Stayin’ Alive

A portrait of the Comtesse de Provence. If she could get a fit this good, so can I. Theoretically speaking.

The Comtesse de Provence. If she could get a fit like this, so can I. Theoretically speaking.

Today I tried on the Regency long stays for the first time. I got the rest of the center back grommets in and laced it up. Popped on the chemise, took a deep breath and wriggled my way into it – over my head and shoulders, then into place. No helping hands, so had to do it myself and worked up a bit of a sweat in the process. But it fits and it’s comfortable and I am happy.

Throughout the whole thing I’ve been a bit concerned that I’d end up with:

Really hoping to avoid this.

Really hoping to avoid this.

I was aiming for something close to this, but not as severely straight out front (although, as I understand it, it’s the goal):



Happily, I got:



Not so bad, I’d say, for a first go at it. The wooden busk truly does work wonders at preventing cleavage. (By the way, those two reddish-pink spots are “strawberry marks” and not a snake bite, although I do call it my “Cleopatra mark.”)

Look ma, no cleavage!

Look ma, no cleavage!

I ran into trouble when the chemise lacing ended up in a square knot and was too snug. Hence the bust gussets look too big. But I tried it on over a snug knit camisole and the girls were where they’re supposed to be. Now I just have to pick the knot out and loosen the neckline.

Pulling in the lacing by myself was not easy and I couldn’t get the tension even – the center back edges were not parallel. There are areas of puckering, but I don’t know if that is an issue with fit or if I just laced it too tightly – I had it pretty snug – and didn’t distribute the pressure evenly around the circumference.

2014-08-24 15.51.10

There is some concern about the straps. I have the right side done and tied it when I put the stays on, but it kept falling my shoulder. Not only are my shoulders are a bit sloped, I have a bit of scoliosis (curved spine) that makes the right shoulder lower than the left.

I’ve thought about placing a grommet more towards the center in the front so the shoulder strap is at more of an angle, but I don’t want it to interfere with the open neckline.

So there is a bit of engineering yet to be done. I need to finish putting in the left shoulder strap grommets and finish up the bias binding. And I still might put those extra spiral stays down the center bust line for support. Then I’ll put it on again and see how the petticoat looks over it all.

At this rate, I just might be able to start fitting a bodice before the end of the year. (Be still, my beating heart.)


3 thoughts on “Stayin’ Alive

  1. Hooray! Your silhouette is perfect! I think the puckering will ease out as you wear it a bit, and the lacing has time to adjust to your curves. The shoulder straps are a nuisance, in my opinion. I read somewhere (or dreamed it in frustration) that ladies pinned the straps to the chemise. Pins were an extremely popular fastening.

    You certainly can get a workout getting into these stays alone. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to watching you make your bodice.

    • Thanks, Deb! If the puckering might ease out with wearing then I won’t fuss with it. The lacing itself is a bit odd – it’s done in a stretchy weave, which makes it really hard to adjust through the grommets. And I accidentally got the 5-ft length instead of my customary 6-ft length, so I’ll be re-ordering it anyway. I think/hope adding an extra foot will make getting into it a bit easier. The shoulder straps are my biggest concern and I don’t think pinning will help, but thanks for the idea. I need them to support the outer edge of the bust gussets and keep the girls from trying to escape over the side. They may be old, but they’ve got spunk. 😉

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