Still waiting for an
unsuspecting victim cheerful assistant to help me check the fit of the long stays, I finally threw in the towel and machine basted on a set of lacing strips to see whether or not it was safe to proceed with the other layers. That meant hauling out the chemise, which meant discovering/remembering that I’d pulled the grosgrain ribbon drawstring to use on my Victorian petticoat, which meant a trip to the Mercantile to see what ribbon they have today.
The community-owned Mercantile was instituted to replace Swains, the former purveyor of bait, tackle, underwear, greeting cards, blenders, shoes, hunting/fishing licenses and a few other things tucked in corners I never discovered. In the Mercantile, the desperate seamstress can find all the basic supplies she could want in a 28-inch wide display; needles and thread, seam rippers, a veritable rainbow of Rit fabric dye, and an odd assortment of whatever ribbon came in on the truck. Color me desperate. I walked out with 2 yards of lightweight green linen cord @ 15 cents/yard.
Back home and with the linen cord securely threaded through the neckline casing, I popped on the chemise. Hmmm…I didn’t remember the neckline being so high. Then I recalled the pattern and the choice between the “high” neck option and the “low” neck option. The low was really low. Really low. So I went high, which will probably work for Georgian styles but not so much for the later Regency years.
But we’re here to talk about the long stays.
Getting into them was easier than expected, which immediately made me suspicious. This is a first try, and trouble always lurks. A minimal bit of tugging in the front got them oriented and centered and I tugged on the lacing in the back to snug up the edges. The length is great. The straps are, of course, too short to do any good so I ignored them. They fell down the back and, out of sheer spite – I’m sure of it – kept pulling the back sides down with them, which made the front sides peel over a bit. But the back edges looked straight and parallel in the mirror. No wonky curves. So far, so good.
The bust gussets, however, flopped forward and down like undercooked pancakes. In order to free up my hands, I loosely tied the stay lacing around my waist a-la-Victorian corset style and held the center front of the stays against my sternum, like the busk will do. Then I pulled up the sides of the stays and – voilà – bust gussets that fanned out beautifully. By this time, though, the girls had “settled” a bit. Maneuvering them back into place with the high chemise neckline was a bit tricky and meant letting go of the center front, which meant I lost the “faux busk” effect.
I know how they’re supposed to fit and what role each of the parts is supposed to play, but making sure it was right without fitting help was not easy. And the high neckline of the chemise is going to get lowered…it can’t do it’s job sitting way up there like it is now.
After a somewhat brief, and somewhat pornographic, circus act comprising one set of long stays, two useless shoulder straps getting in the way of everything, ridiculously long lacing ties, my two hands and the girls, I momentarily got everything and everyone in place, was congratulating myself on ending up with a reasonably comfortable fit and reaching for the camera when – POP – POP – POP-POP-POP-POP-POP – the basting on lacing strips came undone.
Which is why there is no photo today. I’m taking my 15 seconds of glory and running with it. You’ll just have to trust me.