Wednesday, April 17, 2019

1740s-1760s Stays: Where's the Hip?

Oop, back sooner than planned.

I am having an Uh-Oh moment.

Okay, more of a D'oh! moment. I was going on my merry way  when I got cold feet. The pictures from the fitting showed a pretty thick look, and the front-most skirts (tabs) seemed useless, vestigial. Something that had escaped notice during the fitting itself. Another reason why pictures and taking your time are good things.

Back it was to looking at real stays for help. Since I can't use pictures from POF5, we will look at examples from online museum collections.

Here is a favorite pair of long stays. Other than lacking a full front opening and being for me scandalously low in the bustline, in all other respects they're just what I am looking for.

They have some outward bowing in the front, which is observable only nearly to the bottom of the stays, and very wide-set straps, but what else do you notice about them? Click on the image, and look closely...

The skirts (we call them tabs these days) aren't boned. They're floppy. Look at the boning pattern down around the hips. The skirts sit right along the pelvic line: marking it, showing it off. Each bone is set on an angle, so that, I hypothesize, the downward pressure is eased a little, and the bones slide a bit over the pelvis.

Yes, yes, I am guessing here. Might the stays bite on the hips when the wearer sits? Or do those bits of fabric and the boning pattern ease the situation to bearable or better?

Here is a pair from the Manchester Art Gallery in the UK (1947.1622). Well, the skirts, such as they are, are boned, and they don't splay, and they do not seem to demarcate the hip line: instead there is a curve. I suspect that the woman who wore these was slender.

Now look at some later stays. Is hip-biting the reason why that in so many later stays the skirts are boned, and apparently heat-treated to splay out permanently, thus creating a seating on the hips with some spring to it, to mitigate any digging in?

Look at these circa 1770s stays from the Met (C.I.40.173.6a–e). The skirts are a little wider and boned and the permanent splay is apparent. They appear to be made to sit on the hip line. The stays are covered in fashion fabric so the boning pattern is invisible, but the skirts are so stiff that I am sure they are boned.

Well, well.

I've got to decide whether or not the skirts will follow the hip line closely or not.

Also to decide: 
  • Do I risk discomfort and leave the skirts floppy, but obtain for sure a silhouette that nips the waist and elongates and slenderizes that line as much as possible? 
  • Or do I trust that heat-treating the bones will offer both a springy splay and a nicely nipped waistline that still offers that rigid line we have seen in the painted record?

Why so worried?

It's mostly about vanity.

Obviously, the vestigial tabs are rather stupid -- I do have to figure that out. Yet there's more to it, naturally.

Here's the picture of the front at the first fitting. Yes, with a few tweaks I will make, the stays fit. No, they are not cinched in at all. So of course the cone shape is going to be rather thick.

Yet it's hiding the hip line too much. The stays aren't getting the chance to demarcate the waist-to-hip break. While years of forced sedentaryness -- sedentarity?--  have added squishy padding that my age-modulated slower metabolism is finding it hard to banish (dang it! the gym's healthy but it isn't shrinking me very well), I do have a waist. The squoosh loves the arms, chest, hips, thighs and posterior section best. I have extra va-voom. Well, if I have it, why not let it show 18th century style as much as possible?

The current setup isn't doing it. The waistline is hitting squooshy stuff, not the hip bone. The front skirts are just sitting there, not doing anything. That's because they're not following the hip line: they're below it.

Until I sew that side seam lower, and risk tearing the mockup by cinching in the stays the way I want to wear them to regulate the squoosh, I won't know where to start the skirts, much less decide whether I want to bone them or not.

A second fitting is in order. I may have to break a few bones and maybe tear something :} 

Not my hair, not my hip. Heaven forbid -- you get old enough to know several people who have broken a hip, and you'll be skittish, to -- no, the stays, the stays.

Oh, and Why to Watch Where You Set Your Fake Hips

Flipping back through pictures, I found this from several years ago: my old stays, with hip pads sewn to them.

Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Uh-huh. Fake hips go on the hips, not at the waistline. The pads are set too high, which scootches up the waistline, which nudges up the apron ties. That's one reason why in pictures I am short-waisted.

The look would be a little better if I had set the pads lower. Live and learn.



MrsC (Maryanne) said...

What a lovely journey to go on with you! It DOES make so much sense but I don't think it's ever occurred to me either. It also shows what clever bunnies they were to make the tabs, so the waist to hip moment was so clearly defined. And now I'm thinking the tabs probably helped it sty put too, like tucking in a shirt.
MY squidge displacement when I sit is EPIC. It's a gae changer. No corset will ever be up to the challenge of keeping THAT lot in one place. But I've always had a background yen for a lovely polonaise or some such, just for fun. Mayne I can find a way to work it onto the stage and thus justify it. hMmm. Keep sharing Natali, it's so interesting!!
Also the bumroll things makes so much sense. The
tie point of the roll is midway between top and bottom as the roll is cylindical,so if tied tot he waist it will sit half up above the waist and half below. This also is an AHA moment! Sewing is science!!

ZipZip said...

Dear Mrs. C.,

Good morning! Wouldn't it be neat to do a polonaise in a New Zealand-style print? A new and very different take on a classic silhouette?

You're right. It certainly is helpful using the scientific method when reconstructing clothing styles that haven't been worn in centuries. Observing and experimenting are key to it.

Haven't had time for the second try-on: it's late spring now and we all want to be outdoors, although some days it's warm and some it's brrrr-chilly. I am picking straw and seeds out of raw wool shorn from our sheep -- +definitely+ an outdoor task -- instead of sewing.

Wee finches nested on top of our porch columns, although it appears that black crows may have tried to eat the eggs or babies and the parents abandoned the nests. Boo.

Hoping that autumn is very pretty there and that the colors are still bright,