Leather Stays: 18th Century Working Class Corset Tutorial
February 1, 2012
Make your own stays, no sewing required!
In costuming, so many of the activities and studies revolve around the extravagant, beautiful, expensive, and complicated fashions of the rich and famous. But what about the rest of the folks? The ones pulling turnips, making bread, digging gardens, or sweeping the cobblestones? In 17th and 18th Century Europe and America, the ladies of the lower classes couldn’t afford wimpy silk confections. That didn’t mean that ladies were excused from being fashionably acceptable. A woman needed at least a chemise, corset, petticoat, and skirt to be considered dressed. Lower class ladies needed durable, cheap materials to make their clothes, something that makes costuming peasants exceptionally attractive to modern re-enactors (we appreciate ingenuity, simplicity, and penny-pinching as much as our 18th Century forebears, and being able to roam without cumbersome panniers is a plus!). Linen, muslin, and cottons for chemises, petticoats, and skirts is easy enough to get a hold of, but those stays: scary! Casing, boning, busks, eyelets…they sound like things from a medieval torture room. There’s an easier way: Leather Stays!
These stays (aka, an early corsets) are cut from a single piece of leather and gradually mold to your individual shape, making them uniquely yours. Here’s a beyond amazing tutorial by the Thread-Headed Snippet on how to make historically accurate 18th century stays:
She does an AMAZING job! Step-by-step pictures and hilarious commentary add punch and make it super easy to follow.
Check out this amazing costume Hester Booth is wearing: