Late 18th Century Gestational Stays

I finally did it! I finished my pregnancy stays- just 6 months late!


I was interested in this project because not many people have talked about their maternity experiences while being in period costume. Also, because I’ve not seen this particular style of stays reproduced. So onto the deets!

Medium Weight Linen (Yellow scraps from my husband’s waistcoat)
2 Layers Heavy Weight Linen (white, canvas- more scraps from another project!)

These stays are based on the pair in the Jill Salen Corsets book for 1780-1785 (pgs 18-21). They lace up the back and have lacings on the sides as well to accommodate your growing bump. These stays are interesting because they do not have a lacing in the centerfront- whereas a few other examples do have that feature. I found that the general measurements (waist length and bust measurement) were very close to my own to begin with. The scariest part of this is to gauge some measurements since you’re to grow throughout pregnancy. Being my first pregnancy and having no idea what to expect, I made the decision to have the closed waist measurement an inch larger than my red wool pair of stays.

Year: 1780-1785

1/2″ linen tape from Burnley and Trowbridge (B&T)
Linen Thread from B&T
Cane/Reed for boning

How historically accurate is it?
I tried to make them as close to the original as possible- made of linen and bound with linen tape. I used cane/reed for the boning; which is merely what I had on hand. I wanted to use ash splint, but didn’t want to spend a ton of money for a pair of stays that will only have a little bit of wear. They’re entirely hand-stitched and I made them in a week (other than the binding on the tabs… that took me 6 months to get back to.)


Backstitch, backstitch…

Hours to complete: 35ish
I should have kept track, but being in the “get it done” mode, I didn’t bother. I know I spent at least 3 work days, a few evenings and around 3 hours in the car on the way to a conference. So the above is an estimate.


In progress, channels stitched and boned, pieces ready to whip together!

First worn:
I wore this pair for the first time March 2017 at the Printed Textiles Conference held at Colonial Williamsburg this past spring. It was really great to be able to wear them around, albeit late in pregnancy, to compare with my everyday comfort. More on that later…

Total cost: around $25
Being a person of somewhat small stature, I’m always delighted when a  fabric scrap will more than adequately be what I need for a project like this!



Overall I’m happy with the way they turned out and they are VERY comfortable and I can easily wear them while not in maternity mode. One of the biggest complaints among pregnant women is that bras are uncomfortable with a growing bust. With this pair, I had no problems with extra movement, underbust sweat, or shoulder strap pain with these like you do modern undergarments- WHILE PREGNANT. However, post-baby, I found that the measurements are no longer the most optimal- I can still wear them pretty comfortably- but I’ll definitely need a new pair to look and feel my best… but I’ll post about the post-baby-fit sometime soon!



1810’s Baby Dress


Little Anne with her rattle.

Life with a baby has been great! Anne is an amazing sleeper, so I can’t complain about not getting a night’s sleep because of her. However, sometimes, I just can’t sleep! This little number was the result of one of those nights.

I made this dress from a small piece of fabric in my stash and about 4 hours of time. It is based on an infant’s dress at The Met that I had fallen in love with. The only major difference is the original has an a-line skirt, rather than the straight sides I used. I made it as a basic square with sleeves with the sleeves having a tiny vandyke fine hem… that part took the longest of the entire thing!

The major hallmark of baby clothes from the 1790s-1810’s is a drawstring waist, which is easy and fast to produce. This one also has a gathered neckline. That part stumped me for a bit, but I made an executive decision to attempt to get as much wear out of this garment as possible. Children grow a lot, and I’d like for her to wear it next year, too!

Since the drawstring neckline in the extant doesn’t extend through the shoulder seams to the back, I had to figure out a way to make it not only look the same as the original, but also function as a way to get more longevity. I left one side of the front drawstring casing open and tacked the cotton tape to the selvage of the sleeve while the other side is closed and fixed in place. I’ll be able to get another 1 1/2 inches out of the front neckline which coincides with typical 12-18 month baby measurements. (see photos below)

The vandyking of the sleeves has got to be the best part about this garment. They’re very tiny- only 1/2 inch from cut to cut. Since the inside of the vandying was raw at the top, I ended up tucking the edge up about 1/16inch to conceal the raw edges and hopefully make it launder without it fraying. (Edit: Since originally writing out this post I had hand laundered the dress with rigorous effort and am happy to mention that the tuck seems to have done the trick!)

Ultimately, I’m extremely happy with how this turned out. Anne got to wear it for the first time to a fashion show, and again at the Fair at New Boston. She seemed to have a good time at both. She looked cute if nothing else!

If there’s interest, I’ll be doing a pattern or kit in the Virgil’s store for those who would like to make their own. Let me know if that’s something you’re interesting in!

