Sunday, September 11, 2011

Edwardian Collar Stays

Now that I have finally caught up with blogging about my finished costumes from this summer, I can once again turn my attention to current and future projects.  At the moment, I am finishing up an early-1910's dress that I am making to wear to the Antique Elegance show next weekend.  I've really learned a lot with this project, and I've had fun trying out some period techniques that are new to me.


The bodice that I am making has a tall collar, and I knew that it would need some support to keep it from wrinkling or sliding down.  The only problem is that my fabric is a very sheer windowpane linen, so I didn't want to use thick boning channels that would detract from the delicate fabric.  So what did women in the 1910's use to solve this problem?  A quick search on Etsy turned up this lovely card of antique collar stays, so I snatched them up for "research" purposes.  Don't you love shopping for a good cause.  :)

The card of stays was so beautiful and pristine that I wouldn't dream of using the originals for my dress, but at least I could measure them and figure out how they were made.  The wire is stiff, but still bendable, and it is covered with white silk.  It seemed very similar to millinery wire, so I drug out some of my own millinery wire and decided to give it a try.  It was very easy to bend the wire into a serpentine shape, but the thread covering would become frizzy or broken if I bent it with any type of pliers.  The thread didn't break if I bent it with my fingers instead of the pliers, but I couldn't get the curves in the wire as perfect that way.   I wonder if my threads were breaking because my millinery wire is so old (it came from an estate sale) or if it would do the same thing with modern wire.

When I started looking more closely at the antique collar stays, I couldn't see thread wrapped around the wires as I originally assumed.  They feel more solid and smooth - almost like they are wrapped in silk paper instead of thread.  I'm not sure if wire like that even exists anymore, but it made me wonder if you could paint millinery wire with a layer of flexible glue, like Sobo or Elmer's, to seal the threads together before bending them.  I haven't tried this yet, but it might be worth a try if any of you are considering making wire collar stays of your own.

The original collar stays were 3" long, but the card lists other sizes that they came in.  I made mine be 2 1/2" and 2" long to fit my collar better.  Even though my reproduction collar stays are not as pretty as the original ones, they still work wonderfully.  I can't feel them at all when wearing the dress, and they blend in with the sheer fabric very well.

16 comments:

Amanda said...

Why didn't you make a jig with a piece of wood and some nails?
I have done that in the past and it works well, cheap too!

Jen Thompson said...

I thought about doing that, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth for 4 little stays. It would take me longer to find the hammer/nails/wood than to just bend them by hand.

jubilima said...

Oh, that is VERY cool!

Robin said...

oh that's very neat! Where did you place them? all in the front? on either side of CF and CB?

Jen Thompson said...

I placed two just off of CF and two off of CB. You can faintly see the side front stay in the top picture. I couldn't place on in the exact center because there was an open stripe there

Cynthia Griffith said...

How neat and very fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us. It certainly is a good idea to try looking for antique and vintage items to at least figure out modern versions you can make to achieve that period look. :D

madamekat said...

I love zig zag wire! I bought them cheap from Farthingales LA. http://www.farthingalesla.com/findings.php

Yours are very nice!

Anita said...

I think I'm a little slow, but I can't quite seem to picture how the stays fit into the collar. I'm assuming that they run vertically, but do you sandwich them in the collar or attach them to the back of the collar?

Jen Thompson said...

It isn't sandwiched - it is just stitched directly to the inside of the collar. If you click on the picture of the vintage collar stays on the card, it has an illustration on the bottom showing you how to stitch it in.

Crystal aka Jaquelinne said...

What a great esty find! Thanks for sharing.

fiberferret said...

How cool! I can imagine so many times those would come in useful. I don't know if it would be the right size, but I have a jig for bending wire I got from the jewelry making section of Michaels. It's a big block with holes you put pegs in. It might be something if you end up bending wire for projects fairly often (though I don't remember how much it was, I got it when we were remodeling for 90% off it might be too much for a sometimes use)

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I'm so glad you figured this out for us. :) Someday I'm going to need to make some too.
Val

cheryl said...

You can also buy something similar (if you didn't want to make them)
http://www.richardthethread.com/index.php?src=directory&view=shop_richard&srctype=detail&refno=645&category=notions&submenu=Notions

Lauren said...

I have given you a blog award! :)
http://wearinghistoryblog.com/2011/10/10/duchie-award/

Nancy said...

Farthingales also sells these: http://farthingalescorsetmakingsupplies.com/products.php?cat=zig-zag.

When I worked in Millinery at the Stratford Festival I was required to make them for one of the cutters and used a very fine hat wire which I don't think is even available any more. To keep it from frizzing up I would coat it with airplane cement. I also used stiff florist wire and painted it beige or white with "shoe" spray. This also worked fairly well.

wandabvictorian said...

What a cool idea! I have a few dresses this could work on!

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