I'm working on a dress with a strapless bodice and a gathered skirt. I'm designing my own pattern, but for an example it will have a similar shape to this dress.

From browsing online I've seen that "fancy" strapless dresses sometimes include waist stays. So I'm considering adding one, but I haven't sewn (or worn) something with one before. If the waist stay won't do anything for my dress I'd like to avoid the extra work, but I'm not sure what to check for when I try it on, to tell if it would make a difference.

When would I want to use a waist stay? What issues would it help with?

2 Answers 2


Here is what I found after researching a bit more:

A waist stay is typically made out of a sturdy ribbon (grosgrain or petersham), tacked at the natural waist. The stay should be slightly smaller than the garment dimensions.

The purpose of the waist stay is to help carry some of the weight of the garment and lessen the strain on the bodice.

Without the stay, the dress is held up by the bodice. A heavy skirt will tend to pull the dress downwards, which is not good for strapless styles!!

With the stay, the dress is "anchored" at the waist (because this is now the tightest part of the dress). The skirt will be secured to the waist, and a boned bodice will also be held up from that point. This lessens the strain on the bodice and zipper (if applicable).

This can help the garment feel more secure and less likely to fall down. It shouldn't significantly change the fit, but should help for wearing over longer periods of time by making sure the dress stays where it's supposed to and doesn't sag.

Some sources:


The stay is intended to keep the gathers from moving or shifting when you attach the bodice. I've used stay stitching to keep my gathers in place when attaching a waist band or the ruffle to a hemline. As you can see in the definition below, a stay stitch (or using stay tape) will keep your fabric from moving or distorting when sewing curved areas, bulky fabric i.e. gathers & pleats or even two different types/thicknesses of fabric.

Gathers will shift and move around on you; it can be frustrating. Also, you may choose to have more gathers on the back of the skirt like a bustle effect and less in the front.

Stay stitching is normally a basting stitch that you sew on curved areas of your fabric pieces. The purpose is to keep your curved areas from stretching or distorting. Its a very easy step but a very important one so you should always do it if your pattern directions call for it.

This is from the description of a video on how to do a stay stitch.

  • Could you elaborate? Moving or shifting how? I thought a stay was attached after the dress was assembled so I'm not sure I understand..
    – user812786
    Feb 14, 2018 at 12:42
  • Thanks for the additional info, but I'm asking about a structural component called a "waist stay", not "stay stitching"..
    – user812786
    Feb 20, 2018 at 13:35

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