July 1, 2013
Stay tape, in costume language, is an inside belt loosely attached to the seams that keeps the bodice from pulling open, or just staying in place. Get it? "Stay tape". Well, that's what it said to me. I’ve made a few bodices that after I’d been wearing them a while, they get a little loose, bunchy, and ride up. I’d heard about using stay tape belts inside the bodice, and even have one of my extant study bodices with them in it.
This one hooks in the front with a very large hook & eye. The two hooks you see under where it’s attached to the bodice are for attaching the bodice to the skirt. This belt is attached at the bottom of the bodice but not the bottom edge. This other 1897 bodice also shows it above the edge.
I’ve made two 1850s bodices and both hang kind of loosely on my back, one because the original it was copied from has no back seams, and the other is too large for me now. So I decided now was the time to look into finally making stay tape belts. I did a search on the internet and most of what I came up with was the modern plastic stuff being used in modern clothing. *Sigh*, same old story for most costumers; it’s mostly about modern techniques. I knew the historical ones used twill tape & other sturdy tapes but basically they serve the same purpose. I didn’t find anything directly telling me how to do it in historical costumes. I haven’t found out when they quit using them, but I did find out they came back in vogue during the 1950s when ladies bodices again became very tight fitting with big skirts held up by tulle petticoats. Hello 1860s! And they’re still used in formal wear.
I had a roll of cotton twill tape and began pinning it on to the inside seams of my bodice. First question: where do I place it? Not what seams, but where on it? - along the bottom of the bodice, or at the narrowest part of me? My narrowest part is slightly above my waist and most of my bodices tend to ride up a bit there. Maybe this will solve that problem?
So I marked on my bodice with pins where my corset was the narrowest on me, which was basically where the laces went around me. I took out the couple stitches holding the belt in and measured up 3 inches from the bottom edge of the bodice on both side seams. I laid the belt along the back and tacked one side seam to it, then started thinking should I just match it to the width of my bodice, or does the belt need to be shorter? I measured my back and it was narrower than the bodice back. See the problem? I think this needs some size altering later when I have someone here to help me. So back on went the corset. After re-measuring and marking exactly where the belt should be attached to just my side seams, that seemed to make it work. I’m going to leave the belt loose in the back for now.
I took out the next bodice that needed a belt and to make it simple, I put it on inside out, and wrapped the stay tape belt around me and marked on it where the side seams hit. So much easier! This bodice is attached to the skirt so it hits me differently, and also there are no seams in the back. That is how this particular bodice was made, so the tape will only be attached to the side seams. It sits just above the facing I have sewn at the waist.
Of course minutes after I took this photo and was saving it to my computer, Chloe claimed the dress as her new bed for a couple hours. So no further work was to be done on it.
After a few hours naptime, Chloe was up and ready for dinner, and I was able to finish sewing the hook & eye to my belt. I used the flat trouser-type ones that lock into place to hook it closed.
*If anyone knows of a website that tells more about these, in historical context, please comment with the link. Or add your own knowledge of them by commenting. I and other folks would really appreciate it.* -Val