Hot! Work in Progress: Leather Stays – Almost done!

My leather stays are almost done, and will be done by the end of the week, just in time for Rockford Plantation, a huge Rev War event up in Lancaster, PA this weekend.

Last weekend at our bi-weekly sewing night with fellow reenactors Chris and Natasha, Marc and I cut out the tabs on my stays, beveled all the edges, and punched the lacing holes.  I have only a few things remaining to do:

  • Cut the “horns” off the front.  This pattern is meant to have straps, but it doesn’t really work with leather very well, so I have come up with a new idea.  I’m going to trim them down into the shape of strapless stays and then punch holes and add some cloth straps to them instead.  Not only will it be more comfortable, but it will look like I’ve taken a set of strapless stays and modified them afterward on my own.  Given all the adaptations and modifications we see in period being done to bring older clothing up to new fashion standards or to make garments made for one person be able to fit a new owner, I think that this is a really good idea.  Is it documentable?  Not technically, but given the few surviving pairs of leather stays and the condition they’re in, there’s nothing that has led me to believe that this would never have been done, especially with all the modification we see being done to other clothing in the period, and especially since my impression’s background is that of a former indentured servant.
  • Gouge out fake boning lines.  One thing that seems to be very common among the few examples I’ve seen is that they had fairly complex decorative carvings and almost all of them had lines pressed or gouged into the leather where the boning would have been if they were boned stays.
  • Oil them.  Once all the cuts are in place, they will look white and brand new if they aren’t oiled, so I’m going to give the whole set a nice coating of neatsfoot oil in order to both age them a bit and also soften them up so that they will conform to my body a bit better.

After those three things are done, which should be able to be done in an evening, they’ll finally be done!


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  1. They are looking good!

  2. Kelsey,

    I am making mine now and was wandering how your stays are doing after the last year or so and what would you change.