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Posts Tagged ‘18th Century shirt’

A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

I have made 18th century and Regency shirts before, for my husband and sons, but for a while I have wanted to make one entirely by hand. When my husband said that his current shirt was too short in length, I took the opportunity to make a new one.

One thing I have noticed as I sew more historical garments is that, whilst sewing with a sewing machine is lovely to do, sometimes you can discover new things by hand sewing those garments that were hand sewn during the era that they were worn.

In particular, men’s shirts, with their triangular and square gussets and the centre frill at the front opening, can be a bit tricky to sew with modern sewing machine methods. I found it much easier to flat fell those gusset seams while hand sewing than I did when I machine sewed them. In addition, roll hemming the front neckline and attaching the (already gathered and hemmed) frill with a whipstitch was a lot easier than figuring out what to do with those gathered raw edges on the inside.

Pattern

I relied heavily on the 1769 instructions of Garsault, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne. These instructions contain a very useful “translation” for all of those terms and measurements given in the original version that are not easily adaptable to modern understandings.

I also used the pattern for shirts given in Elizabeth Friendship’s book, Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume. She had some great tips on how to calculate the sizes of different panel pieces relative to the body measurements, and also things like the placement of sleeves.

I used white linen fabric, that was 150cm wide (selvedge to selvedge).

Construction Steps

Step One: Cut out the body of the shirt. I used a 240 cm (length) of material and cut it to be 80 cm wide. I folded the fabric half widthways (the fold-line being where the shoulders would be) and shifted the fold so it was slightly longer (1-2 inches) at the back. Then I cut a slit along the fold (for the neck) and a slit down the centre front (for the opening).

The shirt has been slit along the top fold (from pin-to-pin, which you can see at the top), and the centre front has been slit and a rolled hem done to the raw edges. (The pins at the side of the shirt indicate where the sleeves will come down to.)

The centre front slit was hemmed using a rolled hem.

Step Two: Cut out the sleeves. I had material left over from the shirt body (70 cm wide and 240 cm long). I cut the sleeves to be 70 cm x 60 cm. (Sleeves are 60 cm long and can be 70 or 80 cm wide.)

The bottom edge of the sleeves (70 cm edge) was gathered with stroke stitches. For some great instructions on stroke gathers, see Sharon Burnston’s article.

The top edge of the sleeve has two rows of running stitch, sewn parallel to the raw edge. This will be pulled up to gather the edge into stroke gathers.

Once the running stitches are completed, they are pulled up to form tiny pleats. I pressed each pleat with the back of my fingernails so they sat nicely, and then sewed them with a whipstitch to the cuffs of the garment. The other end of the cuff is then folded over the raw gathered edges and whipstitched in the same way to the other side of the stroke gathers.

The edge of the cuff is folded over and then whipstitched to the stroke gathers.

In the same way, the top edge of the sleeves (other 70 cm edge) was gathered and then attached to the shoulders of the garment. (The other side of the stroke gathers will be whipstitched to the shoulder binder later on.)

Both ends of the sleeve have been gathered and attached to the cuff and shoulders.

Step Three: The gusset is then sewn in place. I fold my square gusset into a triangle and iron it. Then I place it next to the sleeve so that the two open sides face the sleeve and the body of the garment. (This helps me not to get confused!) Once all the seams are sewn, they are flat-felled.

The gusset is sewn in and the side seam sewn. The seams are then flat-felled.

The shoulder binder is a strip of material that is a few inches wide. The raw edges of the binder are folded under and then it is sewn along the seam line at the head of the sleeve. It is positioned to cover the raw edge on the shoulder and reaches down to the point of the gusset. (When stitching the section of the sleeve with stroke gathers, a small whipstitch is used, in the same way the cuffs were completed.)

The shoulder binder is pinned ready to whipstitch to the other side of the stroke gathers.

Step Four: Along the neckline, the triangular gussets are sewn in. The neckline edge is then gathered with stroke gathers, as before (although these gathers are much looser than those in the sleeves). The collar is then sewn on in the same manner as the cuffs were.

Step Five: The frill for the front opening on the shirt was a straight strip of fabric, hemmed on one long edge (and the two short edges) with a rolled hem. The remaining raw edge was gathered with a rolled-whipstitch-gather and then whipstitched to the finished edge of the front slit.

These are the instructions that I wrote on how to do a rolled whipped gather. Others do it slightly differently, but the end result is the same. If your material is not “gathering” enough, make your stitches further apart.

The front frill has been gathered and is now being whipstitched to the rolled hem of the front slit.

The frill is shown attached to the centre front edge.

Once the frill is attached, it was common to sew a heart-shaped reinforcing patch at the bottom of the centre front slit. This prevents the slit tearing. I folded the raw edges under on a small piece of material and tacked it below the slit.

Step Six: The bottom edge of the shirt was hemmed, and then dorset buttons sewn on the cuffs and neck.

And then the finished product is ready to wear!

The front view of the finished shirt

The shirt, whilst it is hardly seen beneath all of the other clothing, was great in the end.

I am really pleased with how this shirt turned out. It took about 3 weeks to sew, and I did have to work quite solidly to get it done. However, there is something quite therapeutic about hand-sewing garments. It has become one of my more favourite ways to complete sewing projects.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Shirt and Stock

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

Making a Men’s Shirt – cutting and sewing instructions from 1760, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne.

Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume, by Elizabeth Friendship – buy on Amazon

Stroke Gathers – by Sharon Burnston

How to Sew a Flat-Felled Seam – by Craftsy

How to make Dorset Buttons – by Craftstylish

18th Century Men’s Shirts – a list of online collections and resources, by 18th Century Notebook

A reproduction of a man’s shirt, c. 1780, by Kannik’s Korner

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Detail of "The Hulsenbeck Children" painting, by Philipp Otto Runge in 1805-06.

Detail of “The Hulsenbeck Children” painting, by Philipp Otto Runge in 1805-06. One of the children is wearing a short-sleeved skeleton suit, with the frilled collar of the shirt showing.

In less than two months I am attending the 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic, in Melbourne, Australia. I have been busy making costumes for the remaining members of my family who have yet to be so privileged! I desperately needed to think of a costume for my two-year-old boy and I soon decided on making a skeleton suit.

Skeleton suits were first seen as an item of children’s dress during the 1780’s and continued to be used until the 1840’s. They were really a form of the modern romper suit, used particularly for boys. Skeleton suits were often a jacket and pants combination that were buttoned together at the waist. Sometimes the suit included a waistcoat. Underneath the suit, the child often wore a white collared shirt with a ruffle on the collar and cuffs.

A boy's shirt, with a deep square collar edged with a frill, c. 1770s. From Historic New England.

A boy’s shirt, with a deep square collar edged with a frill, c. 1770’s. From Historic New England.

This first post in this series is about making the little shirt to go underneath the skeleton suit. Boy’s shirts during this era seem very similar to men’s shirts, in that they are largely made from rectangles and squares.

The main difference seems to be the deeper, fold-down collar, often trimmed with a frilled edge, that was turned down over the top of the jacket. The front of the shirt had a large opening that was also edged with a frill, as could be the sleeve cuffs.

Pattern

The pattern I used for the shirt was based largely on what I know of 18th century men’s shirts, and so was very similar to the ones I have made before. The only difference was that I made a wider collar and added the frills.

A boy's shirt, American, late 18th century. From the Museum of Fine Arts.

A boy’s shirt, American, c. 1790’s. From the Museum of Fine Arts.

I found the site, “Making a Men’s Shirt” (by Marquise) to be invaluable for detailing some of the historical aspects of construction.

Construction

As the construction steps are very similar to the previous shirts I have made, I will not detail them extensively here.

Collar: I made the collar in the normal way, except that it was a different shape. It was a lot deeper and the front edges (or corners) of the collar I made curved.

The shirt collar, wide and curved. This has been sewn right sides together and turned the right way, with one raw edge turned up.

The shirt collar, wide and curved. This piece has been sewn right sides together and turned the right way, with one raw edge turned up. The unturned edge is sewn to the garment and the turned-up edge is handsewn down on the inside of the shirt.

Frills: Whilst the rest of the shirt was made by machine, I decided to make the frills by hand. I measured the length of the seam where the frill would be sewn and doubled it to get the length of the frill.

I did a rolled hem on one edge of the frill, and then did a whipped stitch gather on the other edge. Once it was gathered to fit, I whip-stitched the gathered edge to the edge of the collar and centre front edge.

The collar frill, gathered with a "whipped-stitch-gather" stitch and attached to the collar with a whipstitch.

