Monday, November 22, 2021

The Magic of Bust Padding Improves the Fit of a Victorian Bodice

As some of you know, I made an 1870 day dress back in 2012-13 from Truly Victorian  patterns TV201 and TV400, with an overskirt drafted from a pattern given in Peterson's Magazine, January 1869, as well as the TV108 Grand Bustle. 

To date it is the only First Bustle era dress I've made, and while TV patterns are excellent and I had the help of two original mid-Victorian dresses then in my collection to use for construction assistance, I made some novice mistakes that haunted the dress so that on the Fit-O-Meter it never hit more than "meh...".

Now's the time to rectify the issues as much as I'm able. It has become the year of the refit anyhow, and I am still working out kinks with the 1895 wired and hairclothed petticoat.

The first fix: adding bust padding. Often called bust pads, the padding helps to smooth out the fit of a bodice and prevent the sudden dip or heavy horizontal wrinkling just above the bustline that can occur when wearing a corset, especially as a woman grows older. They're not augmenting the main body of the bust, but the space above and to the side of it. Added to a bodice, they often look like the first pads I added, below.

The bodice inside out, with bust pads, version 1, in the first position I had them.

How the Bodice Fitted Before the Pads

Look at the photo below. What do you notice about the bodice's fit?

Okay, besides the fact that the bottom hook and eye is left open. I was dashing to try it on. Did you notice that on your -- the viewer's -- left, that the bust fit is smooth while on the right there is a crease where the bust hits a hollowing of the upper chest above the corset? I am holding my arms in the same way on both sides, so it's not my position.

What caused the difference? The magic of bust pads, of course, or to be exact, the magic of one bust pad. The bodice was tried on to see if the pad I had just made worked, and yes, it did. After the photo, I was off to make the other so as not to appear lopsided.

The bodice used to fit even less well. Here it is the first time I wore the dress, in 2013:

Oh my, the poor bodice 
doesn't fit at all.

What happened? While the bodice was fitted over a toile, the issues were baked in from the get-go... If you look carefully, the tell-tale folds are there. 
Serious Christopher
wanted to be in the picture.

At that time I mentioned adding pads, but when the second fitting came around, I had forgotten about them, and also had the hubris to try the bodice on sans corset. Of course you're not going to see what's wrong when you're not wearing the proper undergarments...a rookie mistake.
I thought it fit then,
but no, it didn't.

So, main points so far:
  • bust padding fills in weird hollows above the bust that occur with some women when they wear a corset;
  • always do your fittings with the proper undergarments;
  • if you can, write down the steps in making your bodice, so that you don't forget to do something -- like add padding -- in the heat of making.
Got that? Let's move on.

Making the Bust Pads, Version 1

Following directions in Elizabeth Stewart Clark's The Dressmaker's Guide: 1840-1865, I cut pieces of thinnish cotton batting in concentric pieces, laid them atop one another, and tacked them together. The pad is sized to fill in the hollow between the bust and my shoulder. Then I made a cover out of scraps of muslin, and slipped the pad into it. The shape is an elongated semi-circle because the pad stops at the armscye, but your shape may all depends on where the hollow of your chest is sitting and how big and deep it is.

Four-layer pad tacked together, next to the little cover that 
I've just stitched together with combination stitch.

The cover is turned right side out and the pad is slipped inside.

Then the cover is overcast closed.

Here is the pad laid on top of the bodice so you can see relatively where it will sit, from the bustline up towards the shoulder, and from almost the armscye inwards. The flat side will sit next to the wearer, while the gently mounded side will sit against the bodice to shape it.

Then I pinned it in place inside the bodice, tested it by putting on corset and bodice, tweaked the position a bit, and then tacked it in place, catching only the bodice lining with each stitch.

Here is the pad being overcast to the bodice lining
using large stitches.

Here is where we were after the first try-on with the new pads:

Well, the issue wasn't solved on one side. I clearly needed more padding, and you know, it needed to sit further out to the armscye and go further up towards the shoulder.

