Stays for Clothing Definition presented by Apparel Search
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In regard to clothing, "stays" provide structure or stabilization to the fabric.  In regard to dress shirts, the stay helps the collar "stay" put.  Meaning stay in place and flat.

Collar stays help provide structure or support to the collar of shirts.  A good example would be the use in some types of dress shirt.  Note: generally not used in the button down color dress shirts.

Learn more about shirt collars.

In corsetry, a bone works similar to a stay in the fact that it provides support or stabilization to the garment. 

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