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Posts Tagged ‘18th century’

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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A robe a l'anglaise, with a matching petticoat, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with a closed front and a matching petticoat, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum.

This year I have had a long list of costumes planned to make, but a Robe a l’Anglaise was not one of them. However, I quickly changed my mind when a friend decided to make one and it became convenient and easy to work on the project together!

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

A gown cut en fourreau, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with the back cut en fourreau, c. 1776, from The MET Museum.

The Anglaise saw many different variations through the 18th century: open and closed bodices; long and elbow-length sleeves; worn polonaise style; etc… During this time, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown. Towards the end of the gown’s popularity, the bodice was cut separately to the skirts and attached with a waist seam.

Another transition in this gown was with the front. Gowns that had been worn open to reveal a stomacher earlier in the century, began to be worn closed, either pinned or closed with hooks and eyes. The skirts could also be closed in front (called a “round gown”), or be worn open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

For this particular costume, I decided that I wanted a petticoat to match the gown, and with a pinked flounce. It also needed to have pocket slits so that I could wear my new pockets!

The petticoat

The petticoat, c. 1775-1785, in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

In looking for a suitable pattern for a petticoat, I went with one in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. It is dated 1775-1785 and is part of a matching petticoat/gown set. It is a very basic skirt pattern, made up of a large rectangle of material (pieced where necessary).

The FINISHED WIDTH of the front panel of my petticoat (not allowing for seam allowances) was 62 inches wide (and then made as long as I needed it for my height). The back panel was exactly the same as the front.

This gown is made of a cotton printed material, and is completely handsewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: After you have cut out the large rectangles that make up the skirt, sew the side seams together. I had to piece several pieces of material together to get the required width, but I made sure I had two side seams to make allowing for the pocket slits easier. The top 10 inches of the petticoat side seams were left open for the pocket slits. All seams are either on the selvedge or flat-felled.

Step 2: Pleat the top of the front panel onto a waistband. My pleats start from the centre front and go out to the sides. Pleat the back panel in the same manner with a second waistband. Often petticoats of this era could also be attached to a length of twill tape as a waistband.

Step 3: After finishing the waistband, attach ties to the ends of both the back and front waistbands. I made an eyelet through each end of each waistband and then tied a length of cotton tape to it.

The two halves of the waistband, with ties on each end.

The two halves of the waistband (back and front), with ties on each end.

Step 4: Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. I inserted some cord into the hem to help it stand out better.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

Step 5: Using pinking shears, pink the flounce with a scallop at the top and a zigzag at the bottom. Attach the flounce. My flounce is 9 inches deep, and twice the length of the bottom of the petticoat. It is box-pleated to fit the petticoat, and it should only just overhang the hem.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

Step 6: Add any trim. My trim is just a piece of plain gimp-like braid with a ribbon threaded through it at intervals.

The trim; a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The trim: a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The finished pictures!

The front, shown over my hip roll.

The front, shown over my hip roll. The front half is tied around the waist first, and the back half is tied around the waist second.

The side view. Because the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see the pocket slits in the side.

The side view. As the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see that it doesn’t quite fit the dummy. There is normally a bit of an overlap between the front half and the back half. The pocket slits can be seen in the side.

I was quite pleased with the end result, though I do think I need another plain petticoat underneath (over the hip roll) to help with the skirt’s body.

Look out for the next post in this series, the closed-front gown to match. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Does my Bum Look Big In This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

An 18th Century Robe a l’anglaise – a very early and non-historical attempt!

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Dress? – about a quilted petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1776, from The MET Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

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The bum-bailiff

“The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted, or the convenience of Fashion” (1786)

In preparation to make a 1770 robe a l’anglaise, I decided that I need to have a bum enhancer of some kind. I have made myself a padded bum before, to wear with my caraco jacket and petticoat, but I really wanted to try a hip roll that curved all the way around my hips.

Padded clothes certainly can have their advantages! The caricature entitled “The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted”, depicts a lady so desperate to escape an unwanted pursuer that she is able to wiggle out of her self-supporting garments and take flight. The accompanying text puts the situation into verse admirably:

Suky like Syrinx changes shape,
Her vain pursuer to escape;
Ye Snapps; of Pans hard fate beware
Who thought his arms embrac’ed the fair
But found an empty Bum-case there.

So an empty Bum-case is what I need!

