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Corsets and Crinolines - unique vintage clothing

Homemade Stays

Homemade Stays
c. 1850- 1870. These stays are very hard to date as they were worn over a long period of time and were altered. The stays themselves probably date from the 1850's and were worn until the early 1870's. They were most likely owned by an older lady who was used to the long soft stays of the Regency era. Although long Regency style stays were no longer fashionable, C. willet and Phillis Cunnington document in their book, 'The History of Underclothes', that in 1864, the statement was made that "the old- fashioned stays are still too generally worn."
They are made out of thick natural colored linen with strips of linen going down the corset all around. These strips acted as support in place of boning. Zig zag machine? stitching decorates the front strips, but I think this was added later as the back strips don't have any decoration.
The corset fastens at the front with lacing. The eyelet holes are all hand-worked with thick thread. There is no boning or front busk.
The fact that it is a front fastening corset with no boning and features alterations and repairs, means that it was probably worn by a poorer working woman or even a woman who worked on a farm. The back of the corset has no lacing. The edges of the stays are bound in cotton ticking and coutil. Some areas (easpcially under the armpits) have been replaced.
The shoulder straps look like a later addition and probably replaced the originals. Although there is some machine stitching (not uncommon for the 1850's and 1860's), there is much hand sewing. There is a strange hidden pocket on the inside of the stays on the left breast. The pocket fastens by a white glass button. I don't know how comfortable this would have been or even why the pocket is there but I suppose it wold have been useful for hiding money in it! The stays do not give in a nipped in hourglass waist but rather a more tubular Regency look.These stays were probably worn for support rather than fashion.
Bust measures 32" closed, waist 24" closed. Hips are quite flared at 34". Corset measures approx 19 1/2" long including the shoulder straps.
(L. Hidic)