Godey's Lady's Book, July, 1858
Hints to Dressmakers and Those Who Make Their Own Dresses
I have been asked to give a few hints to counteract, if possible, the great evil occasioned by both young and old wearing stays. If the stays that are worn only fitted, the evil would not be so great; but it is quite certain that the human frame is often squeezed into things called stays, which are nearly as stiff as a saddle; and the great evil is that so few women have any judgment of when stays really fitted them. From my knowledge of young persons, I am fully aware that if stays give them pain, they, in their ignorance, simply imagine that their figure will be improved by it: this, however, is a sad mistake. Unless under clever medical treatment, they should never submit to the slightest pain from any articles of clothing. When they do endure pain, there is something wrong. No good-fitting garment can ever cause the slightest pain or inconvenience, let it be what part of the dress it may. The majority of ladies imagine that they know when a dress fits, but this is a mistake; it would be well if they did, and also if they took more interest in the fit of their garments. I never yet met with any person but a staymaker who seemed to understand how stays ought to be made. It is the bounden duty of a mother to give the young and pliable all the ease she can, for with ease and comfort strength will come. For warmth, a simple calico body is sufficient. That the young ladies will all object to this I feel certain; but parents should not regard such objections. Let Nature do her work; she wants but gentle tending, and not to be braced with bone or steel, unless in case of deformity. Could grown women understand how ugly an unnatural it is to have their figure put into all sorts of shapes, they surely would not submit to it. That there are clever staymakers there can be no doubt; but talent must be paid for; the cutter-out of cheap stays does not possess this. Well-fitting stays are the most simple article to make. It is this simplicity which renders it not understood by the majority of women; so true it is that the most beautiful and simple articles are least understood. We call the Indians a savage race; in some things they may certainly return us the compliment. One word more: Do not wear common, ill-cut stays, full of cane or whalebone. I have positively seen stays with bones broken running into the flesh, causing day after day of pain and wounds. The bones will of course break if the stays do not fit; being drawn tight, the bones bend and break to accommodate themselves to the shape of the figure. It is absurd for ladies to imagine that they cannot do without stays. Let them wear a firm body, taking care that it fits the figure, or else it will tear. Nothing tears so readily as a garment that does not fit. If you do not like to leave off your stays all at once, cut off the shoulder-straps. To this you will probably answer: "I cannot keep the stays on if I do." This remark is a sure proof that they do not fit. No well-made stays have ever shoulder-straps out into them of any kind. Next to the shoulder-straps, take out the steel in front of the stays. Take exercise in order to gain strength in your back and chest, and you will soon find that you do not require artificial means to brace you up.