Sunday, June 19, 2011

Elizabeth Swann's Stays: POTC:COBP - A Study

Okay, I'm gonna kick this baby off with an oldy but a goody from my "Live Journal" site (which I never go on anymore, so I may as well bring the good stuff over here). This was first published on May 28, 2008.

For those of you wishing to recreate the pink stays that Elizabeth wears in POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl, this is a study and break down of the stays and it’s elements, gleaned from pictures of the actual stays which were sold on ebay, screen captures, source material on 18th century stays in general, and my own impressions and interpretations. This will hopefully allow you to recreate the stays as closely as possible to the original.

As always, the usual legal disclaimers apply. This is for educational and entertainment purposes only. All characters, likenesses, logos, images, etc. etc. are the sole property of the Disney Corporation and its minions, etc. etc., so on and so forth.

The construction methods used on these stays are modern construction methods (i.e. machine sewn), as befits a clothing item for the screen, and the fact that these particular stays were “sliced” open in one scene. Thus, numerous copies were made with the front being closed with “lacing” and the lacing being “sliced open”. The general shape of these stays is consistent with the 18th century silhouette and is very similar in look to the stays on page 135 of “Period Costumes for Stage and Screen 1500-1700” and also on page 42 of “Corsets and Crinolines”. The pattern pieces and boning channel arrangement look to be something like this:

These stays are made up of eight pattern pieces, four on each side – front, side front, side back and back, with a total of 16 tabs, eight on each side; one tab on each front, three on each side front, three on each side back and one on each back piece. The lacing in the front is a false lacing, i.e. it has no function of being able to be laced and unlaced, and there appears to be a modesty placket of some sort in back of this lacing. This description comes from the Disney auction of these stays: "Specially outfitted with a Velcro-fastening front beneath mock laces, this peach-colored corset with chain-stitched trim..."

The front lacing appears to be a thin, white or off-white cording. It is hard to determine from the photos whether or not this lacing is accomplished with small white or pink eyelets, or if the lacing is directly attached through the fabric; perhaps through a hole pierced with an awl, so that the fabric does not “tear” but rather would close back up around the lacing.

The fabric that is used on the outside is some type of woven fabric, which is a peachy-pink alternating with white, giving an almost “striped” or “corduroy” effect from a distance. The inside is lined with what looks like plain old muslin. The seam allowances look to be folded around and tacked down on the inside of the stays. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see through the muslin what looks like a dark-colored boning and on the bottom one, you can just make out some slight ridges. It appears they probably used spiral steel boning, perhaps for movement sake, instead of something stiffer like white steel boning or even plastic whalebone, which would have been more period.

What appears on first glance to be “piping” at the seams, actually seems to be some type of off- white woven trim like a gimp or a braid, with what looks like small loops or picots on one side. This same “trim” is also used as binding. According to the Disney auction description, this is “chain-stitched trim”, so what look like picots, could actually be a machine chain stitch or decorative looped stitch used to attach the trim and add a decorative element.

It is laced in the back using the correct 18th century lacing style; however, instead of hand sewn eyelets which would be period for lacing, these stays have small, white, metal eyelets and uses an off-white, flat, shoelace style lacing. The shoulder straps tie to the front with the same thin, off-white lacing that is used in the front lacing.

Two of the versions of these stays are different in the back. I’m not sure why. In the photo below you can see where the “back” piece is clearly wider in one than the other. You can also see the “placket” which is where I’m assuming the Velcro fastening comes in. It appears to be boned in the photo on each side of the placket, but it may have something to do with the Velcro, as I’m not sure why they would need to have the extra boning there, as clearly there are bones on either side of the front piece.

- “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” DVD
- “Period Costumes for Stage and Screen: 1500-1700” Jean Hunnisett
- “Corsets and Crinolines” Norah Waugh


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