Why do I say that? You shall learn.

Bust Pads and Padding in 19th Century Dresses

Padding out the hollow of the bust was common in Victorian clothing. If you spend enough time on Etsy looking for antique bodices for sale, you are sure to spot examples of padding in photos of the interiors.

When I brought up the success of the padding on the Truly Victorian Pattern Sewists FB group, Felicity Rackstraw, a fellow member of that group, was truly kind and gave me her perspective as someone who collects antique clothing and who has worked in London's famous bespoke clothing district, Savile Row.

"Padding is a wonderful thing. I used to work for a Savile Row tailor..." she wrote. "At work, we habitually padded areas for clients. Fixing uneven shoulders, broadening shoulders, lifting sloping shoulders, smoothing out a hollow chest, smoothing out back curvature or scoliosis. It is no different to padded shorts now to lift or boost a flat booty, or a padded bra. Only the aesthetic has changed."

If you've had qualms about padding, the above should have dispelled them. They're normal.

She showed photos of a once-glorious late 1880s-to-early-1890s silk lavender jacket and explained, "I have extant garments with it, this is one... the maker has put the padding inside the lining on this one, you can just about see the wool padding where I have lifted the silk away from where it is shattered."

The wool padding tacked in place with creamy white thread
between the fashion fabric and the lining.
Image courtesy Felicity Rackstraw.

As she said, "the lavender jacket is padded from the shoulders down to the bust inside the lining; there are no pads added 'after the event', as it were." In this case, then, the wool padding was added during initial construction of the jacket, thus rendering the padding invisible inside. No one need know it was there.

Here is the jacket as a whole.

Jacket front. Image courtesy Felicity Rackstraw.

Padding peeping out. Image courtesy
Felicity Rackstraw.

She and I traded comments on the FB post, and later on Messenger. A specialist vintage reproduction dressmaker, she owns Esme's Vintage Closet in Stoke-on-Trent in England, and maintains a Facebook presence at We had a delightful chat, and I am grateful for her insights.

Bust Padding, Version 2

I started over. This time I cut a pattern in paper that covered, like Felicity's bodice, from shoulder right out to the armscye. Then I cut scraps in batting and layered them. Whoopsie, I layered them such that the smaller pieces come inwards towards my bust, not outwards towards the fashion fabric. Backwards mounding. No matter, it ended up not making a difference.

Cutting the pattern.

Layering the padding. 

Not perfect yet. This time, I marked 
the wrinkle with pins. The
rest of the padding looked a little
much up near the shoulder. 

Aha!  See the pins I am pointing towards?
The wrinkle is below the padding!

Well. I had set my test padding too far up. Remember what Felicity Rackstraw said about adding padding where it was needed? I had added too much as well as misplaced it.

The patterning and pad-building was repeated.

This time, as you can see,
The padding runs into the armscye,
but doesn't climb all the way to the

Here is the final effect, below. 

The bodice fits smoothly at last!

The padding worked -- perhaps even too well. The bodice fits much more smoothly now. I might take a layer of padding out in the section up towards the shoulder and not close to the armscye where it might be a tad too much. In any case, am very pleased to have learned the technique. 

By the way, you can see that the removable fichu-collar that's tacked to the dres consists of two sides that pin together at bottom with a bow to cover the join. Here, the bow has not been put on.

I am hopeful that you found the above helpful. Once again, let's review:

  • Mark the position of the wrinkles in your bodice from the outside.
  • Match the positioning of your padding to where the wrinkles are, and shape it accordingly. The padding certainly doesn't have to be round. Shape it to add smoothness where it's needed.
  • Pin in place and test as needed. Your first go may not be the last one.

Other Tweaks to the Dress

The dress still needs work, I think. Here are pictures from Hallowe'en and from the last few days.