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

I found Demode’s post on “Bums, Rumps and Culs” very helpful, especially as she had tried out a number of different types of “bums” to catalogue their effects to the fashionable shape. After researching a little more, I decided that a hip roll or bum roll would be the best for my gown.

Patterning and Construction

Since I was not going to use a commercial pattern, I had to figure out exactly how to make it.

Firstly, I measured around the back of my hips, from my left front “hip point” to my right front “hip point”. (For want of a better term, by “hip point” I mean the part of your pelvis that sticks out at your side front, just across from your navel. It is often where your fingers sit when you put your hands on your hips.)

Once I had this measurement, this became the inner measurement of my bum roll. I laid the tape measure out on a piece of calico, trying to mimic the natural shape of the hips (that is, not a circle but a sort of oval). If you measure the space between your “hip points”, then you will know how much of a gap to have in the front of your “oval tape-measurey pattern”.

After I was happy with how my inner measurement sat on the calico, I used a pencil to draw the sewing line. Then I began to sketch the outer edge of the bum roll. I used the diagram of the “cork-cutter from Paris” to help in getting the shape fairly right, with a larger portion over the hips and a skinnier portion around the back. Then I cut it out, adding a fairly generous seam allowance, in case of mistakes.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces; two layers of calico.

Then I simply sewed both layers together, leaving a hole for adding some cushion stuffing. Once it was stuffed, I hand sewed the hole closed and sewed some lengths of cotton tape to the front “hip point corners” so that it could be tied on.

The front view

The front view

You can see the cotton tapes tied at the centre front. I actually think – now! – that it probably reaches too far around to the front, just beyond my hip point instead of on it.

The back view

The back view

A bum roll like this is supposed to sit on your “high hip” line, not your waistline. In some of the pictures, mine looks like it is sitting a smidgen high, but that can always be adjusted when a gown goes on top.

The side view

The side view

Since I whipped it together in an hour, I was pretty happy with how it turn out. Hopefully, once its under a dress, it will give the necessary “oomph” to my bottom!

Stay tuned for my robe a l’anglaise; first part up, the matching petticoat.

Related Posts

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: The bum-bailiff outwitted (1786), by Isaac Cruikshank, at The British Museum

Late 18th Century Skirt Supports: Bums, Rumps and Culs, by Demode

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A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Recently I decided to make an 18th century pocket, and – after a little deliberation – I thought I should make a second one to match. Although there are many extant examples of a single pocket, I thought a pair might be useful. However, pairs of pockets were often not an exact match, as we generally desire today. They were often stylistically similar, but featured different arrangements of flowers in essentially the same design.

These pockets were not sewn into women’s gowns as they are often sewn into garments these days. Instead women had a pair of pockets – or a single pocket – attached to some ribbon or tape which was tied around their waist. The pockets were rather voluminous and were reached through a hole in the side of the skirts of the dress.

Once fashions changed at the end of the 18th century – with the popularity of the long, clingy dresses of the Regency – these large pockets were dispensed with in favour of the hand-held “Ridicule” or reticule. However, there is evidence to suggest that these larger pockets were still widely used, though possibly more by the older generation. I have even seen Regency “versions” of the tie-on pocket, which were smaller and easy to access through the front seams of a bib-front dress.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

I have never really considered the necessity of making a pocket for my 18th century costumes before, but there are some great reasons to do it. Firstly, it gives you somewhere to hide your mobile phone and a purse! It is also fantastic for easy access to a fan while you are dancing. Secondly, it can be a really quick and easy project to whip up, especially if you are wanting a plain pocket. But it also gives some creative scope for the embroidery of a smallish project (by historical standards, anyway!).

Pattern and Construction

I used the same pattern and construction process as I had used on my first pocket.

As with my first pocket, this one was made with white cotton broadcloth and bound with printed cotton quilting fabric. The design was embroidered with cotton DMC thread (No. 798). The tie was made from a length of cotton tape (25mm wide), made long enough to tie around the waist. This project was hand embroidered and hand sewn.

Embroidery

Embroidery Stitches used:

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with...

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with backstitch, seed stitch and satin stitch.

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch...

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch, backstitch, buttonhole pinwheels and seed stitch.

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, chain stitch, ...

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, backstitch, running stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and double feather stitch.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, ...

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, running stitch and a buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheel, chain stitch, and ?.

This flower is embroidered with buttonhole pinwheels, chain stitch, and square laid filling stitch.

