Stays and Swatches

Today I got some swatches I ordered from Mood Fabrics, and I thought I'd show them off and give my impressions based on them.  Plus some WIP pictures of my stays.

A few pictures of the Diderot stays I've started:

Just two layers of unbleached linen.  I'm slightly torn about that now - I wanted to do something similar to the extant stays I saw at Cherry Hill, but those were workingwoman's stays, front and back lacing.  These are back lacing and therefore a bit fancier, so I probably should have used a fashion fabric as well.  Still.  Good exercise?

My eyelets have gotten much better of late, I think.  Quite round and open. On to the swatches:

11176: Donna Karan crinkled wool challis, "moss" - very dark brownish green, not showing up in the picture.  I don't think the crinkle would be noticeable in a garment, and might actually be pressed out.  Very lightweight, probably not suitable for 18th century clothes. (50", $14)

15853:  Imported chintz, "chocolate" - more brown than it looks (it's not a very good light, sorry).  I think this is the same fabric I used as the outer layer in my thesis stays, though obvs. there in white.  It's tightly woven, smooth and, crisp, but still light.  This I could see using in an anglaise. (56", $10)

20204:  Italian linen, dark blue.  It's pretty smooth and not too thick, but it's definitely mediumweight - I wouldn't use it for a gown.  Maybe a man's coat, though. (60", $12)

20254: Italian linen, "paprika".  The site says this is also mediumweight, but it's smoother and has thinner yarns than the dark blue.  Quite suitable for gowns, although the colors isn't what I'd expected - I thought it would look kind of naturally yarn-dyed and then woven, but it looks a lot more factory-variegated. (57", $14)

12891: Checked shirting, powder blue and brick.  Really, really nice smooth, soft twill.  I picked this out after seeing Hallie Larkin's post on fabrics in Foundling Hospital archives - technically, blue-lined checks were more common, but I thought this would be a good sample to see what the hand and weight of the fabric is like if they do eventually have a blue and white check in the same line.  I would seriously recommend this for modern clothing, it's very nice. (61", $10)

26412: Organdy, white.  This would be a perfect substitute for period muslin, I think.  It's very, very light and translucent, and would look beautiful with whitework. (52", $14)


20014: Batiste, white.  Just a little less translucent than the organdy, and smoother as well. (58", $8)

26411: Theory batiste, white. Quite a different animal!  More tightly-woven, more solid, and more crisp.  I might use this for my bodiced petticoat.  It's sort of like the chintz, but a bit heavier and not quite as slippery-smooth.  It'd be even better for gowns than the chintz, I think, if they make it in other colors, though one could dye it. (56", $10)

20468: Italian linen, off-white.  It's lightweight, and would be good for linings, although I don't know if I'd use it with a nice silk.  It's smooth, but also kind of coarse - the yarns are a little slubby.  Not stiff at all, but not fine enough for nice ruffles or caps. (58", $10)

26397: Theory organic linen, ivory.  The yarns are much finer, but it's also a little more tightly woven and more solid.  Also good for linings and shifts/shirts.  (59", $12)


  1. Hi, I'm a fellow recent college graduate interested in period costuming. I haven't started down the grad school route yet and I'm putting together pieces for a portfolio. What are three things you wish you'd known as you made the transition from amateur interpreter to graduate student?

  2. Well, to be honest, I took up the historical sewing around the same time as I became a grad student - and even now, I'm more a ... theoretical interpreter. So I'm not sure if my advice will help.

    I wish that I'd started working on internships and jobs sooner, and hadn't wasted time thinking that I wasn't qualified enough for either - that's my one big thing. Go after advice on getting jobs in your field, try every venue. Don't just assume something won't be helpful, because you never know, and it can be really, really hard getting started.


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