The bodice has a horizontal wrinkle across the back and there is wrinkling below the bust in front. Usually that means it might be a little too long. In this case, I think it's because the bodice has hiked up a little; it has done that each time I have worn it. The solution? I will add boning in the seams and add large, heavy hooks and eyes that attach the bodice and the skirt together. Combined, the bodice should stay where I want it. If that doesn't work, by golly I will add a waist stay inside that hooks closed, tightly.

The side view makes me wonder about the sleeves. Are they a bit full? Coat sleeves were meant to be loose, but this loose? Research is in order. 

The overskirt pouf is governed by how tightly three sets of thin silk ribbons are tied. Let's tighten the ribbons and raise the tripartite pouf higher.

The Halloween costume.

The hat is delightful. It's an equine dressage hat, a gorgeous vintage thing. The plume is meant to be outre for Halloween. 

In the front, I wish there was less wrinkling in the overskirt "wings" at the top of the overskirt. Memo: investigate what's causing it. Might I need to add another flounce to the petticoat, this one ending only partway down to fill things out? Am already wearing the grand bustle with back flounces and a petticoat made with a large flounce all the way around.

Finally, the unrelieved black of the trim has long bothered me. Perhaps I should make a bias band of the fashion fabric and work it in. Right now the puffing and the flounce are covered with black bias bands.

So there we are. Returning when all this is done; that may be after the holidays. Meantime, all safety and health to you and wishing peace to all. For those in the U.S., happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Renovating the 1795 Cream Silk Open Robe Ensemble for the Jane Austen Ball

My, aren't we fine, although blown about and rained upon by a storm getting to the ball.
The altered open robe and petticoat as worn to this year's Jane Austen 
Festival ball. That's Polly with me: we had
Such fun

Eleven years ago this summer, almost to the week, the costume I am most proud of -- self drafted, hand sewn and hand-embroidered -- left my hands and needle, was packed in a dress bag, driven to Louisville, and worn at the Jane Austen Ball. For several years after, I wore the circa 1795 cream open robe for different events and with different petticoats and accessories. I felt as elegant in it as in anything I've ever worn for any reason.

In 2019, when I thought to try on the robe, not only were the heavily boned stays to go under it unbearably tight, but it got stuck on my shoulders, half on, half off, and it took an awful deal of wriggling to work my way out. Phoo...phoooeeey, as Pogo would say. 

The pretty kitty in the GIF managed their extrication more elegantly than I did.

Well, here it is 2021 and the robe was still sausage-tight despite a few pounds gone. Walk away from my favorite outfit? No, no no. Time to enlarge it, much as people back in the day would have*. Here then is the tale of alterations.

* For example, see "The Multiple Lives of Clothes: Alteration and Reuse of Women’s Eighteenth-Century Apparel in England" by Carolyn Dowdell. PhD thesis, Queen's University, 2015.

Enlarging the Body of the Bodice, Part 1

This process suffered an initial hitch although the results ended up well. At first all that seemed needed was adding a narrow panel of fabric under the armscye, adding width where I was thicker than 10 years ago. So I disassembled one side of the dress, removing the sleeve and the front piece. 

Why just one side? So that

  • I could look at the hand stitches used originally, and replicate them -- each section is sewn using the seam and stitch best meant for the purpose, mostly lapped seams and spaced backstitch. Boy, did this reduce thinking and worrying time.
  • I could see exactly how much fabric was added and test the fit a little compared to the original. That plan worked just barely well enough.

I took as exact a pattern of the front piece as I could by laying it onto a large piece of newsprint and tracing around it, and worked out a little additional pattern piece to go next to the front piece under the armpit. Here it is, below.

The fabric for the additions was furnished from my old silk curtains, which had been saved for recycling into costumes, and which are made of the same silk shantung as the original dress, plus leftover linen from "cabbage" retained from past projects. I cut the lining and fashion fabric for the new little side piece, and closely prick-stitched it on as a lapped seam, the lap facing the back of the bodice. Here it is in process.