And here it is all finished!

The pair of pockets completed

The pair of pockets completed

The second pocket took a lot longer to finish than the first, largely because I had less time spare to sit and embroider. But I still managed to get the entire project finished within three months, which is pretty good.

The great thing about these pockets is that, when they are tied around my waist, my hands can reach right to the bottom of them to easily grasp any item that sinks there. Now I just need to make an 18th century dress with some pocket holes!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Pocket

An Embroidered Regency Letter Case

Making an Embroidered Stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Victoria and Albert Museum

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Museum of London

Make Your Own Pocket – Victoria and Albert Museum

Pocket Research – by Sew 18th Century

An Embroidered Pocket – by American Duchess

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials – on Rocksea and Sarah

How to bind your project – by HowToSew.com

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An embroidered pocket, done in monochrome, held at Victoria and Albert Museum.

An embroidered pocket, done in monochrome, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In the 18th century, pockets were not sewn into women’s gowns as they are often sewn into garments these days. Instead women had a pair of pockets – or a single pocket – attached to some ribbon or tape which was tied around their waist. The pockets were rather voluminous and were reached through a hole in the side of the skirts of the dress.

There were a great variety in the types of pockets that were made. They could be embroidered, patchworked, and even made with plain or printed material. They could be bound with plain binding, contrasting binding, mismatched binding or patterned binding. The pocket holes were often centred and vertical, but I have seen horizontal and curved openings as well.

Embroidered cotton and linen pocket, c. 1775-1800.

Embroidered cotton and linen pocket, c. 1775-1800.

Once fashions changed at the end of the 18th century – with the popularity of the long, clingy dresses of the Regency – these large pockets were dispensed with in favour of the hand-held “Ridicule” or reticule. However, there is evidence to suggest that these larger pockets were still widely used, though possibly more by the older generation. I have even seen Regency “versions” of the tie-on pocket, which were smaller and easy to access through the front seams of a bib-front dress.

I have never really considered the necessity of making a pocket for my 18th century costumes before, but there are some great reasons to do it. Firstly, it gives you somewhere to hide your mobile phone and a purse! It is also fantastic for easy access to a fan while you are dancing. Secondly, it can be a really quick and easy project to whip up, especially if you are wanting a plain pocket. But it also gives some creative scope for the embroidery of a smallish project (by historical standards, anyway!).

An unfinished pair of pockets, at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

An unfinished pair of pockets, at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pattern

I used the tutorial on “Make your own pocket”, by the V&A to get a sense of the manner in which pockets were constructed. There are patterns for pockets in both Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, and Linda Baumgarten’s Costume Close-Up. I used both of these to get a sense of the dimensions of the average 18th century pocket.

The dimensions of my pocket are: height – 17.5 inches; width at bottom – 13 inches; width at top – 8 inches; and length of pocket hole – 8 inches.

I particularly wanted to embroidery my design in a monochrome colour, so I looked at a variety of extant items that used this technique.

This pocket was made with white cotton broadcloth and bound with printed cotton quilting fabric. The design was embroidered with cotton DMC thread (No. 798). The tie was made from a length of cotton tape (25mm wide), made long enough to tie around the waist. This project was hand embroidered and hand sewn. It took 2 and 1/2 weeks to do the embroidery (in my holidays) and a few days to sew it together.

Construction Steps

Step One: First I traced the shape of the pocket, the pocket opening, and the embroidery design on the fabric with an erasable fabric pen.

Step Two – Embroidery: Then I embroidered the design.

The design has been traced on the panel and has been embroidered.

The design has been traced on the panel and has been embroidered.

The embroidery pattern I have drawn up is a very classic 18th century design. I modified the embroidered pocket pattern used on the pocket in Costume Close-Up, and just changed some of the flower types. It was very common for pockets to have asymmetrical designs, and even for two pockets to be similar in design but different in the details.

Embroidery Stitches used:

The centre flower; stitched with backstitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, french knots, and fly stitch.

The centre flower; stitched with backstitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, french knots, and double feather stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, bullion knots, cross stitch, and buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, bullion knots, cross stitch, and a buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheel, chain stitch, and ?.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheels, chain stitch, and square laid filling stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, back stitch, seed stitch, french knots, long and short stitch, and satin stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, backstitch, seed stitch, french knots, long and short stitch, and satin stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, blanket stitch, satin stitch, long and short stitch, back stitch, and seed stitch.