The collar frill, gathered with a “whipped-stitch-gather” stitch and then attached to the collar with a whipstitch.

The same type of frill was also attached to the cuffs in the same way. (These techniques were all used in my post A Regency Day Cap.)

The shirt all finished

The shirt all finished

This is how it looks on the little man! Unfortunately the light was not very good, so hopefully there will be better pictures to come.

The Back View

The Back View

The Front View

The Front View

The next post in this series will be on making the pants for the skeleton suit.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Shirt and Stock

Sources and Relevant Links

The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – the Event on the Facebook page

Image Source: “The Hulsenbeck Children” by Phillipp Otto Runge (1805-06).

Image Source: A boy’s shirt, c. 1770’s – Historic New England

Image Source: A boy’s shirt, c. 1790’s – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Historical instructions from 1769 on making an 18th century men’s shirt – by Marquise

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Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Since my 9-year-old son asked to come to the Jane Austen Festival, I have become inspired to make him a midshipman uniform for the occasion. He also seems rather keen to go to “Book Week” as “Mr Midshipman Hornblower”, which could be interesting for him!

There was no sign of anything brewing while dinner was being eaten in the great cabin of the Indefatigable. Pellew was a courtly host at the head of the table. Conversation flowed freely and along indifferent channels among the senior officers present – the two lieutenants, Eccles and Chadd, and the sailing master, Soames. Hornblower and the other junior officer – Mallory, a midshipman of over two years’ seniority – kept silent, as midshipmen should, thereby being able to devote their undivided attention to the food, so vastly superior to what was served in the midshipmen’s berth. 

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

For the second post in this series, I will be making an 18th century boys shirt and stock.

Shirt

Generally speaking, men’s 18th century shirts were all made along the same lines. They were made from rectangles and squares, neatly cut as to have little offcuts, and rather roomy in the body, only fitting closely around the neck and the wrist cuffs.

18th century linen shirts, from

Late 18th century linen shirts, from Germanisches National Museum. The front ruffle and the wrist frills can be easily seen.

In addition to this, midshipmen from this Regency period all seemed to have a front frill on their 18th century shirts, which is often seen peeking out from below their neckstocks. However, they do not seem to have the corresponding frill around their wrists, which was so popular during the 18th century.

Using this information, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt. I last made an 18th century shirt when I was making a Regency costume for my husband, so I simply referred back to my post and followed the same process using the smaller measurements.

There is a basic pattern for a shirt in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes, or there are various places online to look for making an 18th century shirt.

I made this shirt from white cotton broadcloth. It has a front frill and a dorset button on each wrist cuff and the collar. It is rather roomy, but I am hopeful that it will still fit if he grows before April next year.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy. The midshipman’s stock appears knotted here.

Stock

A black stock was considered the general sign of a military man in this period. Sometimes they were made into a short straight strip, laid on the front of the neck and then attached at the back with ties. Other times they appear to be a longer strip of fabric that crosses at the back and is knotted at the front.

Bush felt the perspiration prickling under his uniform, and his stock constricted his thick neck so that every now and again he put two fingers into it and tugged, without relief. It would have been the simplest matter in the world to take off his heavy uniform coat and unhook his stock, but it never crossed his mind that he should do so. Bodily discomfort was something that one bore without a complaint in the world; habit and pride both helped.

Lieutenant Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

I have previously made a variety of cravats for my husband, but this time I particularly wanted a stock that knotted in front, similar to the painting of Midshipman Michael Daintry above.

From the pictures I have seen, this type of stock appeared to be a long triangular piece that was folded, laid on the front of the neck, crossed at the back and then neatly knotted (with short ends) at the front.

I used black cotton broadcloth and cut it with the long straight edge on the selvedge. The neckcloth is folded lengthways before being put around the neck.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge (measuring 41 inches), and the depth at the midpoint measures 7.5 inches.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge, measuring 41 inches long, and the depth at the midpoint of the triangle measures 7.5 inches.

All finished! And looking good so far.

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

Next up, making a little midshipman’s breeches.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Neckcloth

Sources and Relevant Links

Portrait of Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813) – painted by Thomas Lawrence

18th century shirts – from Germanisches National Museum

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Making an 18th Century shirt – the cutting and sewing instructions from 1760

Image (Drawing) Source – from Osprey Men-at-Arms 65: Royal Navy 1790-1970

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