1830s Linen Corded Stays | Past Patterns 001 & The Workwoman's Guide


Last year, I made linen stays appropriate for the 1820s, 1830s, and early 1840s. This was a surprisingly simple and satisfying project! 

Support garments in the early 1800s were an interesting transition between the conical 18th century stays and shapely later Victorian corsets. Between about 1800 and 1840, stays were soft, simple garments designed to improve posture and lift the bust. The primary method of stiffening these stays was a wooden busk in the center front of the stays; quilting and cording provided additional support and stiffness to the fabric. Stays had a long silhouette and pushed the bust up and out. These stays were almost always shaped with triangular gores at the bust and hip. Linen and cotton were common fabrics for early 19th century stays.

To construct the stays, I used Past Patterns 001. This is an older pattern, published in 1986, but it’s full of historical information and detail. It even shows you how to carve your own wooden busk! This pattern includes two styles of stays, both copied from original garments. 

I also looked at The Workwoman’s Guide, published in 1840, which had an entire section on making stays. The stays described in the Workwoman’s Guide are very similar to the original stays reproduced in the Past Patterns draft. Like the stays described in the Workwoman’s Guide, both View A and View B are made up of a front piece, two back pieces, bust gores, and hip gores. 

Click here to see my thoughts on my mockups and the different bust gore shapes in this pattern.

Ultimately I used View B, with bust gores from Simplicity 7215. 



I used a firmly woven, medium weight, natural color linen that was in my stash; I believe I got this from Fabric Mart Fabrics (they have wonderful periodic sales on linen yardage!).

I find it significantly easier to bind stays with Petersham ribbon - the ridged edge easily bends around the curves of tabs and straps. I used vintage 5/8 inch wide Petersham ribbon in a cornflower blue colorway.

I embellished the stays with matching blue embroidery - watch my video below to see a demonstration of the prick-and-pounce embroidery transfer method!

Finally, a wooden busk (from https://corsetmaking.com/wooden-busk.html) adds stiffness to the front of the stays.

Video Tutorial

You'll find a detailed, step-by-step description of how I made these stays, a pattern review, and historical notes in my YouTube video below:

Have you ever used a Past Patterns pattern? What was your experience with the pattern like? Let me know in the comments below!

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