This flower is stitched with chain stitch, blanket stitch, satin stitch, long and short stitch, backstitch, and seed stitch.

Step Three – Assembly:

In order to stop things catching on the back of the embroidery, it was often backed with a layer of plain material. I laid a plain piece of fabric at the back of the embroidered panel and then slashed the pocket hole through all layers. The edge of this hole was then bound with printed cotton bias binding.

The embroidered layer is laid on top of a plain layer. The pocket hole is slashed and bound.

The embroidered layer is laid on top of a plain layer. The pocket hole is slashed and bound.

Then another layer of plain fabric was laid below and all the outer edges were bound with the same binding.

The three layers are put together and the outside edges bound.

The three layers are put together and the outside edges bound.

Finally, a piece of cotton tape was used to bind the top edge and also act as a string, which could be tied around the waist.

The top edge of the pocket bound.

The top edge of the pocket bound.

And here it is all finished!

The finished pocket, tied on to my mannequin!

The finished pocket, tied on to my mannequin!

I am making the second pocket, so look out for more pictures to come.

Related Posts

An Embroidered Regency Letter Case

Making an Embroidered Stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Monochrome pocket – “Pockets in the V&A Collection”

Image Source: Cotton and linen pocket – at National Trust Collections

A History of Pockets – Victoria and Albert Museum (Image Source: Unfinished pair of pockets)

Make Your Own Pocket – Victoria and Albert Museum

Pocket Research – by Sew 18th Century

An Embroidered Pocket – by American Duchess

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials – on Rocksea and Sarah

How to bind your project – by HowToSew.com

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Chemise c. 1780, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Chemise with sleeve and neck ruffles, c. 1780, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Recently, I have been making some more stays to wear beneath my eighteenth century costumes, and I had the idea to begin work on a chemise for the same period. Since I have made my Regency Day Cap, I have been looking for something else to handsew and this chemise seemed to leap out at me to be a good option. As a result, this garment is completely handsewn and took about 3 weeks (with a few hours of sewing per day) to finish.

Whilst few chemises of this period survive, I was really keen to find one with some sleeve and neck ruffles, and even something with a touch of lace.

Pattern

The pattern I started with was the one provided on How to Make an 18th Century Chemise. There is also a helpful cutting diagram to help with pattern placement on the fabric.

My chemise consisted of four basic pattern pieces:

  • Main body: Cut 1 – 260cm x 80cm (This piece will have a hole cut in the middle for the head opening, which means there will be no shoulder seams.)
  • Sleeves: Cut 2 – 40cm x 35cm
  • Sleeve gussets: Cut 2 – 15cm x 15cm
  • Gores: Cut 4 right angled triangles – 80cm x 25cm (height x width of a right angled triangle)

Other optional pieces:

  • Sleeve cuff – a thin piece of material about 1-2 cm wide and 25 cm long (just make sure it will fit around your arm at the elbow).
  • Sleeve ruffle – I used a strip twice the length of the bottom of the sleeve and 5 cm wide.
  • Neck ruffle – Once again, twice the length of the neck opening and 3-5 cm wide.

I followed the sewing instructions provided at “How to Make an 18th Century Chemise” fairly closely, and have detailed my progress below.

The stitches and techniques I have used have been a running stitch, back stitch, rolled hem, rolled whipped gather, whip stitch, slip stitch, and flat felling.

Construction Steps

Step One: Assemble sleeves and gussets, flat-felling the seams with a slip stitch to neaten. All of my basic seams have been sewn with a running stitch (with a back stitch every so often to anchor the thread). For more information on how to sew a gusset, you can look at my previous post My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise for more detail.

The sleeve with the gusset, all sewn to the main body.

The sleeve with the gusset attached, all sewn to the main body.

The bottom edge of the sleeve can be gathered and finished with a cuff. For information on this type of finishing, go to “The Cognitive Shift” link below. I finished mine with a rolled hem (ungathered).

Step Two: Sew the gores (all four of them) onto each side of the main body, sewing from the hem upwards. Then sew the side seams of the main body together, upwards from the hem, finishing where the gores end.

Step Three: Sew the sleeves in position, then finish any side seams that are still open by flat felling.

