English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

From http://artofmanliness.com/2011/04/06/how-to-iron-shirt/

Iron around buttons, never over them. Even if there is fabric laying over the button, as in the case of a pocket with under-buttons or a dress shirt with a hidden button down collar. You can create a permanent impression that will ruin the look of the shirt. Be sure to remove shirt stays as well.

I can't find a meaning for "stays" from those listed in Google dictionary. I wonder how to interpret it? Thanks!

share|improve this question
It's noun #4 ("A device used as a brace or support") in the Google dictionary. – Gareth Rees Aug 31 '12 at 8:27

They are (likely) talking about collar stays:

Collar stays (sometimes known as collar sticks, bones, knuckles, tabs, in the UK, collar stiffeners, and in Eastern Canada collar stiffs) are shirt accessories.

Collar stays are smooth, rigid strips of metal (such as brass, stainless steel, or sterling silver), horn, baleen, mother of pearl, or plastic, rounded at one end and pointed at the other, inserted into specially made pockets on the underside of a man's shirt collar to stabilize the collar's points. The stays ensure that the collar lies flat against the collarbone, looking crisp and remaining in the correct place. Often shirts come with plastic stays which may eventually need to be replaced if they bend; metal replacements don't have this problem.

enter image description here

However, there is another form of shirt stays:

elastic straps that connect the bottom of a dress shirt to the socks or feet.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
Thanks! Are stays only in the collar of a shirt? – Tim Aug 30 '12 at 21:28
@Tim No, women used to wear them in their bodices. – tchrist Aug 30 '12 at 21:30
@Tim please see my updated answer. As far as the generally stiff parts of a shirt go, as far as I know, the placket and cuffs would be stiff from starch, but not from stays. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 30 '12 at 21:32
@tchrist Actually, "stays" (or a "pair of stays") were usually worn under the bodice. The 'boning' (flexible 'whalebone' stiffening pieces) was too costly to be incorporated in individual overgarments. – StoneyB Aug 30 '12 at 23:05

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.