Wednesday, 6 May 2009

V&A Stays - Reconstructing History

So I have started work on the Reconstructing History V&A Stays patter as promised. View B, shown above. The front opening Stays with Stomacher. I followed the instructions given on the pattern. Just take a moment to read this bit yourself ....

It all seemed so simple, the pattern pieces are easy to trace. There are only four of them. I had a nagging doubt about cutting the front on the fold - it has laces ... where does the fold fit in??? The instructions didn't explain. I trusted the instructions because sometimes things become apparent as you work ..

I cut an outer set and a lining set - no interlining as this is only a 'toile'. I marked all the pieces appropriately, and sewed the back to the sides as per the instrutions. So far so good ...

Then I moved on to the front .. The instructions said sew the front to the sides (in same manner as back) ... hmmm... Then they said when that is done, you can try thing thing on and that "if the stays are too tight, let the seams out"

Houston we have a problem!
Actually Houston, we have several problems!

1) exactly how much of the half centimetre seam allowance is available for letting out??
2) actually it's all sewn up .. how do you get into the thing??

But before even considering those two points .. isn't there a bit missing???? I know it's supposed to be pulled in tight ... but this is a gap too far!

And even with some improvisation ... it still didn't look like the pattern picture up top. Here, you can see that I have sewed the sides to the front, and cut up the middle to form an opening. This gap is about right - you've got to allow for the body's 'squidge' factor.


There are no more pattern peices, and the instructions were absolutely no help at all ... they say that once the front is sewn on, you can lace in a particular fashion ... Lace what?? Lace WHERE? It doesn't mention eyelets, let alone where to put them.

And another thing, the instructions don't actually tell you how to cut the pattern peices bearing in mind there are 2 versions of the stays ... ie: how does one deal with those flappy bits on the bottom?

When I cut into the flappy bits, the corset lay around the body better. But then what to do? View B, doesn't appear to have flappy bits. More improvisation required. But not yet.

I got so frustrated, reading, re-reading and reading again ... looking for missing pages which don't appear to exist, then checking that I had indeed cut all the pattern pieces. So I wrote to the company where I got the pattern from (looking at the pattern company website was even more useless than looking at the pattern). They are very nice and replied straight away. They said:

"You are not the first to be confused by this pattern ;-) The centre front piece cut on the fold is a seperate stomacher and need to be boned and finished as an entirely seperate entity followng instructions on page 4. The sides of the stays are finished then eyeletted and laced and the stomacher is popped in behind before the laces are tightened"

OK .. but there are NO SUCH INSTRUCTIONS on page 4!!!!!!! Grrr... "confused" is such an understatement that it is floating about somewhere near the 7th circle of hell!

Luckily (breathing deeply) I have my 'bible', with extremely appropriate title (in this case)

Now I see the problem ... In the chapter which covers 17/18th c stays, the patterns look like this:

Can you see the missing link? There IS a peice missing!!!

And this is what the diagrams on the pattern instructions SHOULD look more like ...

A separate stomacher which can be joined into the stays with little tabs or eyelets so that the thing doesn't ping out and hit you on the chin when you least expect it!

So dear readers ... I will finish these Stays. I will have to improvise with what I have now that I have started, and I will be able to do it. BUT I do not recommend for one minute that you ever try this pattern for yourself!! At over £10 it's an expensive mistake to make!

Edit from the future:  This incident is what prompted me to start Sew Curvy Corsetry! (3/12/14)


  1. That's outrageous - no chance of a refund?!

  2. So if you're not the first to have had this problem why have they not fixed it! Stupid company. As always I am in awe of your skills, do you think you could make me an all over the body corset to suck it all in? :D

  3. yes! that thought did cross my mind! I don't know why they haven't added their own instructions ... perhaps I will send them a link to this post! x

  4. That is just typical... yet more proof that they are more than willing to take your money for an inferior badly written product and the purchaser is suppose to just accept it...

    Ooohhhh makes me soo mad!

    If they knew they had a problem with it they should have withdrawn it from sale and put up with the loss, after all they made the mistake...

    I am sure you will make something fantastic... you are sooo clever..

    X Alex

  5. You should go about getting a refund. Regardless, thanks to your skill, it'll turn out beautiful.

  6. You should offer to rewrite their pattern for a fee.
    Twiggy x
    PS You are a very clever lady!!!

  7. Ohhh I am going to enjoy reading your "stay" adventures... I've signed up to follow you!

  8. win...your V&A pattern with original instructions beats my cryptic 1960's dress pattern!

    Sheesh! No wonder you were frustrated...I think a letter of complaint is in order!

  9. Well done you for sticking with it... I would have adandoned the entire project as beyond all hope! I think you need a refund for that pattern!

  10. I think a link to this post is not a bad idea. After all you seem to have more knowledge about drafting a corset than they do. Good Luck finishing it.

  11. Grief - that's annoying. I admire your detrmination in getting it finished and properly made. That price tag seems a little steep for the agro it's given you and then to find there are bits missing. A lesser woman would have surrendered it to the bin by now.

  12. what a pain for you. as you have discovered the stomacher is a seperate heavily boned piece which gets attached to the main corset on one side and sits inside under the lacing. good luck with the rest of it...i am sure you will suceed and if not you will have learnt so much for next time!
    why not ask the v & a if you could go and handle some corsets first hand to help you understand their pattern... worth a try.

  13. Blimey!
    Now you know how I feel just following a regular pattern!
    Completely unrelated comment - where did you get your slide-show widget on your sidebar from please ... I want one

  14. Good going to keep perservering (better I spelt that wrong). I would have simply got so angry I would have thrown the lot into the bin then went off for a sulk for a few days before deciding to try something completely different.

  15. You are a better women then me. I would have been very frustrated and tossed. But thats way you sew these great creations and I don't....Love your work!

  16. Ah Julia you are the cream of all seamstresses... you have at least got beyond the stage of "It must be me that's wrong, after all, this is a printed pattern..." Alas I have come across many historical patterns that are total pants after having paid a fortune for them! But this is the V&A... go complain girl!! And if you get invited down can I come too?

  17. I think it's the Sale of Good Act which states that anything you buy must be 'fit for the purpose for which it's intended'. That pattern isn't fit for the purpose, ergo you should get your money back. They can't go charging extortionate amounts of poundage for a duff pattern!

    I am trying to make something new this week. I cocked that up :-( My fault, not the pattern - which I've read, and re-read a zillion times. So I know a little bit how you feel.


  18. You're so clever - I wouldn't know where to start with something like this and to sort out mistakes in the pattern too.
    You should offer to change their pattern details for them - for a fee of course and ask them if they have any others you could critique - you would get to keep those patterns too!
    Anne x

  19. Oh my word - looks like a nightmare to me! I'd have thought they'd have realised by now that their pattern needs a little reworking!!


  20. And this is why I stay away from patterns - they'll give me headaches!