At this point (before I attached the sleeves) I decided that an 80cm wide chemise was too wide for my body, so I trimmed the top of the main body so that it was a little narrower (60cm wide across the shoulders rather than 80cm). I sloped the new narrower width out to meet the gores, which had already been sewn in.

You can see where I have altered the width. Instead of the side seams going straight up, they go diagonal when they reach the gores.

You can see where I have altered the width. Instead of the side seams going straight up, they go diagonally when they reach the gores and then straight up again where the sleeves are attached. There is no neck opening as yet.

In “How to Make an 18th Century Chemise”, at the very end of the article under “Alternative Patterns”, the patterns provided are all 60cm wide at the shoulders. They also show that there were various ways to cut out a chemise to suit various figures.

Step Four: Flat fell all the side and gore seams with a slip stitch.

The gore seams being flat felled with a slip stitch.

The gore seams being flat felled with a slip stitch. The top one is complete, the middle one is being felled, and the bottom one is trimmed ready.

Step Five: Hem the bottom edge to mid-calf area using a slip stitch.

Step Six: Cut the neck opening and finish with a rolled hem. A casing and drawstring can be added if you need one.

My neck opening was done by trying on my chemise underneath my stays and marking the neckline with an erasable fabric pen. This did lead to having an opening which seems slightly too big, but which still worked well without a drawstring. For an interesting discussion on necklines and drawstrings of 18th century chemises, have a look at The Cognitive Shift; or, 18th Century Shifts: What I Know and How I Learned It.

Step Seven: For any sleeve or neck ruffles, do a rolled whipped gather on one long edge and a rolled hem on the three remaining sides that will not be gathered. Whip stitch the ruffle ends together and attach the gathered ruffle edge to the bottom sleeve edge using a whipped stitch. I sewed lace on to the bottom edge of my ruffle as well.

The sleeve ruffle attached. Very pretty, I think!

The sleeve ruffle attached. Very pretty, I think!

All finished!

All finished! I am still decided whether to attach a neck ruffle to it or not...

All finished! I am still undecided whether to attach a neck ruffle to it or not… decisions, decisions!

I love the feel of wearing cotton lawn undergarments. Whilst I know most (if not all) chemises of this period were made of linen, I have not been able to find any linen within a reasonable price range to do the job! And I find this is a very suitable alternative.

And hand-sewing has recently become my cup of tea!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise

A Second Regency Chemise

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

How to make an 18th century chemise – by La Couturiere Parisienne

Links to extant 18th century shifts – by 18th Century Notebook

Extant chemise with lace neckline and lace cuffs (c. 1750-1800), from Belgium Art Links and Tools (BALaT)

Extant chemise with woven lace neckline (c. 1780-1810), from Colonial Williamsburg

The Cognitive Shift; or, 18th Century Shifts: What I Know and How I Learned It – article by Sharon Burnston

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Stays (1770-1790)

English Stays (1770-1790), made from red silk damask, Victoria and Albert Museum.

My last pair of 18th century stays took about 13 years to finish, and by the time they were finished they didn’t fit me, so I have decided to make another pair.

I finally decided on a half-boned style, and used this pair of red silk damask stays (from Victoria and Albert Museum) as a starting point.

Stays of this era were designed to conform the body to an inverted cone shape, with a round bosom and a much smaller waist. They were also quite elongated, to draw the body upwards, and therefore came up high under the arms. The armholes were placed further back in the garment and, along with the shoulder straps, were designed to force the shoulders backwards to create the desirable “small back” posture.

My dear Louisa, you will laugh when I tell you, that poor Winifred, who was reduced to be my gentlewoman’s gentlewoman, broke two laces in endeavouring to draw my new French stays close. You know I am naturally small at bottom but now you might literally span me. You never saw such a doll. Then, they [the stays] are so intolerably wide across the breast, that my arms are absolutely sore with them; and my sides so pinched! – But it is the ‘ton’; and pride feels no pain. It is with these sentiments the ladies of the present age heal their wounds; to be admired, is a sufficient balsam.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778)

I really like this style of stays, with the round, broad oval neckline and the way the bones are wrapped diagonally around the body. It looks very flattering for the 18th century figure!

This project fits well with the Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #12, hosted by Dreamstress.

Pattern

The pattern I have used is based on the 1780’s pattern from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh. This one is very similar to the one pictured above – in fact it may be the same one, despite the minor styling differences apparent in the printed pattern.