After pinning the front to the new panel, it became clear I had made a the armscye was out of position. much for a fast alteration. Had I just inserted a triangular piece with the width at the bottom and the point at the top, the alteration might have worked, but if you widen the top, of course that shifts the entire front and side of the gown. Plus, the fronts still didn't overlap for pinning like they were supposed to, so each side needed to be wider. Again, phooey.

There was nothing for it but to add a new bodice front piece with extra width, a corrected armscye curve given the new underarm piece, and proper fit with the bodice shoulder strap. That meant drawing a new front pattern piece using the pattern piece I had just drawn. You can see the pattern below. If you look carefully you can see that I tried to mark everything so as not to forget to create enough seam allowances, etc. I added a little extra fabric at the center front just in case it was needed. If you look at the original front piece lying above the pattern, you can see that in the original robe, I had cut the front too deep and had had to fold it over. Not this time around...

New front pattern piece with all of its markings.
Boy, are they hard to see in the photo. However, seam allowances have
been added all the way around. I've guessed at the center front seam
by sketching a dotted line from top to bottom: you can make that
out, at least, in the photo.

Next was cutting the fashion fabric and lining, basting them with red thread, and pinning them to the original garment to test the effect, per the below picture.

By the way, to preserve the existing pleats in the gown skirts, in case I needed them, I basted them in place with red thread. 

The new front piece, both lining and fashion fabric, basted together 
and pinned to the rest of the robe to test it.

Here I am testing the shoulder strap for fit by pinning everything. There's more basting...

Because kitty helpers must be recognized, here is Nutmeg napping while I am at work. Can you spot her? She tired of trying to get at the fabric. And say, isn't that the 1890s petticoat on the dressform, waiting to be finished? Yes. And it's still waiting.

I checked the nature and stitches used in the seams in the part of the robe that was still not taken apart, and copied them on the new front piece. The new bodice front piece is lapped to the new little side piece with another lapped seam: the front piece overlaps the new side piece, just as the new side piece overlaps the existing side-back piece. The front center edge was left raw until the time should come to try the gown on and fix where I wanted the closure to be. The bottom hem was left unsewn too, so I could adjust it when fitting the bodice.


Then it was time for the first sleeve. Adding a strip to the existing sleeve would have been ugly, although I could have done it, of course. Instead, because I had plenty of silk and linen, I made a new sleeve altogether. The robe's original sleeve was taken apart, laid flat on the silk, and an extra half inch or so was measured on each side of the long seam, plus another half inch for seam allowance: I drew tiny dots on the linen to mark the new cutting line. A little tiny bit was added to the armscye so the sleeve wouldn't be so all-fired sausage-tight, too. Normally I'd have cut the linen first, but I had more silk than linen. In addition, I decided to cut both new sleeves at once.

In the picture below, I have laid the new sleeve pieces on the what's left of the linen lining fabric to see if there is enough room in the fabric to cut the sleeves on the straight of grain without piecing...and there was enough.

The sleeve lining and fashion fabric were basted together and treated as one, slipped into the armscye, and the bottom half closely backstitched. Since the shoulder strap didn't need any fooling with, I had already attached the lining part of it to the front and back of the bodice. All that was left was to spaced-backstitch the rest of the sleeve to it, easing to top in carefully. The sleeves are tight enough that no pleating of the top of the sleeve was necessary, just gentle easing of the little bit of excess. 

Spaced-backstitching the sleeve into place.

Then I smoothed the outer fabric of the shoulder strap, which hadn't been stitched yet, on top of its lining, covering the sleeve stitching, and prick-stitched it down.

By the way, all the basting was going to use a lot of thread, so wherever possible, when I pulled out the basting, it was set aside for reuse. Here's one such set of threads ready to go. No point in wasting it.

What next? Making a new front, wee side piece and sleeve for the other side of the robe. This went quickly.

At this point the gown was slipped over my adjustable dress form, which fits no one well, to test the look, and I briefly slipped the new half of the bodice on over myself, in stays, to make sure the sleeve fit neatly, which it did. Phew.

