This tutorial shows how to make basic strapless Renaissance stays or bodies, which will work as a foundation garment for any costume requiring a conical silhouette. The goal of this method is to create stays as easily and simply as possible, using readily available modern materials, while still providing a proper Renaissance fashion silhouette. If your goal is to create an historically accurate pair of stays, this is NOT the method you will want to use.
The drafting of the pattern used for these stays is covered in Drafting Basic Strapless Renaissance Stays (Front or Back Lacing). The finished stays will be front-lacing with no gap, and partially boned into the tabs.
½ yard – 1 yard of fabric, depending upon the size of the pattern. I used approximately ¾ yard of hemp canvas purchased from Dharma Trading Co. Modern corset coutil works very well, but does not look even remotely period, so I would recommend covering it with another fabric. I do not recommend using cotton duck canvas, because it has a significant amount of give and will stretch as you wear it. Linen canvas is an excellent choice, but very expensive and difficult to find.
¾” or wider ribbon for the edging, or wide bias tape. I used ¾” cotton taffeta ribbon.
Spring-steel boning. The exact lengths and number of bones depends upon the size of the corset being made. I used two ¼” wide bones per tab, two ¼” wide bones for the center front edges, and six ½” wide bones fanned across the front. If you want to use spiral steels I recommend at least doubling the number of bones to keep a stronger conical shape. If you want to use reed or cording, I recommend fully boning the stays instead of using the partial boning shown. If the stays are large (36” waist or larger), I recommend full boning even if using spring steel to ensure a smooth conical shape.
Two-part grommets and the tools to set them.
Lacing for the finished stays.
Constructing the Body of the Stays
Cut two of each panel on the fold. Mark the tabs, but DO NOT cut them.
Sew the panels to each other.
I recommend lock-stitching the seams so they will be stronger and less likely to pop under stress. Lock-stitching is when you stitch back over a seam that has already been sewn.
Create a continual loop from all four pieces.
You can either iron the seams open, or iron them to the side. I iron them to the side so the pressure of the garment will not lay directly on the stitched seam threads. If you iron to the side, be sure that all seams are ironed the same direction.