Last updated on October 12th, 2021 at 06:15 pm
From the late 1790s through the 1830s, stays as we know it went through a brief metamorphosis into softer, less boned, and less dramatic silhouettes. However it’s important to remember that some folks (especially older women who were comfortable with their fashion or poorer populations who couldn’t afford to keep up with the changing fashion) continued wearing their older stays for as long as possible, and there was much overlap of fashions of both over- and under-clothing).
Around 1790s, transitional stays started bridging the gap and replacing what we know of as more traditional 18th century Georgian stays (or pair of bodies). Transitional stays were were shorter, often tabbed stays that stopped at the low ribs or natural waistline (rather than the hipbones) and were often less continuously boned and/or reeded. We also begin to see more bust gussets and event individual bust cups, although this became more popular in later decades.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, we start to see the stays became even shorter and softer, with gores or even individual bust cups (gathered using a ribbon drawstring, or shirred) to lift and separate. It was around this time that we also begin to see overlapping of terminology, with some groups in France using “corsets” to differentiate these newer experimental undergarments from the older “stays” (but this differentiation and newer adoption of terminology wasn’t perfectly clean). Today, the corsets below are often referred to as “short stays”. Short stays also paved the way to more minimalistic Regency brassieres which featured no lacing, but straps that overlapped (imagine a wrap-skirt).
Short Stays and Regency Brassieres:
As fashionable waistlines migrated upwards towards empire waists, it appears that women had their choice of undergarments. For those who still enjoyed or felt more comfortable with lower abdominal support, Regency long stays were one of the first “longline” undergarments which extended low over the hip – but they were softer, with minimal boning – often mostly corded (for this reason, historians often differentiate between stays, corsets, and their softer cousins, “jumps”). We also begin to see more experimentation with fan lacing and straps, but most still had traditional lacing systems.
Long Regency Stays and Jumps:
The late 1830s saw an explosion of change, with Queen Victoria taking the throne in 1838 (and thus popular fashion quickly adapting to her tastes) as well as the industrial revolution bringing about split busks, steel boning and eyelets, and more efficient manufacturing. Through the 1840s to 60s, we see a quick evolution into what we now recognize as a Victorian corset.
~Patterns & Tutorials~
H/T and further reading:
The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele (the corset history bible)
Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh (oodles of primary source material)
Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques by Jill Salen (also includes patterns)
Difference between stays, jumps & corsets (informative article by The Dreamstress)
*Please note that I have not personally tried every corset brand in this list, nor do I necessarily endorse every company in my Guided Galleries. This is for informational purposes only. Please contact the corset makers for more information about their locally made, ready-to-wear corsets. Etsy affiliate links help keep this site running and keep the galleries free for everyone to enjoy.