Monday, March 19, 2012

Help! A Pair of Elizabethan Bodies or Georgian Stays?

On the off chance that someone knows the answer off the top of their head...

I've been wanting to make Georgian stays to go under my as-yet-imaginary The Duchess-inspired gown. I've also been thinking that I should try to make some more authentic Renaissance faire garb, for which I would need a pair of bodies (aka an Elizabethan "corset," lest you think I am planning a couple of murders). It seems to me, superficially at least, that there is not much difference between the two -- both feature a conical torso with a flat front and tabs to help hold up the skirts.

Elizabethan pair of bodies, from Janet Arnold's book, late sixteenth century

Georgian stays, 1720-1790, from The Mantua Maker

So my question is, if I am supremely lazy (and short on money), can I get away with making only one of the two, and have it work for both costumes? Can someone with more than a couple nights of research under their belt clue me in on the differences between the two?


  1. Hi! In general, Elizabethan bodies with boned tabs and Georgian stays for the first half of the 18th century are very similar. In the second half of the 18th century, the shape changes to create a new silhouette, particularly going in to the 1780s, when the prow-front was popular, that is, the bust is pushed up and forward and is rounded, like the prow of a ship. The 1790s start to see transitional stays - shortened waists and a "lift and separate" mentality with the bosom. All that being said, a pair of Effigy bodies would work just fine for Georgian up to about 1775. The tabs for Georgian bodies, just a side note, are not for holding up the skirt - they didn't have eyelets for points to be laced through - but were for keeping the waist of the stays from cutting in, and for smoothing the hips, when the flesh is displaced from the midsection. Some Elizabethan bodies (Effigy, particularly) have boned tabs, and I highly recommend them for comfort. It's lots of work to bind all that, but well worth the time - use 1/4" double fold bias for the best appearance, and hand sew the binding, don't try to do it with the machine.

    Okay, I hope that helps. Sorry for rambling on and on!

    1. Oh no, thanks for the rambling! I'm glad someone out there knew the answer to my question! I don't have a pattern to use; I just put my measurements into Drea Leed's custom corset pattern generator and followed her directions for making my pattern. I put tabs on the bottom and plan to bone them, but I don't know if I am ready to tackle the straps et al. of the Effigy bodies yet. Would the strapless bodies from that pattern suffice for a Georgian silhouette? I'm not interested in historical accuracy, since my fabric for the Duchess dress isn't anywhere near period-correct, but I would like the overall look to be close. Also, can you tell me if it should lace closed in the back? I know more modern corsets are supposed to have a ~2" gap. Thanks again for your help!

    2. Hi again :-) I am glad I could be of help. The Custom Corset Pattern generator is an excellent tool. I use it too, for both Elizabethan bodies an for Georgian stays, just with adding more seams in to the latter.

      It's perfectly period to go without straps. There are many Georgian examples without, so no worries there.

      If the stays lace completely closed in back, they're too big. There should be at least a bit of a gap, to give you some play, and also to allow for stretch. There are examples of front lacing, back lacing, and both front-and-back lacing from Georgian stays. I personally love the front and back lacing because it allows you to get dressed by yourself, and adjust things so you know you have the same measurements every time, that is ... if you fit them with the front edges touching, and the back laced as tightly as you like, then tied off, every time you put those stays on and lace them in front so the edges touch, you know they're exactly the same as before.

      Just wait until you find yourself addicted to making bodies and stays, lol. You'll be experimenting with all kinds of things, before you know it.

      Oh, one last thing about the Custom Corset Pattern Generator's pattern - the front kindof curves up a bit for the Elizabethan bodies, but for the Georgian stays, you want the front to curve down or at least be only straight. You want the curve higher than the curve under the arm, otherwise it can cut uncomfortably across the bust.

  2. I won't repeat what was said above, so good luck with it! I can't wait to see it all! XxxX


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