HSM #10 – 1630s Underthings

They are finished! *happy dance* After what felt like an eternity, the final touches on my stays got done this weekend. Now you can have a look at the complete 1630s stays and petticoat. In this post, I will give you the lowdown on the basic facts and spam you with photos. Individual posts on both garments will follow in due course. Right now, I am just bubbly and happy to see how well everything came out. This mammoth project has really boosted my corsetry (and sewing) confidence. :)

Okay, first, here are the pictures:

A look at the front…

… and the back. On me, I lace up with a 1 1/2″ gap, but Rachel here is not squishy enough for it.

The side with a good view of the petticoat placket. Oops. ;)

Here is a closer look at the knitted i-cords in action. I used them as ties on the shoulder straps and to lace the petticoat to the stays. 

Knitted cord at the shoulder straps.

Cords tying the stays and petticoat together.

Attaching the petticoat with “points” like this dates back to Elizabethan fashion. Then “petticoats” were seen as a unit of a stiffened under-bodice and the actual petticoat. Both one-piece and laced two-piece bodice-petticoats were in use. The Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg stays have eyelet holes at the sides for this, too. If there is no heavy busk like I used it, the front tab was also tied down sometimes, to keep it from flapping up.

You may still remember the bum roll I made to go with this ensemble. Here it is, sitting happily on top of the stays:

A look at the underpinnings with the bum roll.

Now, it is time for the challenge facts. I had already mentioned some of them here or there, but it is best to have it all in one place at last. :)

The Challenge:
#10 – Out of your Comfort Zone

This has been my first go at proper 1630s costume and also my very first pair of fully boned stays. All these “firsts” definitely put this project out of my comfort zone.

1 yd of light orange linen, 1 yd of coarse violet linen blend and 1 yd white shot upholstery silk for the stays.

3 yds tropical wool suiting for the petticoat and a strip of silk noil for interfacing.

Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg stays in “Patterns of Fashion” / Drea Lead’s Elizabethan corset pattern and tutorial.

17th-century petticoat instructions at Marquise.de.


Notions: 20 yds of 5mm wide German whalebone; 12″ handmade wooden busk; 3 yds cotton corset lace; no. 100 silk thread for sewing and silk buttonhole for the eyelets.

Cotton thread, linen twine & hooks and eyes for the petticoat.

How historically accurate is it?
About 90% accurate. I tried my best to get the adequate materials and hand-sewed everything. Because there are so few surviving examples of early 1600s corsetry, the stays are plausible but the evidence is a bit patchy.

Hours to complete:
Lost count. ;)

First worn:
Around the house, to break in the stays and take measurements for the next layers.

Total cost:
The orange linen was €10 and the boning around €15, everything else came from my stash. My guesstimate would be around €55 for everything.

And that was it already. The underthings, and especially the stays, came out very well, much better than I thought. Do you remember how skeptical I was in January about getting them done this year at all? At first, drafting the pattern from so many different sources felt rather scary. But after three mock-ups and a good bit of swearing things began to look doable. In the end, the hardest part was binding the stays. The binding tutorial at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d was a real lifesaver here. After surviving even that, my sewing mojo got a much-needed boost.

So, the next time you feel like your sewing skills have hit a snag, I recommend making yourself a pair of stays. ;)

Love, Nessa


1630s Underthings – A simple bum roll

For the Historical Sew Monthly October challenge I am just finishing my ensemble of 1630s underthings. At the moment I am still playing around with the stays and petticoat. But the third piece, the bum roll, is already finished.

Bum rolls have been around in different forms as rump padding since the Elizabethan age. At first they were worn together with the farthingale but around 1620 they began to be worn on their own. This fashion more or less lasted until the Georgian era. When you look at Regency gowns up until the 1810s, there is often a small, sewn-in pad, reminiscent of a roll.

Here a small visual history of bum padding since the early 17th century :

Isabella di Savoia d’Este, Frans Pourbus the Younger, c. 1606. She is till wearing a late version of the Spanish farthingale.

Gertrude Sadler, Lady Aston, British School, c. 1620-23, Tate Gallery. The fullness of the skirt shows more towards the back, hinting at a bum roll being worn on its own.

