Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Early Regency Stays!

From the seller:

Victorian Corset from the late 1800's:

* originally purchased in the late 1800's for a wedding

* shows plenty of signs of wear but that is not unexpected, considering the age

* no attempt has been made to clean this item so as not to damage it

* being sold as is for display or restoration

* has wooden/wire stays. it's 28" across when laid flat.

in dress, everything depends on the corset; no dress, however well made, can fit a figure properly if the corset does not." (Corset comments, 1868-1910)

This lovely piece was purchased by a relative for her wedding in the late 1800's and then worn only for special occasions after that. It was long forgotten until the homestead was recently put up for sale. This is truly a treasure from the past.

Please review the photos closely, they show the item and its condition clearly. Any questions please contact me. Good luck bidding.

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From Me:

Oh seller...

It's from the late 18th Century, not the late 1800's. I really wish the seller hadn't deleted most of the pictures because there was one really good one of the gold and purple brocade.

This is an excellent example of stays in the late 18th century, once the fashion had moved from the natural waist to the raised waist we know during the Regency period. The lack of gussets and overall styling is consistent with the 1790's stays.


  1. Wow! Racer Back Regency! This should make for some interesting discussions around the HA sewing groups!

    1. Most of the 1790's stays I've seen - including the extant pair I own- are "racer" back. You can see them here. I also offer a pattern based off these stays on Spoonflower.

  2. Unless it's a regional piece - I'm finding out that e.g. Central Bohemian Bodices can look close to late 18th century ones (includign the racer back). Although they tend not to lace in the back, so I guess your guess is closer.

  3. P.S. I didn't notice at first in the tiny pictures, but I see it now - the bottom of the tabs is plain, whereas above the waist it's the brocade/damask. Now I'm fairly sure it's a folk costume bodice: the nice fabric shows above the skirt, which goes over the plain tabs.

    1. The regional ones tend to have decorative lacers (metal eyelets that are similar to our metal frog closures now) on the front and have a row of trim/lacing/something going from the shoulder strap to the center front. More like this one at the MET:

      This, most likely, is an early Regency bodice. Please check the link in the comment I made back in April regarding a pair I have in my personal collection.


      This is another pair of 1790's stays from the MET - notice that one of the tabs is a striped green and white while some of the others are more burgundy than the red fabric. The tabs at this point were added on or cut with the fabric just being a cover - leaving the tabs plain. It was pretty common.

    3. See the pom-poms on that MET one? I'm about 99,99% positive that's not an undergarment.

  4. I actually suspect the pairs in your collection, too! Well, mostly the green embroidered one. I mean, it may well date to the era for all I know, but it looks to me like it would have been worn on the outside as folk bodices are, rather than as an undergarment. Which is the main distinction I make between "stays" and "folk costume bodices".
    I've changed my mind about this particular one in the meantime, too, to "well, no idea really", but since my experience is with Czech folk costumes which don't always follow the models you might be familiar with from countries further to the West and North, I still think there are possibilities. You don't always see those decorative lacing hooks on Czech folk costume bodices, for example.

    1. Plus, I would not discount the seller's family's word of mouth so out of hand; there's a bit of a difference between "I found this in the attic and I think..." and being able to trace the garment to a specific family member / ancestor. Depending on where the seller was from, the word of mouth may well have said the local equivalent to "folk costume bodice" that then got translated into "corset" in English because the seller did not know any better word... For that matter, that exact same translation could have happened somewhere further down family history.
      That is most certainly the case with the Czech word "šněrovačka", which, etymologically, applies to laced garments and can therefore easily refer to both folk costume bodices and corsets as undergarments.

  5. It's really a pity that there aren't any better pictures, because now I look at the second picture closely, I think there is some sort of trim around the armholes, possibly similar to the triangular going-ons here:

  6. I have, since, had a chance to look at more bodices in a local Bohemian museum and boy, is this very, very similar to several of them. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was also Czech in origin.
    Most of those were tentatively dated to c. first half of 19th century. Rural fashions were behind the times...
    So I'm thinking, at this point, that it's kind of a mixture of all the assesments. It may well be late 18th century, originally. Or the fabric was. Or it may be early 19th century like those bodices I looked at... It's spiral-laced, which is telling; I hadn't realised that all those years ago.
    ... but it was almost definitely worn as an outside bodice and not just as an undergarment.
    ... and it may easily have been worn in late 19th century if the person who purchased it purchased it already old and wanted a traditional "folk costume" look.