18th Century Baby Stays

For the 2017 new year, my husband and I found ourselves around the TV with his family basically just hanging out until the clock struck 12. His sister read a book and his nephew played on our WiiU, while his mom chuckled here and there when his nephew would lose or something….. I got terribly bored. I mean: BORED.  I don’t mind hanging out, but this was largely a solitary occasion we were having- I was getting antsy to get my hands on something. After a little while of frustration, I whipped these puppies up [mostly] before the new year and finished the eyelets yesterday!


So cute and little!

Oh- if you follow my blog but not my facebook page, this will be our baby announcement to you! My husband and I are expecting a little girl in May which is why I decided to make these adorable little things.

The Challenge: January: Firsts & Lasts – Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.

This is the first piece made for my little Anne’s 18th century wardrobe. She won’t be able to wear them until she’s close to a year old (or maybe a year from now… we have big babies in both our families) but I figured if I have the time to make them now, might as well!

Chip Board
Linen Scraps

Pattern: Anne’s stays are largely based off of an extant pair from the Memorial Hall Museum. The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop at Colonial Williamsburg made a pair I got to handle while I was interning. Two Nerdy History Girls have done a blog post about them, as did Sew 18th Century. I made these slightly smaller than another pair of extant child stays from the All the Pretty Dresses blog– but similar in size to the yellow pair at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These are the smallest pairs of infant stays I could find measurements for.


Anne’s stays measure 18″ wide and 5″tall at center back.

edited-baby-stays2You might also notice the light boning in the stays themselves: My fabric is slightly see-through, so you can see the boning really well. In the pair from the Memorial Hall Museum, you can barely make out some extra reinforcements of boning in a similar arrangement to mine. Sew18th Century also made her stays like that, so I figured it was a good idea. The boning is simply basted into the pasteboard before covered with fabric.

(There’s also some extra stitching on the extant pair at the CF point, waistline, and armscyes. I suspect it’s either extra reinforcement (padding for comfort) or repairs)


Year: 1760-1800

Notions: Natural Linen Thread

How historically accurate is it? 95%ish I say this because I have never had my hands on an extant pair (only a reproduction) and I made the stays out of a woven checked linen- which is typically used for linings of stays rather than the outer-side of them. I did this because of the scraps I had on hand…. Also, how can you be 100% historically accurate, anyway?


So cute!

Hours to complete: 3.5 hours
Patterning: 15 min
Cutting: 15min
Assembly: 2 hours
Eyelets: 1 hour

First worn: Give it another year

Total cost: Maybe $3?

Favorite Part of the Project: I love 18th century pieces because you finish them as you go, so once you assemble the pieces, it’s done! That’s how these were.


These stays are constructed much the same to other 18th century stays. Pieces are whipped to the others.

My next favorite part were the eyelets. On originals, you can see the eyelets are 3/4’s of the way bound and then wrapped around the outer edge. I’ve seen other stays done this way, BUT in the case of these: if you were to bind the whole straight through the pasteboard, it would perforate out the eyelet entirely, so the wrapped part might be a way to combat that. I thought that was cool.


Comparison of eyelets from the Memorial Hall Museum


Compiled list of sources for this project:

18th Century Stays- Hallie Larkin

Baby Linen or Making a Basic Layette for Eighteenth Century Reenactor Infants- Sharon Ann Burnston

Baby Clothes- Sew 18th Century

Stays for the Very Young- Two Nerdy History Girls

The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop- Colonial Williamsburg

What Clothes Reveal, pg40- Linda Baumgarten


Striped Infant Stays stiffened with Cardboard, c.1770- Memorial Hall Museum

White Linen Baby’s Stays- Georgian era- Poppie’s Cottage

Striped Linen 18th Century Baby Stays- All The Pretty Dresses

Striped Child’s Stays, c.1740- Germanischen National Museum

Child’s Stays, c.1775- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Wool Child’s Stays- The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Linen Infant Stays, c.1770-1790- Philadelphia Museum of Art


The Hairdressers at the Sign of the Mortar and Pestle take on JAF 2016

Happy Fall (well almost winter now), everyone! We’ve managed to have beautiful weather for the last few weeks and I’m finally in a groove where I can start posting more regularly. Hooray!


R-L: Ms. Williams getting her hair curled by me and Ms. Stephanie having her hair curled by Joanna!

Of my many adventures this past summer, I especially wanted to highlight our time at the Jane Austen Festival this past July. We were stationed with LBCC Cosmetics and set up a historical hair styling experience for those who would like to pamper themselves for the day and/or get ready for the ball and learn about historical hairstyling.


Here’s a sweet little view of our wee workshop complete with our turbans there in the back!

The LBCC tent was wonderfully situated so we could have our guests actually listen to the presentations given at the big tent while getting their hair done. We were also near Dames A La Mode, La Bohemian Belle, and 96 District Fabrics, which is a great place to be!

What was so wonderful about this project is that we were able to use historical hair products from LBCC Historical (namely the pomatums, oils, & powders) as well as historical tools to achieve a perfect look- and our guests didn’t have to worry about a thing; they just enjoyed not doing their own hair.

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Later on, I’ll do a post more in depth about achieving an historically accurate Regency hairstyle, including the tools we use to get the perfect look!