Madame Molé-Reymond by Élisabeth Vigeé-Lebrun, c. 1786. The nice bump in the back is also created by a bum roll.

Bum pad sewn into the back of a Regency gown, c.1810-13, National Museum of Australia.

My bum roll was inspired by Quinn’s simple 18th-century bum roll. For it, I folded a rectangle of fabric in half and tapered the top edges to form the “horns”. Like so:

The bum roll “pattern” after cutting.

For the ties, I attached two 1 yard long pieces of twill tape into the points before sewing the roll together. Then I filled it with a mix of carbage (fabric scraps) and cotton fiber. Since it will go under some pretty heavy skirts, I made sure to stuff it extra firmly.

The carbage before it went into the roll.

The finished roll is 4″ wide at the widest point in the back. The length is 26″. It equals my high hip circumference, from hip bone to hip bone. Anything else would be too long to fit under the stays at the front.

The finished roll.

Although it does not look very round in flat, it is very pliable and lies nicely against the body. Leaving it tied to the form for a few days helped to shape it. When it was done, I was eager to stick it under a skirt, so I test-fitted the petticoat over it.

Testing the roll under the petticoat.

I must say, I really like that bump! Now it is time to finish the rest of the underthings in time for the challenge. Please stay tuned!

Yours, Nessa

HSF #9: Wearing the Bum Roll

Even though it is a bit early to post this little project to the Historical Sew Fortnightly, I thought I would just write the challenge overview and post some photos of me wearing that chubby little roll. All in all, it turned out pretty well, but, as you will see in the pictures, it needs to be patted into shape some more so it can sit a tad higher. But what makes me the most happy about it: When I told Jennie that it was finally finished, she shared last week’s tutorial on the S&S Patterns Facebook page. For a teensy newbie historical seamstress like me that is a really big deal. So now I am a really chuffed little bunny. :)  After another little happy dance; here are the challenge facts:

The Challenge: HSF #9 “Black and White”.
Fabric: White cotton canvas for the shell, pink for the lining.
Pattern: Based on Farthingales’ Elizabethan bum roll tutorial.
Year: Georgian / Early Regency: 1790s-1800s.
Notions: Homemade stuffing from cotton scraps and 1 yd of twill tape.
How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate. It is 75% hand-sewn on all visible seams and comes pretty close to the extant ones still around.
Hours to complete: About 10 hours.
First worn: For the photos and to try out the feel. Two-hundred grams of extra weight around the back end are an entirely new experience to me. ;)
Total cost: € 0.60 for the twill tape. Everything else was scrap fabric from my stash.

And here come the long-promised pictures to give you a little all-round view of the finished object. Oddly I cannot really bring myself to call it a garment. Or what would you say. would you call it one? :)

The back.

The front.

The side.

So, that should be it for today already. With the thesis demanding more than a little pat at the moment, I am glad I finally got to post this. Yet, there is something else that made me… another challenge item for the “Black and White” challenge. Not a Regency one though… it will be something much, much older.  ;) Stay tuned for a little surprise.

Love, Nessa


Assembling a Regency bum roll – A Tutorial of sorts

Unbelievable… I just tackled a challenge, a whole month ahead of its due date. As a result, the Regency bum roll is already finished, completing my set of underthings.
And, making it has been surprisingly quick and easy. It gave me just the burst of sewing encouragement I needed right now. So, I have decided to give you a step-by-step walk through the construction process in case you, too, could use a fun, no-fuss historical sewing project to keep you going. :)

To make the bum roll, I used Farthingales’ Elizabethan bum roll instructions and modified them by measuring around the bottom edge of my stays, instead of the high hip and slimming down the overall width to half the recommended size. When turning and filling the roll, I realized that the 4-5 cm (approx. 2″) I used were a sort of bottom limit. Any narrower, and you might encounter some trouble turning it all inside out or pushing the stuffing all the way into the far tips. That being said, here are the photo instructions for sewing a Regency version of the roll, adapted from the Elizabethan original on Farthingales:

First, sew up the center backs of your eight pattern pieces with a doubled thread. You should end up with four matching pieces.