Try-on and Completing the Sewing

Now to fit the altered gown closely. On went the necessary base to the dress, the recently enlarged stays.

Next came the bodice. I pulled the front pieces into position, smoothed them, and lapped one front piece over the other to the degree I wanted. In this case, I left plenty of extra on both left and right sides in case I gained weight. That's a delight with many 18th century gowns: since they're pinned closed, you can adjust where you pin rather than have to reset buttons or hooks and bars.

I also checked the bodice bottom to make sure that the hem ran straight to the sides, and didn't dip or angle; the position was pinned.

Once fitted to taste, off came the robe. The edges in front and bottom being turned in already, they were prick-stitched to finish them.

Re-attaching the Robe Skirts

Then I reattached the gown skirts. They needed re-pleating. You've seen that process many times for 18th century skirts, most likely, and all that needs saying is that the pleats were whip-stitched onto the bodice. That way if I add a little pad at the back, then the skirts of the gown can hinge outwards nicely.

The back of the gown narrowly pleated and whipped to the finished bodice bottom.

Re-attaching Lace Trim

After that, re-attaching the original lace. I can easily detach it for use in other garments. I had some more of the lace, which dates from the 1920s or 1930s and was recovered from a cutter slip over a decade ago, and so this go-round I doubled the collar lace. It makes for a much richer effect.

Figure numbers 97 and 98 in Heideloff's Gallery of Fashion (Bunka Gakuen library) show two ways in which lace can be applied: slightly ruched and tacked down to the outside of the dress through the center of the lace, and pleated and tacked inside the dress. 

Because my lace was edging style, with one decorative edge, I chose the latter option. The lace was very lightly pleated at intervals and then tacked, just inside the edge of the neckline. Because one row of lace was longer than the other, the shorter row went on first, centered at the back of the neckline; the second went over it.

Gallery of Fashion concert dress

The lace, tacked on

There, you can see the doubled lace better. 

Here's the dress from the back. It has yet to have the lace re-added to the sleeves and oh yes, to be pressed. Still, the silk does look luxurious in the way it puddles and trails. That's one of the things that's so appealing to me about it.


Worn to a Ball

And so I wore the dress to the ball-on-a-boat; my friend Polly and I attended together. For the event, I wore the gown with the silk voile petticoat I had embroidered with goldwork. The hair up in a chignon, I bound an ice blue long silk sash around it, pulled out a lock of hair in front and draped it, and added several short black vintage ostrich plumes. 

My hair had more loft before we left the hotel; you'll learn why in a moment. I have an aversion to looking at or fussing with my outfit or hair while out and about in normal life. That's probably not the attitude to carry to a ball, but there you go. It was only after looking at these photos after the fact that it became clear just how out of order I appeared. Had it been 1795, there might have been pointed comments and raised eyebrows.

Wrapping a vintage silk taffeta sash in the hair and draping a lock of hair over it.
Arrr, the wind blew the lace around.

The planned cut steel earrings would have rusted, so I wore the pearl earrings I wear daily. No necklace this time: it would have been appropriate but I preferred a quieter look than was ultra-fashionable. New red American Duchess Dunmore shoes on the feet; a tad too early, but I couldn't find ultra-pointed, high-vamped shoes with the right tiny heel.

What a wonder, the ball. We had a lovely time. Lively English country dancing, a fortune teller, wine, scrumptious desserts, and to watch the wide, wide Ohio slide past as evening descended.  I didn't dance, sadly. Perhaps next time.

Of course, it rained. It started with roiling dirty dark brown clouds on our way to the boat and a wind that threatened to blow our gowns around our waists and our feathers into the river, and then it thundered and started spitting great drops as we raced up the gangplank onto the boat. After that, for good measure it poured a while and left puddles on the decks, covered though they were. Gathering up the yards and yards of gown skirt over my arm, not realizing I had trailed it in the water already, lace blown by a naughty breeze, bodice gapping slightly, we had a moment for an as-is plein air portrait. It feels very realistic to me, rather as if I was gathering up skirts, not entirely successfully, in an attempt to remain dry on a boat on the Thames on a rainy evening. Only this was a boat on another river, on another continent, in another century.

