Mission one on my foundational adventures is regency stays!

There is not as much information on the foundational garments of this time as there are for others, such as the 18th and late 19th centuries. 

The whole inspiration for my ongoing exploration into these garments was this project. Drumroll please…

A early 19th century ensemble, completely handstitched! 

Yes, its not much of a feat, especially in comparison to the fantastic creations of other members of the historical costuming community, but it will be the first time I am exploring something like this!

I’m really looking forward to this project, and the final look is being made out of this beautiful navy chintz cotton, with mentoring from the fabulous Zack Pinsent of Pinsent Tailoring


I needed to research before anything else. There is a wealth of information on stays of previous centuries, and corsetry from the years to come, but finding extant examples of foundational garments from the regency period has proven to be a lot more work

And thus my mission began.

First and foremost, what was the fashionable sillhouette in this time period? 

In a huge contrast to the fashions of the last century – wide panniers, conical torsos and exaggerated designs – we see slim, almost column-like figures. 

You can clearly see the desireable sillhouette displayed here.

It featured a raised bust, and an empire waistline, with less volume adorning the torso, and skirts that elegantly skimmed over the stomach and hips, falling to the floor. 

Because of this, the undergarments would need to hold up the bust, and would often separate the breasts as well, normally with a busk or boning in the centre front. 

They would have also needed to smooth out the natural torso, to provide a smooth line for the fabric to fall against. 

The stays at this time are now referred to as “trasitional stays” but back in the early 19th century, there are records of them being referred to as half-stays in some instances, as there were some models in the 1790s that were shorter than the more common long-lin stays. 

Most of the images you can find online are reproductions made by costumers, especially since Netflix show Bridgerton was released. 


I started out by watching some videos on these reproductions, getting a feel for the ways they had approached these tasks, and taking basic notes as they described what they were doing. Overall, I was able to ascertain the first key elements.

Number one, there is to be shaping around the bust in the form of gussets to support and allow for the bust to sit comfortably. It seems to be standard practice to have 2 on each side.

Secondly, back lacing seemed very common, but there are also some instances, such as with the pattern created by RedThreaded, where there was a way to adjust the centre front, through ties passed through the binding.

On the left is an image taken from a book of trades which was published in 1818, and subsequently purchased by a man named Paul Hagen Junior on the 17th of October that same year, according to the signature in the front. 

This pictue itself is on page 223, and can be found in google books. There is an excerpt  from page 224, where the author has written, “The dress maker must be an expert anatomist… she must know how to hide all the defects in the proportions of the body,  and must be able to mould the shape by the stays, that, while she corrects the body, she may not intefere with the pleasures of the palate“. 

Finding ectant garments that reflect this front-lacing design is not particuarly easy to do, with most surviving examples being laced in the back. 

That does not, however, disregard that the stays achieve the most important aspects of the silhouette; The raised and shaped bust being the most noticable. 




There are a few examples that survive which reflect this, with one in particular ringing in similarities to the image above, such as the example below from about 1800 from the V&A. You can read about the construction of this garment on the V&A website by clicking on the image. 


IThe features of this that I would like to draw attention to in particular are the shaped cups, which we hadn’t seen before as in earlier years, it was more fashionable to have a conical shaped torso with a flat front. Which was a massive contrst to the hourglass shape that begins to appar in the 1830s.

You can see now why these are often called transitional stays, as they bridge the gap between the cone and the hourglass figures, joining elements of them both. 

There is evidence of longer stays within the 1820s, such as this collection from the Kyoto Costume Institute, where there are a few different styles within the early 19th century, before they would eventually evolve into the coresetry of the victorian era. 

You can clearly see the features that I have mentioned represented in each one of these styles, some with a wooden busk, some chorded and some with more exaggerated shapes than the others. I will be taking all of these designs into consideration when it comes to designing my own stays, and I’ll be documenting the whole project on all of my social media, as well as on here, so dont forget to follow me and follow this train of experimentation and creation!