Joanna and I luckily had just enough time to get ready for the ball…and were about 45 min late. We still had a lovely time and so enjoyed seeing all of our guests enjoying themselves and looking utterly perfect! We managed to get a group photo with some of them- namely from the Regency Society of Virginia!


It’s a little dark, but the ladies looked so beautiful!


We had so much fun and plan on doing it again next year! I’ll keep you posted on when appointments open up!


Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods

As per my facebook page, some of you may know about this already but I’m still happy to shout it from the rooftops:


Photo taken at the 2016 Jane Austen Festival. Photo by Janet Abell.

I now have an Etsy Store!!!! The shop is called Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods… after my beloved wee pal, Virgil.


Look at those eyelashes!

To give some background on what’s been going on the past few months: In February, I left my position at Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio to pursue 2 new exciting opportunities… and go on my honeymoon. The first opportunity was to partner with my lovely friend, Joanna, to expand her custom theater millinery business and for us to start the subject of this post: Virgil’s Fine Goods.

What is Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods, you say?

Virgil’s (for short) is a shop for living historians or historical fashion enthusiasts in pursuit of fine, handmade accoutrements.

What items does Virgil’s carry?

Currently, we have a number of 1800-1820’s ladies reproduction hats, bonnets, and turbans. A major focus of the store will be to provide well made, accurate (and affordable) men’s linen 18th & 19th century shirts and women’s linen shifts. We will, however, have many other items listed~ such as chemisettes, men’s beaver hats, horsehair bonnets, silk gauze caps, aprons, men’s shirts, leather, Felicity items, etc.


Hats & Caps & Bonnets, Oh my! Photo courtesy by Janet Abell

Why did you start your own business?

Truthfully, owning my own business has always been the LAST thing I ever wanted to do. The idea of “doing my own thing” or “being the bossman” has never been a fun idea. I had worked numerous times doing custom work and I’m never happy doing it.

So why start one? Holy cow. After talking with a few close friends, I realized no one is providing the living historians with accurate, well made, linen men’s basics or women’s basics, at mid-range prices. I’m talking, 100% linen thread, 100% handkerchief linen, hand finished, 18th & 19th Century shirts or shifts. So, this is the direction Virgil’s be going in the future; smattered with hats, silk caps and other items we decide to make because it’s fun and we want to provide needed items of living history for those who don’t have the time or means.

Does Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods have a storefront?

Not currently. The business is run from my new residence in Dayton, Ohio but will operate through Etsy for the time being. Listings on the Etsy site will be updated regularly with new items as they are made. We plan to set up at only a few events during the summer, like we did at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville KY.

We had a fabulous time at the Jane Austen Festival. Joanna and I set up as hairdressers for the weekend while we debuted our little shop. Here’s a pic from that event. I will be posting more about it soon!


Joanna and I as the “Hairdressers at the Sign of the Mortar & Pestle” Photo courtesy of Stephanie Cote

I hope you’ll check out my shop to see the different things I have to offer. New stuff will be added weekly, so keep checking back!

Do you have any questions about the shop? Feel free to comment below!



Traveling NZ (As an American Couple)

This will be the first of many traveling NZ posts from Ian and I! When we were traveling back from our honeymoon we both agreed that we should let the masses know of our experience and pass some helpful information along.

We will cover topics like planning our trip, cost, packing list, accommodations, food, places to see, things to do, and general tips to make traveling a little easier on you.

Stay tuned!


Moeraki Boulders, NZ

New Dressform: Matilde


***also remember to hover your mouse over photos, the captions will show up!***

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I’ve attempted to make a dress form that is close to my own shape. Several. Times. I’ve tried lots of versions of duct tape forms and they’re great in a pinch but they’re not a long term solution. They tend to get your pins gummy and always end up being slightly larger than your real measurements; which isn’t helpful. I’ve collected some display forms here and there so I decided to use one to make a new dress form that will actually be my size and usable for the foreseeable future.

The first process of the form is to cut down the foam of the display to the size of my immovable parts (ie skeleton) so I can pad out the squishy parts. I really love foam carving and had a little too much fun acting like a crazy scientist.

Next I had to seal it with a glue solution so it doesn’t crumble into an oblivion! This is done using a simple solution of 1 part white glue to 1 part water. I sealed her three times to make sure nothing crumbles about…. I’m sure the neighbors have some questions for me after seeing this thing drying in the backyard.

The form is covered with batting and a canvas cover (like real ones!). The canvas is lined with a black cotton to [help] prevent sun damage to the foam itself. If you notice now yellowed the form was before I sculpted away portions of it, the yellow is the sundamage and those areas are more prone to crumbling. The sealant helps, of course, but we want this lady to be pristine for as long as possible.

There were SO MANY PIECES. And I had to cut out FOUR of each because of my dumb lining. Protip: Use a blackout curtain fabric and this will make it easier than I made it for myself.

Each piece is flatlined before assembly. I put everything together in quadrants, fitting all along the way only to find out it doesn’t matter…


….because butt problems.


It was seriously infuriating, but I got the kinks worked out after hours of tears. The front and back are attached at the crotch only before whipping it tightly to the foam form. I don’t have any process photos of that because I was in “get it done” mode but here’s the finished product!

And she truly does fit my 98lb self… AKA when I was 14


This corset was made for me when I was 14- So I’d say the measurements are pretty spot on for “as small as I could possibly be if I’m not eating properly”

Next to add 30lbs of squish and make her exactly me now!!