I never finished the Diderot stays. The day I tried to put grommets in them, I discovered that the hopsack linen and the sturdy cotton twill I used as lining were, together, too thick to be able to make the big holes for my size 0 grommets. The weave of the hopsack was too loose and after I pierced it with my awl, it would immediately start to close back up. I gave up.
Instead I'm trying to make the 1776 stays from Nora Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines. It's only a two-piece pattern so I hope it will go quickly because Sherwood Forest starts next weekend. But Melissa and I probably won't go until March, so I have time to scramble together our costumes, but I'm a slow sewer so it will still be a crunch.
This is the first pair of stays that I have actually tried to fit to my figure, and I'm really, really glad I've taken the time to make several muslins, as irritating as it is.
The right side of this picture (viewer's right) shows how this pattern first fit me after scaling it up but without making any other changes. I think the original wearer had very slender hips because there was a nine-inch gap between the lacing holes at my hips but only a two-inch gap at the lacing holes at the top.
I took in a little bit at the top of the center back, and then put in an extra tab on the side-back piece, adding a little to the waist as well. The new mock-up fit my dress form much better.
I felt that it was still a bit long in the waist at the back, so I pinned up the excess and transferred the changes to my pattern piece. Even though, to my eyes, the center back looks straight on the dress form, it was clearly NOT straight on the pattern when laid flat.
I fixed the center back pattern piece and sewed up a new mockup. I haven't made any changes to the front pattern piece at this point. It fit my dress form quite nicely and I thought I was ready to go, but a little voice at the back of my mind kept whispering, "But everything you've read on the costume blogs says that the seam is supposed to be curved at the side FRONT, not the side back." I tried to convince myself that it wouldn't make any difference on a stays pattern that consisted of two pieces, and only one seam anyway, but I just had to retrace the pattern. I transferred the side-back curve to the side-front and straightened out the side back.
Sewed up a fourth muslin and pinned it to my dress form. I honestly couldn't tell any difference in the fit, but I suppose I'll keep it like this just for my own piece of mind since I don't know if it's okay to keep the side front seam straight and curve the side back.
One last change I am making to this pattern--and I won't bother with a muslin for this small change--is to take out that extra tab at the side-back. You can see on the dress form how it sticks out.
It was easy to just fold it back and tape it down on the pattern to get it out of the way. The line of the seam wasn't affected at all.
Now I just need to decide on what fabric to make this out of. I have some beautiful vintage silk brocade, supposedly hand-woven, that I bought specifically to make stays. But I feel like it should be part of a fabulous fantasy costume and I am having trouble visualizing how I want it to look. So I think I'll save it until I have a clear idea of the look I want. I'm leaning towards just using some white linen in my stash and making a peasanty-looking skirt. For some reason I've always liked the peasant look even more than high-class lady. But in my everyday life, I'm a bit of a plain jane. I can't tolerate heels and I can't stand the way fashionistas in this city dress. So my love of peasant looks is really a reflection of my natural tastes in fashion, I guess.