FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Outline the story …
Nature is all about reproduction.
As I am pregnant with my third child, I am intimately involved in this, nature’s universal obsession. At various times over the past months, I’ve felt a sisterhood with cottonwood trees throwing clouds of fluff into the air, sea turtles risking life and limb to bury their young in the sand, or the swollen queen at the center of an ant hive pushing out egg after egg after egg. When I was planning this project, I especially noticed and appreciated the beauty of all of the seed pods around me growing full and brown or white and light or brittle and sharp. Each plant uniquely prepares to spread its precious seeds to the win in a burst of hope and energy.
My body feels like a seed pod, becoming rounder and plumper (and at times also drained and brittle) to prepare the new being inside for independent life. I created these maternity stays to comfortably support and cradle my changing body while pregnant and breastfeeding, and I used the structural cording to surround myself with arcing, branching, and reaching plant-like motifs. The busk pocket at center front sprouts branches and round leaves or fruit (which, because of their placement, may remind the viewer of ovaries). The side panels continue the curved elements, and the back panels display a different branching motif; the whole garment is covered with natural elements, symbolizing, for me, my place as part of the universal reproductive rhythm.
Outline the construction…
This garment is not a reproduction of any particular pair of extant stays, partially because no maternity stays have survived from the regency era. However, the design elements, construction order, and 3D printed eyelets (reproduced from originals in my collection) all attempt to reproduce historically plausible results through research and experimentation.
I hand sewed this garment using a thrifted cotton sateen sheet, silk thread, and cotton piping cord. I followed the bare-bones construction order outlined in The Workwoman’s Guide (1838) and supplemented my method with deductions made by looking at extant stays and learning from other online sources. For example, assembling the seams and gussets of the stays before creating cording channels was counter-intuitive, until I saw cording tufts on the interior of extant stays and learned the insertion technique from corded quilting videos. How to insert the single-piece reproduction eyelets was a mystery until the timely appearance of a youtube video and advice from its creator.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was how to fit a changing body. After mocking up the stays in early October, my first opportunity to try on the final garment was in January, and my belly had grown considerably in that time. Thankfully the side lacing easily accommodated the change, but a new wrinkle appeared where the curve of my lower back deepened to support the weight of my belly. Still, the stays are comfortable around my torso and bust and provide an agreeable (and fashionable!) amount of support.
COUNTRY: United States.
What It’s like to compete:
I really enjoyed the live seminar led by Cathy Hay in September. The advice to identify your needs and wants for the project was very useful (I ended up throwing out my original embellishment idea since I could use a structural element to do both support AND embellishing at once). I also loved the suggestion to make detailed to-do lists in order to stay honest with yourself about timing and pacing. I couldn’t have completed this project without these ideas.
The crazy thing is that if I had thought too rationally about competing this year, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I began my project in temporary housing using a borrowed machine because we were in the middle of an international move that included living in six different homes between September 2022 and February 2023. I was also pregnant with my third child, taking care of two toddlers, and navigating prenatal care in an unfamiliar culture and language. It just doesn’t make sense to add an ambitious project with a strict deadline to the mix. But the project was physically small and hand sewn, which meant I could take it with me and work on it anywhere. And it actually provided a structure and continuity that helped me navigate all of the change! Overall, I’ve learned a lot about regency stays, it’s true, but I’ve learned even more about my own capabilities. My advice is to think ahead carefully, plan thoroughly, and maybe just go for it!