Monday, October 31, 2011

Achieving a proper fit with Regency stays.

There’s been a spate of discussion flying about the ORS for a little while now. Mostly it’s a discussion on how a set of Regency stays ought to fit, and how does one compensate for special issues, like more endowed ladies, or wide hips, etc.

The first misconception by anyone who’s accustomed to making corsets from other periods is that Regency stays should be shaped and fitted like a corset.  Of course they should fit you, and of course they should rest along your curves, but a Regency corset has really nothing at all to do at all with shaping a woman’s body. It’s one of the only style of corset in the long line of historical undergarments that is not at all designed to change the shape of a woman’s body. A woman’s ‘natural form’ was the aim (except with a little levitation). It is designed to hug the natural shape of her chest and torso. The Regency corset should wrap tightly around the torso, it should be stiffened with some boning or cording to keep it from crinkling up on you, and have good shoulder straps.

I say this often in posts about corsetry.  The boning in your corset has absolutely zilch to do with shaping or lifting. The only purpose of any type of boning or cording is to keep the fabric of your stays or corset taught.  Otherwise, without the boning, your fabric would fold and crinkle up on itself when you move around.  What gives you shape, and what creates support is the *cut* of your corset. So it’s important to make that distinction and not rely too much on boning to get you the results you want. It’s a supporting role, not the star. The pattern and cut is the star.

Hopefully my drawings don't look too terrible. :)
In all truth, the Regency corset is designed purely for lift.  That’s why there are so many styles of Regency corset (see an overview of the styles of Regency stays and underpinnings here)—because shape from the empire-waistline down, is largely irrelevant. Some women prefer long stays because they have a bit of a belly they want to control, and granted, if you have rather large breasts, you’re better off with a longer set of stays and a busk to divide and keep the center top of your stays against your chest.  Stays range from being no more than seven or eight inches long (almost to the traditional bra-dimensions with shorter straps) to hip-length. As long as your stays are doing what they were designed to do, it doesn't matter how much length is added, how much boning you stuff into the channels , how much cording or whatever else.

The NUMBER ONE thing you have to know and remind yourself when making your stays is that the empire waistline is KEY. You mess with that, you will have problems.  Your garments are designed to fit around this elevated waistline which runs directly under the base of your bust, and if you are not getting the proper lift, or your gussets are too low, your gown’s cut and placing will suffer.

There are three key points on a Regency set of stays that you must always address when constructing from a pattern or drafting your own;  1) a clear waistline, with the breasts securely held aloft above it. 2) Well measured shoulder straps. The length of your straps will determine where your waistline falls, remember that. If your straps are too long, your stays will drop down below the chest-line and mess with the fit of your gown. 3) The gussets—which are pretty important and should be designed to cup and hold the lower hemisphere of your breasts.

Gussets are key.  Some people believe that with larger breasts, you should lengthen your gussets, which means, deepen the cups, and place your breasts closer to where they naturally rest, right in the middle of your waistline.  Gussets can be somewhat lengthened if you do it intelligently, and you cut an arc in the cup before you cut the slits in for the gussets.  The trick really is to WIDEN your cups if you want to accommodate larger cup sizes. You should be building sideways, not up or down.  You are broadening the platter in which your bust should lay, instead of deepening it.

There are a couple of ways of giving that top binding of your cups the strength to cup the bosom. You can install a drawstring along the front of your stays to bring the edges of your ‘platter’ in, or you can bind it tightly so that it pulls the fabric in by itself. I’ve also seen some designs where the creator made cutouts for each breast rather than gusset slits, and then make gathered/ruched half-cups to fit into them wherein their bosom can nestle.

Now many women are concerned about ‘spillage’.  The rule of thumb is this, your gusset cups should not cover much more than the lower half/hemisphere of your breasts. The nipple should be just barely covered by the edge of your binding, or even half-covered.  The top half of your breasts should be pillowed in the cups.  What keeps them from falling out is the neckline of your shift.  The shift is an essential partner in the team that is your Regency underpinnings, and it acts like the top half of your bra.  You really should not wear one without the other.

    However you make your stays, if you keep in mind the above key points.
    1. Cut your gussets or cups to cup the lower half of your breasts, beginning above the empire waistline. 
    2. Your straps should be short and should hold your stays in place Protect the high-regency waistline 
    3. Use the shift’s drawstring neckline to retain the upper half of your breasts. 
    4. Use a busked corset if your breasts require dividing, or they are large enough to push the whole construct forward with just boning.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    An Evening of Dancing

    Last night, Mrs. Charlotte Cunningham, Mr. and Mrs. Demlow and I, Mrs. Nora Azevedo made our appearance at the Friday night dance held weekly by the Portland Country Dancing Community.

    Mrs. Demlow is a already a member of the PCDC and this time she came in costume, and looked LOVELY. Mrs. Cunningham also looked lovely, having converted a dress she was not 100% happy with into a lovely new ensemble that was excellent!

    We met two new members, Chad and Caley, and I have to say that makes me exceedingly happy to see new faces at events, even if technically it wasn't "our" event.

    We danced more than just Regency dance, and there were equal men to women. In fact, we had partners for all the dances, learned some new dance sequences and felt the exertion of a full ballroom.

    All the ladies and gentlemen that we met were accommodating and genteel. The Gentlemen properly asked for a dance and the ladies were wonderful and helpful when we didn't know the dance steps.

    This was so sucessful, that while we may not always go in costume, we will definitively continue to attend Friday night dances.

    We hope to see more of the membership there.

    Thank you

    Mrs. Nora Azevedo