Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Company

girl’s Civil War clothes

Pre-Teens and Stays

From the Sewing Academy @ Home Forum, here’s an excellent topic:

Help!  My oldest, almost 12, needs new everything.  We haven’t made her stays of any kind yet but I am sure it is time.  She is starting to develop, has a small bust-to-waist difference, but is still very short-waisted.

Should I:

a) Use the Girls pattern (#200) and make it stop at her waist, resulting in something very similar to a sports bra in look.
b) Use the Girls pattern (#200)  and ignore her anatomical waist and make her waist about 15″ where her pants end.
c) Use a corset pattern and ignore the busk (button the front closed) and using cording instead of stays with lacing in the back.
d) Make her a real corset (Please say no, I’m not sure I’m up to the expense or have enough time to order stuff before I need it.)
e) Some other option I am completely overlooking

This is a very common position for families with girls in the 9 to 13 age group!

Most girls, at the very beginning of their development, go through a stage where their bodies store some reserves to use during the major growth of puberty. Since she’s likely to hit a lot of development in the next two years (visible and invisible), I’d go with making her comfortable corded stays now, rather than a fully boned women’s corset. Go for something for support and *minimal* torso control, just enough to help her feel modest and secure.

You could absolutely go with a child-shaped stay, or if she would prefer, and a more generous figure shape warrants it, try the curvier lines of an adult’s shape (control down over the top of the hip), and consider adding straps for now. Does she have a preference at this point? If so, I’d try to follow her preference as to shape, and make this as inexpensive as possible: buttoning closure in the back, or possibly front, cording rather than boning, very minimally compressive… something to give a stable platform for her clothing.

Anticipate that even if she doesn’t get a lot taller in the next few years, she will most likely change shape a good deal, so use inexpensive cotton sateen for the stays (or another inexpensive, lightweight, fairly firm fabric), and cording, etc, to keep the stay updates both very affordable and very period-correct.

Many girls in living history are making their way into their teens lacking appropriate support. As they get taller, and move toward ever-lengthening skirts and petticoats, the weight of their clothing can become oppressive. Adding supportive stays and light corsets to their historic wardrobe is the best way to get a finished look consistent with images of The Original Cast, and it will also help support the increasing weight of their clothing, allowing them greater freedom of movement and far more comfortable historic living.

Between the ages of 12 and 20, a girl may go through two, three, four, or even more corseting changes, as her figure develops: all the more reason to undertake these supportive endeavors at home!

In the Marketplace, you’ll find some resources to help you keep your teens and pre-teens correctly supported. Our Girl’s Linens pattern has simple corded stays that are very easy to fit for support. Practical Prinkery and The Dressmaker’s Guide both include chapters on corsetry, and how to make both a customized pattern, and finished corded or boned corsets.

Beyond comfortable corded stays, here’s one last tip on keeping this age group well-turned-out: Growth Tucks! They’re vital for drawers, skirts, and petticoats!

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About The Sewing Academy
With a focus on the 1840-1865 era, The Sewing Academy is your home on the (internet) range for resources to help you meet your living history goals!

Elizabeth Stewart Clark has been absorbed by the mid-19th century for over 20 years. She makes her home in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, four children (from wee to not-so-wee), far too many musical instruments, and five amusing hens.

Email Elizabeth Or call 208-523-3673 (10am to 8pm Mountain time zone, Monday through Saturday)
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