Happy but attempting to remain dry
on the second deck

A little bit like this painting from a slightly later period, only my feet are primly together, while the painting's heroine might be taking a dance pose. So the general effect when you draw your skirts up in the wet is rather accurate. Sure wish I knew what this painting was called, and where it comes from...if you know, please tell me.

Here's Polly in portrait mode, too.

I've never been on a paddle-wheeler before and it was delightful in every respect. Here below, the paddle in motion: have just learned how to turn videos into GIFs and it's fun!

Now it's evening over a month later. My mother's Missy kitty is asleep beside me as this post is finished at long last. My husband and sons went to a family wedding in Nashville last weekend, and I couldn't go because of the immunocompromise issue. For safety, have come to visit my mother, a mile away from home, for 5 days and until a COVID test shows them in the clear, on the advice of the transplant clinic. It's lovely and quiet and so nice to be with mom. I'm bringing meals to my family and before heading out we did all the laundry and made sure the house was fresh. Still, I miss my family so...

Missy kitty napping in my mother's den. She's mostly Maine Coon, has
short little legs, big soft paws, an awesome amount of fur,
and a sweet, calm and affectionate nature.
Her fur curls on her tummy!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Tutorial: Enlarging the 1790s Transition Stays (Past Patterns PA-030)

They fit! The transition stays fit nicely!
I may look serious, but inside am smiling :}
Yes, there's a reason for the angled front lacing.

Way back in 2011 I spent many weeks hand-sewing a pair of 1790s heavily boned transitional stays, using the Past Patterns (PA-030) kit. The directions, which produced a reproduction of an extant garment, were excellent and the kit materials high quality. Among the kit contents: a strong, fairly coarse linen as close a match as possible to the original, handsome corded blue silk embroidery thread to stitch the channels, white linen thread for the rest of the stitching, and quality reed.

I recall the process going smoothly; however, the written record states differently: "...those who prefer to examine the needles on the trees, even more than the trees themselves, should beware of the forest. Small, even stitching isn't worth a pile of pins when part of the stays have been assembled upside down." Ha! I rather like that analogy; especially apt since I have been examining a lot of fir trees lately (see the bottom of the post). Seems I always have had costume construction troubles. 

Anyhow, the stays design bears more relationship to earlier 18th century stays than it does to later Regency ones. There are no bust cups, the waistline is shorter and there are no tabs (what POF5 calls skirts), and the opening is front only. This makes for the conservative silhouette I prefer. Finally, the front is fully boned but the back is partially boned, and all the bones are straight up and down. These stays were made in America, by the way, so stylistically they vary quite a bit from other transitional stays I have seen.

The stays were comfortable to wear and I wore them plenty, but like several garments made during that period, I didn't write up the process. In this case, partly because it would not have been good to infringe upon the work the pattern company had done researching and creating the pattern.

A good fit under the gown to start with, circa 2011.

After 2017, when I tried them on, they no longer fit, producing a truly uncomfortable hotdog-encased-in-a-barrel effect. I toyed with enlarging them for years. In the end, I tackled the project in late June this year...and it was straightforward and resulted in stays I like even better. Their fit is more to my liking even than the original version, and the visible additions only adds to the authentic feeling.

So, do you have stays that no longer fit but aren't so small that that the pieces sit nowhere on your body near where they should? You can enlarge the stays without pain or hair-tearing, if you don't mind new unboned narrow panels inserts in a seam to each side. Or, add them with boning. Your choice. It's far less difficult than I thought it would be.

Patterns of Fashions 5 gives the example of stays enlarged by adding unboned panels. See stays No. 27, circa 1780-90: Half-boned Stitched Stays in Natural Linen for Horse Riding. P. 109. The stays pieces include "[a]n unboned panel, made of the same layers as the rest of the stays, was probably added after a fitting, as the stays must have been too tight."

