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At the end of last year I went through a really tricky time with my health. I had to abandon all my current sewing and knitting projects as I was on strict bed rest and my brain was too fried to keep up with the complex fair isle knitting project I was then working on.
However, I knew I still wanted to do some sort of sewing and so the idea for some historical sewing practice was born. This I could do from my bed with nothing more than a needle and thread.
I choose to work on a Regency project as I believe it is one of the most beginner friendly places to start in terms of historical dress. It’s also one of the more straight forwarded silhouettes in history making it easier to manage without the assistance of things like a table.
I already had a half sewn shift from a long abandoned 18th century project. A dress pattern was chosen on the recommendation of several of my fellow costubers and as many of them were also interested in making a Regency outfit thanks to the recent popularity of ‘Emma’ and ‘Bridgerton’ a sew-a-long was born.
The pattern we settled on was Laughing Moon 138. But more on that in a later post because this post is all about stays.
I had originally intended to make the Redthreaded Regency Stays*. This is a really great pattern and I’ve heard really wonderful things about it from many people. I made a toile which fit me quite well, only a few alternations needed in the usually places for me (torso length, hip curve). However, it wasn’t right for me.
My limited mobility means that I sometimes use a wheelchair, especially for big days out, say something like a costuming event. Even if I don’t use my wheelchair I have to spend a lot of time sitting down. I also couldn’t get into the stays by myself. My arms got tired from trying to reach around to the back and were numb for ages afterwards. This combined with the long fit of the Redthreaded Regency stays just wasn’t going to work for me. They were not comfortable to sit down in at all.
A Wheelchair Friendly Solution
I consulted some friends who do a lot of Regency costuming as to what I should do about my long stays vs wheelchair dilemma. I got a wonderful response from Katie from Latina Living History. She sent me an old blog post of hers with lots of examples of Regency long stays that were cut to be short at the back. Huzzah! The answer to me problems!
My plan then was to cut my Redthreaded stays pattern to be shorter at the back. But I still wasn’t sure what to do about the awkward back lacing. I happened to post on Instagram about my dilemma and one of my lovely followers sent me a link to another pattern:
This turned out to be a revelation! Not only was this even more primary evidence for Regency stays that are longer at the front than the back, but also THEY WRAP AROUND! I can get into them myself with no issues, they’re super adjustable should my body change and they easily accommodate my asymmetrical shoulders.
There was even a gridded pattern to create your own stays!
So I set to work on my new Utretch stays, named after the museum where they are kept. The construction was so simple, only two gussets and two seams. There’s no boning in these stays, only a centre front busk. I had mine custom made by Silver Hill Historical on Etsy*.
I used pre-made cotton bias tape for the binding for ease as I couldn’t find a way to cut anything reliably straight while in bed.
My Finished Regency Stays
I am so pleased with the finished result! I’m so glad I was able to find an accessible solution to my costuming needs.