Then flat-line the outer pieces by basting a bias-cut piece to each. Afterwards, the lining’s center seam should still be visible on the back.


Next, sandwich all four layers together, linings facing outward. Leave a biggish opening for turning and stuffing in the middle of the inner curve.


Now, sew around the bum roll. Then turn it inside out. Have a seam turner handy for the pointy tips. :)


Stuff it with scrap cotton or any other filling material you feel comfortable with. When you are done, whip the opening shut with smallish stitches.

At last, add the ties to the front tips. I used small, invisible overcasting stitches for this step.


And that is it already. Once the ties are on, you will have an (early) Regency bum roll that will look something like this:

And… the bum roll has landed. ;)

Now all you have to do is fit it over your stays and/or petticoat and pat it into shape so it sits snugly, but comfortably against your curves. To see what mine looks like on the wearer, stay tuned for my challenge post, detailing it all for HSF challenge #9 “Black and White”.

But, before I get to that, it is due time I plot some Regency gown shenanigans to go over it all. At the moment, there is a whole cascade of ideas buzzing around in my head. And I have promised Susan and Lady Constance, who are currently planning their own Regency wardrobe, to blog about those a little. Just wait for me to untangle all these different dress fantasies up there. With my thesis going full-blow at the moment that may take a little while… ;)

See you very soon.Yours, Nessa

Getting the Bum Roll Rolling

Whenever I am busy, the sewing likes to cry for my attention. Yesterday night, it did it again. So now, pretty unexpectedly, the Regency bum roll is already under way. Originally, it was planned for HSF #13 “Under $10”, then jumped forward to #12 “Shape & Support”. But as it is also white, we are now going with challenge #9 “Black and White”, due on May 15th. This way I might even get my first proper Regency gown started before the internship and moving house later this year… yay. :)

Regency-era “bum rolls” were especially popular in the late Georgian/early Regency period, starting from around 1790. Later on, they popped up every once in a while, depending on the current fashion of skirt shape and style. In times when the rolls were not that popular, smaller, stuffed pads were sewn into the dresses, directly underneath the back of the skirts.

When I started Regency costuming, I had the funny notion that bustle pads were attached to the bottom of the stays. After getting the Underthings pattern from Sense & Sensibility, I became curious and wrote Jennie Chancey about it. In return, she sent me a very nice mail with images of extant and reproduction bum rolls. We also realized that the thing that had mislead me, a little “tail” on a pair of 1790s stays, was actually a leftover of the 18th-century tabs. Jennie also mailed me the link to this Elizabethan bum roll tutorial from Farthingales.

I found it pretty neat and decided to adjust it for Regency wear. The period “bum line” was not at the high hip, as depicted in the tutorial, but rather a few inches below the underbust. Hence, this is where I took the three measurements instead, using the bottom of my short stays as a guide. The front “horn” of my roll came to sit about a hand’s breadth away from the stay’s side seam, approx 30 cm (11 1/2 inches) from the center back line. The other two measurements, the middle of the body’s curve and the back end of it, came to 22 cm (8 2/3 inches) and 12 cm (4 3/4 inches), respectively.

Furthermore, Regency bustles were rather slim, to give just the right amount of skirt support, without creating a hump-back. So, I slimmed down the bum roll’s width from the proposed 10 cm to only 4-5 cm (1 3/4 – 2 inches). Here is the finished pattern:

From this, I cut eight pieces, four on straight grain and four on the bias. This is why the grain arrow near the center back line came in very useful. As I was feeling a little cheeky, I cut the bias pieces from some leftover pink fabric. Those will go on the inside, so the finished project will still be white, to fit the challenge, but with a certain rebel streak. The stuffing will also be white, as I made it from a scrap of white upholstery cotton. Cut out, the two different kinds of pattern pieces painted this pretty picture:

Right now, I am really looking forward to sewing them up. And afterwards, it will soon be time for that first dress. Early next month, there will be a fabric market here in the city and I am hoping to find just the right material for it there.

Love, Nessa