A pattern for 1780's stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

A pattern for 1780’s stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

Beginning with my measurements and a piece of paper, I drafted my pattern up, using the Corsets and Crinolines pattern as a guide to panel shape and grainline. I used eight panels: 2 x centre back, 2 x side back, 2 x side, 2 x front.

The panel pieces all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

The panel pieces are all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

Four layers of material were used in this pair of stays. The outer layer was a cream/pale yellow cotton damask. The two interlining layers were a white cotton duck. The inner lining was a white cotton lawn. I used 6mm plastic boning with a tiny bit of 12mm plastic boning in the centre front. The embroidery was done with plain cotton sewing thread.

Construction Steps

In order to construct these I referred mainly to How to Make an 18th Century Corset but I have also detailed my progress below.

Step One: Draft the pattern up on paper, using your measurements. Do a toile to fit it to your body, marking any alterations on your pattern. Cut out the pattern pieces.

Step Two: Sew the panels together. I pressed the seams to alternate sides (rather than pressing each seam open) in order to alleviate stress on the seams.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at a later stage.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at Step Seven.

I found it easier to piece together the back, side back and sides first and then do the fronts separately until I was ready to put in the boning. This is because the front panel has boning that goes in different directions, rather than just up and down.

Step Three: Sew boning channels and then add boning.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn together. Some of the boning channels are sewn. I am beginning to applique the ribbon on the seams here as well.

Step Four: Apply ribbon to the seams. I used nylon ribbon, as it was thin and of a similar thickness to silk ribbon. The boning should be inserted into the channels before you apply the ribbon, or else you may sew the channel shut by accident! I used a simple running stitch to applique the ribbon on, as this appears to be what was used on the extant pictured above.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

Step Five: Add embroidery or other embellishments. Whilst a great deal of embellishment was not frequently used for stays unless the front was to be seen as a stomacher, some smaller amounts of embroidery (usually straight or curved lines) was occasionally used. I generally embroider my stays because I enjoy doing it and I think it looks pretty!

The central splays of boning is slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The central splays of boning are slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps, as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The detail of the central embroidered flower.

The detail of the central embroidered flower, using mainly backstitch and running stitch.

Step Six: Hand sew eyelets and add lacing.

Step Seven: Attach shoulder straps. I did this as one of the last things, as I wanted to be able to try it on first so that I could fit the shoulder straps properly.

Step Seven: Piece together the lining panels and lay the lining layer to the inside of the stays. You can do this step earlier so that the eyelets go through the lining fabric, but I folded under the raw edges of the lining and handsewed them just inside of the eyelets. (You can see this on the finished pictures below.)

Step Eight: Cut the tabs after fitting it to your body. Cutting the tabs later in the process saves them from fraying everywhere or getting damaged in the construction process. I used a buttonhole/blanket stitch over the raw edge of the stays, and then added the binding.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side before folding the rest over and handsewing it down on the inside.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side of the stays before folding it over and handsewing it down on the inside. You can see the blanket stitch visible on the raw edge.

The extant stays pictured above have areas where the binding has worn away to reveal the raw edge sewn over with what looks like a blanket stitch. I was interested to try this technique as I wondered if it helped keep a narrower bound edge. It certainly helped with reducing the fraying as the binding is completed!

Finished!

Outside all finished

Outside all finished

Inside all finished

Inside all finished

And tried on!

Back view

Back view

Front view

Front view

The other HSF items to cover are firstly historical accuracy, which was pretty good. Obviously the stay pattern was made to fit me, rather than an 18th century women that has been wearing stays her whole life, so the pattern is slightly different in shape to extant ones of the period. The fabric I chose was semi-accurate as cotton was in production then, but often linen was used for stay making. Secondly, the number of hours it took to complete are hard to calculate, as many hours were spent pattern drafting and making a toile. I began this project four months ago, but didn’t work on it solidly through that time. I am guessing 50 hours? Maybe more? Thirdly, it was first worn to a Three Musketeers Ball the day after it was completed! And lastly, the total cost was about $60 AUD.

My next post will be on my 18th century chemise made to go underneath.

Related Posts

Stays from the 18th Century – my first pair of 18th century stays

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern – a helpful beginning to drafting a pattern if you have never done it before.

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from Victoria and Albert Museum online collection

The Sylph, by Georgiana Cavendish – read online

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – on Amazon

How to make an 18th Century Corset/Stays – by La Couturiere Parisienne

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