The extant stays we used for our new pattern follow the convention of fashion fabric on the foreparts (front) only. With the back and side panels in plain linen. This is inline with so many other pairs of stays and the mindset of " if it don't show it don't matter". The ultimate 18th century guideline.
Before beginning to pattern the stays, we needed to try them on a person. Measurements are good, but there is nothing like having flesh to lace up to determine the actual size of the person the stays were originally made for. Well, it turns out I was the person. They fit me perfectly. They were amazingly comfortable for the short time they were on. Nothing at all like any other pair of stays I have ever worn. And no harm was done, it was no different than placing a pair of stays on a mannequin.
The foreparts are green worsted, laced shoelace style over a stomacher. We are using a repro stomacher since the original is long gone. I have used the shoelace arrangement for some time. It does do something different than spiral lacing. Because you are pulling equally from both sides, it provides more compression and more shaping to the front. The sides ride relatively high under the arms, but not uncomfortably so. What the sides do is help control all the wiggly flesh under the arms that most of us have. Some skinny minnies don't have any, but most women do. In our workshop classes we call it schwable.
The back of the stays are not quite even steven. Leading one to wonder, if these had been made ahead of time and then taken from the shelf and made up into the stays.
The back is spiral laced, the top of the stays are bound in white leather, the bottom only in leather in the front sections, the back bottom of the stays are bound in linen tape. All the stitching appears to be by the same hand.
The front lacing holes are in a much darker green silk/mohair thread so when making the reproduction, I decided to go with the darker green of the silk twist. There is obvious fading and damage to the outer fabric of the stays.
So a nice worsted was obtained and the sewing begun, using a silk buttonhole twist and linen thread for the back panels. The original was sewn with 8-10 stitches per inch. I ended up with 11-12SPI.
One thing a pair of stays will do for you is improve your backstitch. I started with the back linen panels first, counting threads and by the time I reached the wool, muscle memory took over and the stitches were just as even as counting the threads. As an apprentice staymaker for many years, I will say this pair was/is my master piece.
I varied somewhat and did leather all around the bottom. I also decided on artificial whalebone as the boning material of choice. In the past I have used all kinds of reed, some very good. Riven oak and pounded ash were also good. For a reproduction of a 17th c pair of stays for Plymouth Museum, I did use artificial whalebone and was very impressed with the look and feel of the finished stays. And the same holds true for these, not only the look but also the feel is just like the original. Having worn them in mid80 temperatures, I can vouch they are no hotter than anything else I have ever used as boning. Unlike the zip ties a lot of people use, this is a corsetry product and does not have a memory. In other words it can be reshaped with heat if necessary. I am happy with the shaping, the feel, the look and comfort level of these stays. I am hoping they work as well for everyone else.