Here's How To Do It

First, take out a side seam. In this case, the seam between the front and side piece. You will want to take out a seam that allows you to enlarge the sides of the stays, rather than the front or back.

You can see the two fabric layers, inside and outside. The seam allowances were originally turned inwards and then whipped, making for a strong, 4-thickness seam.

Vanity, oh vanity. I remain proud of the backstitching on these stays. Then again, didn't need glasses to sew at that point in life, and the fairly coarse, strong linen made counting threads -- okay, estimating them -- fairly easily doable, and the stitching lines are marked clearly on the pattern.

Estimate how much width you want to add to each side of the stays. You will add a panel to each side of the stays. If you want to be extra careful, you can add little bits to several pieces, but I didn't think that was necessary in this case because there isn't that much shaping to these stays: they're pretty tubular as it is. 

In fact, the original stays, like in the drawing on the pattern cover, do not give much of a spreading front. They're not meant to, but that's not the look I was after. I decided to add a little angling to the leading edge of the panel -- that connected to the front piece. The angling would make the the stays wider at top than at bottom so as to create more room for the bosom and make for a bit of narrowing further down the stays.

Remember, you can take your work in some if you make it too big, so it's better to err in that direction than half to cut more linen for a second try.

Cut a rectangle of linen as close to the original linen as possible, one for each of the two panels that you will add. Include enough at the widest long point for a durable seam allowance, and seam allowance for top and bottom. 

In my case, I folded the top and bottom first, then the center, then played with the angle until I had added what I felt was enough. You might want to pin the results to your stays and see if you like the effect. I didn't for some reason; was feeling pretty comfortable, I guess: can't recall these months later.

Below, the pre-folded piece of linen from one side. I pressed the folds sharply with the flat side of a ruler to make a sharp fold that would remain visible. If you're working with an outer silk or wool layer, that's not going to work: you would need to press the silk or wool with an iron.

Here below I am pressing the folds in place with the flat side of my short stainless steel doctor's ruler. Oh, how precious that tool is: it measures to tiny increments and it's excellent for marking seamlines with pressed folds. At one point I had stitches and the hospital gave the ruler and scissors used in the procedure. Have kept it close by ever since.

Starting to set the folds.

One of the two panels just about folded, and pinned together for safekeeping until I sew it to the stays. I ended by adding pins all the way down the sides of the opening so that neither side of the fabric could shift when I stitched the panels to the existing stays. That would be a shame as the fit would be compromised. Could have basted it, too.

As you can see, once the linen is folded, you have two finished layers with the turned in edges to make a 4-layer seam much like the original stays...except that they have no bones.

Again, if you like, you could bone them, but I didn't think it necessary.

Here below am checking the measurements of the completed panel so that the second panel can be prepared to the same dimensions.

The next step is to stitch the new panels to opened seams in the existing stays. My original stay panels were tightly whip stitched together with strong, thickish linen thread. There was plenty of thread left over, and I had it still in the pattern kit package, so I used that.

Here below you can see that I made sure to put the widest end at the top of the stays, so that the top has more room than the bottom.

When you stitch, put right side to right side and whip tightly and closely, as exactly to the original stitching as possible.

Working on the stitching, below. Do you see how thick that linen thread is? It's quite strong.

A completed seam of panel to original stays. Note that there are many stitches per inch for strength.  Again, remember to stitch the panel right sides together to the original stays. That way the little bump in the seam that can be created by the stitch will be to the inside of the stays when you flatten out the seam. By hinging the seam back and forth and working the stitches with your fingers, you may be able to rid yourself of the bump, doesn't always work. I tend to stitch especially tightly, so I usually have a little bump in seams like this. Exhibited below.

Working the stitches with a thumbnail to flatten them.

Completed seam. 

After both panels are inserted into the opened seams, bind the edges just like you did with the original stays. 

