabethan corset generator. After more than a year of use, I had a pretty good idea of the changes I wanted to make. The most obvious change is, of course, the front-lacing action. I wasn't sure that I cared for it in theory or practice, but I wanted the experience. Now, I'm a convert to the style. These are SO much easier to get on and off.

And for the record, yes, they do lace closed in the front. This was a quick n' dirty photo shoot out in  the driveway. While you're at it, please ignore the shoestring lacing. 

I changed the shape quite a bit as well. These are shorter, with a wider top and narrower back. The hip tabs flare out much higher than the original pair and the front "tummy panels" bow out slightly due to the changes I made to the hip area. Consequently, these are more flattering for the silhouette of 1780-1790(ish) styles than earlier years'. The decorative cutting on the outside surface was the product of idle experimentation more than historical accuracy or academic research. 

What works: 
* The front (and back) lacing. Adjustment, ingress and egress are vastly improved over the original set of leather stays.
* The changes to the silhouette. My movement (arm rotation, mainly) is much better. 
* I used a thinner leather this time around, around 8 oz.. I was concerned initially that I'd lose support, but the weight of the leather is excellent and flexibility is improved. I doubt that I'd recommend using anything much thinner for this style, but meh? More experimentin' is needed. 

What didn't/doesn't work:
* R.I.P. shoulder straps; I knew ye not. These were initially cut with shoulder straps rising from the back panels, to be secured to the front on either side of the bust.The straps were technically functional, but they were annoying and created weirdness under every garment I own. Two flicks of the knife later, they annoy me no more. I probably won't attempt to cut straps into the body of leather stays again. Piercing the leather (front and back) and cutting separate, floating straps is much easier and potentially adjustable. 


I'm in the midst of two new pairs, one of which is based on an item in the Nordiska Museet collections. Hopefully at least one of those will be finished before the end of the year. (Not that you'll see them, of course. At the rate I'm currently finishing projects and posting, they should go "live" on the blog sometime in  2022.)

13 comments:

  1. Holy Shit, they look amazing!!

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    1. Well, then you and Peachy BOTH can be on the Christmas card list this year. Thank you!

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  2. Wow, stunning! I had never seen leather stays before, but wow they are nice.

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  3. They ARE beautiful, but...ow,ow,ow...They seem like they would be very uncomfortable---(not that I would call ANY stays comfy, lol).
    Are they comfortable to wear, really?

    http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

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    1. The angle of these pictures was less than ideal (as was the haphazard lacing), so the appearance of torturous squeezing is greatly exaggerated. Each pair I've made has been a learning experience, and has had its ups and downs. This has been the most comfy pair for me so far, and they truly are quite easy to wear! The glorious thing about the solid leather is that you can continue to cut and shape it slightly as you need, even after the stays are "finished."

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  4. They look fantastic! I love the floral design, so pretty. Everyone always says "eww leather stays must be so hot and not breathable" but I don't think rows of side-by-side cable ties mimicking whalebone are breathable at all, either, and leather looks like much less hassle. Boning channels UGH.

    My only complaint is that there's not enough heaving bosom in these pictures. At this rate you'll never make it in the upcoming Playboy 18th century throwback edition.

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    1. I knew I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up after they rejected my last application. I JUST WANT TO BE RESPECTED FOR MY LEATHERY BOSOM! IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK??

      The leather can be sweaty, yes. But what's a little boob sweat between friends?

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  5. They are very pretty! Leather stays are still very high on my want-list, but I need to work through all my work in progress first.

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  6. Congratulations on your hard work, good photos and honest comments!

    Re your leather shoulder straps; Is it possible that you found them difficult is because at this time the straps had the job of holding (forcing?) the shoulders back into the fashionable posture. Actually, more than fashionable, probably socially necessary is better.

    Today, we are not used to this contortion of the human body, and we have not been brought up to do it. Young girls would see that their role models had this erect posture, so they adopted it naturally (for them, not for us!)

    Betty

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    1. Your observations are very sound. I try to keep nurtured posture/different silhouette in consideration as I work on these projects, but I occasionally fall into the modern mindset. That said, the main issue with the straps was my ineptitude in construction rather than wear. I cut them at an angle that was just slightly too acute. The result was that the straps didn't properly lay on my shoulders. No matter how I twisted and turned, they were gaping. Even after trimming them a few times, they were still unable to lay flush with my shoulders. This resulted in bulges under my clothing and a generally frustrating sense of being poorly dressed. (Don't you hate that?! And it's so much worse when it happens in historic clothing!)

      The good thing about costume failure is the quest for success. Despite my declaration against cut-in-one shoulder straps in this post, I will most definitely try it again at some point.

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  7. Hello Dear Cholly

    Thank you for your reply. Really, I didn't mean to criticize your staymaking with the straps! In theater I've worked in wardrobe and tried to make present day actors / actresses move and stand as they did 150 and 250 years ago. Frankly, I think that social values, education, life style etc etc have changed so much that to really recreate the "look" of the past is nearly impossible. I started doing some serious research on the subject, but it got too big for me to handle with my other activities.

    Tell me, when you wear these, and other stays of the 18 century do you feel like a lady of the period, or a 2013 girl dressing up? In wardrobe I've met actresses who have taken one or the other views, and I can't determine why some take one and some the other. Any ideas?

    Betty

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    1. I wasn't at all offended, Betty! I appreciate your questions (you've pulled me out of a blogging lull), and trust me- the knowledge that I am a student of this craft rather than a master is never far from my mind.

      The difference in modern life versus life in the 17th. 18th or 19th century is definitely formidable. It is very, very difficult to achieve a perfect "historical" experience, even if you are in the proper mindset. My personal feelings while wearing historical clothing vary... a lot. There are times that I feel very much "in the moment." This is usually equal parts tidy clothing (no fitting issues, no wardrobe failures), and environment. The clothing aspect is the only part of this formula that I have any control over, and that is a huge reason behind my interest in making these garments.

      Basically, I'm always trying to grasp that "lady of the period" feeling. However, even when I fall short, it feels wonderful to pour my 2013 self into the shoes of an ancestor. If nothing else, it really awakens you to a different perspective.

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