Are leather stays controversial? I sometimes encounter that view online, which have always puzzled me as I know there are extant ones around. Perhaps it is due to regional differences, what was common in Sweden wasn’t common elsewhere. There are several extant ones in Swedish museum collections and they seem to have been popular as working stays and for children. The ones in this post are all located at the museum Nordiska in Stockholm, but they are not the only one. There are, for example, a pair of children’s stays in Gotland who are cut and boned like adult stays and have also decorative stamping that mimics the look of fully boned stays.
The stays in this post range from fully boned stays, half-boned and what are more unboned bodices, though they shape is similar. In the 18th century women in the rural areas of Sweden wore what in the next century would be called folk costumes. They varied from place to place, but an essential look was a shift, several skirts and a sleeveless bodice. In fact, quite close to what is sometimes called “wench-costumes”. These bodices were, and are, cut like stays and could be quite heavily boned, or not boned at all. Not all of them were made out of leather, of course.
Nordiska also have a pair of leather stays that are, so far, not photgraphed (NM.0109352). They are, according to Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen in Underkläder, made for a young girl. The museum dates it to 1720-29, though the stays itself are marked with "Anno 1687", ie, the year 1687. They are front-laced and in dark brown leather, edged with chamois leather. Made out of four pattern pieces with a seam at the center back and side-back. 12 tabs. It's a bit unclear if there are any boning left at all.
I would like to make myself a pair of leather stays, because they seem to be quite comfortable. Front-laced with a few bones at critical points seems to be the most common ones. Well, I have time to think about it, I have plenty of sewing projects to make first.
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