My stays had room for a bent metal bar to be inserted at the bust to help shape the front, but I never liked the effect, accurate or not, so left the bars out. However, I sewed the bar pocket in place again just in case I decide to add another kind of bowed bar in the future.

Below, a shot of the completed inside of the stays, with that bar pocket. Whoopsie! The image is upside down... The binding is a little heavy, but I was trying to complete the stays and a redo of the cream 1790s silk gown before an event, so didn't redo it.

Here, the outside of the stays. I re-prick-stitched a narrow tape on top of seam next to the front of the stays. Have to add one to the back, but ran out of time.

Here are the completed, renovated stays laid out.

Here they are tested for fit! While the slightly angled new panels added a little more room at the top, in the end I decided to add a little more by loosening the tightness of the lacing at the top. You see this a lot of 1780s stays in which the front has a partial opening that can be loosened to round out the front. It made sense to do it here, but I make no claim that this was done originally on transition stays. Suspect that lacing varied to taste in all kinds of ways, but don't know it for a fact.

Yes, the fit is what I looked for: conservative, good for an older person in the 1790s who was used to earlier stays, but still providing uplift.

After this, I enlarged the 1790s cream silk gown and will talk about that and the event I wore the stays and dress to in the next post. Then it's back to the 1890s silk petticoat. It's sitting on the dress form in the master bedroom, just waiting for me to return to it. It doesn't look reproachful, simply resigned to being part of the room decor for the moment.

In Other News

We took a Big Trip out West! Over 4,500 miles (7242 km) in the car over more than two weeks, in a loop from Kentucky to Wyoming and back, with stops along the way. It's not that easy to see large swathes of the U.S. at once because it's pretty large, but I came home with some understanding of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, for sure. It became a little tricky as the Delta COVID variant started to take hold, but we stayed in cottages or wore masks when getting to our hotel rooms, cooked outdoors on a camp stove or had take-out.

A few pictures from the trip:

The sod of the Great Plains is suddenly broken through, or was eons ago, resulting in severe erosion that created the South Dakota Badlands. I found them scary, so barren, but understand that mammals and plants do make it there, though humans have a hard time. The heat was unreal.

Swimming in chilly Silvan Lake at 6,000 feet in the Needles part of the Black Hills of South Dakota, which pop up out of the plains. Mountains, actually, in this portion of the hills. Christopher tentatively stepped in. In a few moments, Curte went sploosh. I charged in, gritted teeth, and swam a little later, as did Noah. Once in, though, it was bracing and fantastic, and they dove off of the far side of the boulders. 

A first view of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. It looks like something out of a myth, doesn't it? Couldn't you imaging the ring about it in standing stones, like a henge?

Roadside bison, including a "red dog", or calf, next to his mama. They may not look terribly big but they are enormous. The herd is native to the area, present since antiquity. The bison, says Noah, have no notion of road rules. They go where they will, and we give way. Anyone who doesn't risks being gored or fined or both. We were in our car, and they talked to one another continually, in grumbly, rumbly voices, and their scent was grassy and musky at once.

The Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone, steaming on a chilly morning, its colors only guessed. Most of them are caused by thermophiles, heat-loving microorganisms.

Hiking up in Cascade Canyon in the Tetons. We were around 9,000 feet, I guess. The Grand Teton peak far above is enclouded -- rain was on the way, and cloud started quite literally rolling down the peaks at the end of this high mountain valley, bringing thunder and rain. If you look carefully at the Mount Owen, you can see small glaciers. 

Taking a rest on the hike before the weather threatened. Noah is glum because he and Christopher plunged up the trail, which is quite steep at times and crosses rock ledges, and he was tired out. We had to coax him to come up further into the canyon, hanging high above Jenny Lake, beckoning. The subalpine firs, grasses, wildflowers, berries in sunshine, and rock produced a combined scent that I associate with heaven: sharp, clear, flitting, resinous, leafy, heartachingly wonderful.

It was a trip you only make once or twice in a lifetime, and I feel so grateful to have been able to do so.