Thanks for reading and I hope this post helps those of you clothing your little ones in the early 19th century!

Felicity Friday: Pinpillow and Snips

Hello from 4 weeks post baby! As I’m still recovering and spending a lot of time on the couch either feeding, pumping, or consoling my child, I’ve been working on small projects here and there!


She’s slowly getting there!

One of the first to be completed is Felicity’s heart-shaped pin-pillow! How adorably tiny! My own pin pillow was made from the scraps of my 1780s red stays, and Felicity’s pin pillow is made from the scraps of my own pin-pillow. This pillow is stuffed with wool and attached to a 4mm silk ribbon.


So little and cute!

My favorite part of her sewing accoutrements, though, are her working silver scissors! I found these antique doll scissors with an elephant on them somewhere online and they’re just to die for!

I’m not sure what the next Felicity project will be, but I do need to get Felicity some proper 1770s garments! We’ll see what the future holds!


Felicity Friday: Work Wear Accessories


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I’ve been using my free time between work and life to put together Felicity’s historically accurate wardrobe for various 18th century occasions. My purpose for making this extensive wardrobe isn’t just to satisfy my need for tiny things, but to use Felicity as a teaching tool for children’s groups at various events or lectures I do! She’s really fun to share with people of all ages and they love seeing how her clothes are made just like they’re supposed to be.


Here she is, so cutely put together.

Right now I’m working diligently on making her some work wear in contrast to the middling class/half dress I typically depict at an event. This way, I can show the public possibly camp-follower impressions or just lower class impressions without having to point at individuals that happen to be passing by! This week I finished up:


So many little things!

A checked kerchief  made from Burnley and Trowbridge cross barred linen– the scraps from a 19th century apron I made last year (I’ll post about early Regency aprons soon).

An 18th century apron to match my own- blue & white plaid cotton with tiiiiiiiny binding from thin linen tape.


Tiny stitches and bindings!

And a new linen petticoat- also made from scraps from my own! So dainty! Next week I’ll update you as to what Felicity gets to wear next but for now if you’ve been working on Felicity projects, do link them in the comments. I want to seeeeee!

Now she’s almost ready for all this cold weather we’ve got goin’ on



Regency Sheer Straw Bonnets

So, I wanted to focus on something in our shop that’s not being widely made right now and we, at the Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods, are proud to say we debuted these lovelies at the Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove this year!


Here we are modeling the (L-R) Trimmed, Chocolate colored, and wheat colored bonnets.

When choosing a hat for warmer weather, it’s hard to decide between something “pretty” versus “functional” with the choices that most living historians have.  With what’s generally available at most sutlers- Warm weather presents us with the only options of  a “chip straw” hat/bonnet or a silk covered hat/bonnet. Silk doesn’t breath, and chip straw is more fit for a lower-class impression- which isn’t always what we’re going for.



You’ve seen a few movies with these types of bonnets present in them and you might have thought “That’s too pretty to be historically accurate” or “surely they wouldn’t have had something that decorative” but you would be wrong! There are numerous textual examples of woven horsehair or straw bonnets being used and taxed in the early United States from the 1780’s-on.


Excerpt from “A Collection of all the Statutes Now in Force, Relating to the Revenues and Officers of Great Britain and the Plantations” Vol 2, Pg 4, 1780.

AND there are quite a few extant pieces in various museums along with a few references to them made in fashion plates. (see images below)  This is a style that has many terms and can often be confusing-  “capote” “leghorn” “coal scuttle” “poke bonnet” are all terms I’ve seen associated with this shape:  generally narrow all the way through and slightly elongated to the back. This was a very popular shape in headwear (caps, hats, bonnets) as well as hairstyles from 1797-1808. These styles are said to have emerged because of the early 19th century “discovery” of new ancient Greek and Roman artifacts- and fashion emulates whatever is exciting!

Comparison of our sheer bonnets to the extant piece,
Woven Horsehair and Straw Bonnet, Ca 1805-1820, Litchfield Historical Society


“…balloon bonnet of wicker…” July 1796, Heidelhoff, The Gallery of Fashion. Image from Bunka Fashion College

A sheer bonnet offers a delicate and light option for those who want a more refined look while still having some sun protection with your headwear.What’s also great about a sheer bonnet is you can line it with interesting colors- or leave it unlined- depending on your taste!


Joanna, my business partner, is a wizard at millinery and made these beautiful pieces now for sale in our shop suitable for 1790s thru 1820s! We modeled them at JAF2016 and are now available for purchase. These are made with antique/vintage straws that are extremely hard to find. We hope you like them as much as we do!

(We will have more bonnet shapes, like the tall poke bonnets and maybe even 1860s spoon bonnets made out of these gorgeous straw & horsehairs available in our shop in the near future!… keep checking the shop for new listings)