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Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Petticoats, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Underskirts, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

My panic is rising in my quest to finish off the raft of undergarments required for a Titanic evening costume.

As the list of undergarments required for a Victorian woman increased during the length of the 19th century, new “combinations” were invented to try and limit the sheer quantity of them. There were an almost exhaustive range of these undergarment items that were combined during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods; from chemise-and-corset cover, to corset cover-and-skirt/drawers, to brassiere-and-bust improver. We have already examined the chemise-drawer combinations, but there was also the combination of the corset cover and petticoat, which became known as a “princess slip”.

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Princess slips of the time tended to have a series of long panels (often either 6 and 8), with or without a waist seam. There was generally a lightly gathered frill at the knee, which was not very full, especially as the width of gowns was decreasing into the 1910s. The frill was very often trimmed with lace or could be a whole embroidered lace panel fixed to the bottom of the petticoat. Lace often adorned the top of the princess slip as well, which was used instead of fabric at the shoulder straps. The neckline could have a ribbon drawstring to help adjust it properly around the neck, and the princess slip generally reached to the ankle area.

Pattern

I did not use a pattern for this princess slip, but instead relied on what I could see from pictures of surviving extants online.

The petticoat pictured below was one of the sources I used in my design. Some of the design features that I liked were the large insertion lace around the neckline, and a smaller row of lace/ribbon to draw in the neck. The knee length frill and the back opening placket were also features I wanted to include in my garment.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view – from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view – from Antique Dress.

There are more detailed pictures of this particular garment on the Antique Dress website, which is in the “Sources” below.

My princess slip was made from white cotton lawn, and various different types of cotton lace.

Construction Steps

Step One: I decided that the best way to do this was to do a bit of draping. Initially I was going to do a side panel, which went over each shoulder, and then a front/back panel (with the centre back having a button placket). Unfortunately I underestimated how much material would need to go under my arm, so I added an “underarm side panel” in addition to the side front panel I had already cut out.

I cut out the basic pattern shapes and then pinned them together. After I laid it on the dressmakers form, (which was set to my corseted waistline) I realised I had to alter some of the seam lines as the grainline did not sit properly.

The front, pinned together.

The front, pinned together. You can see the centre front fold line.

The side, pinned together.

The side, pinned together. You can see the underarm panel I cut later.

The back, pinned together.

The back, pinned together, allowing a bit extra for the back button placket.

Step Two: I sewed all the seams and then flat-felled the raw edges.

The seams flat-felled. The top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

The seams flat-felled. Hard to see, but the top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

Step Three: I wanted to put a wide insertion of lace in the front neckline. I pinned it to fit, adjusting the corners to a mitred edge, and making sure that the resulting angle would go over the shoulders correctly. Then I topstitched it to the top of the garment. The raw edges of the lawn on the underside were trimmed and turned under and slipstitched down.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

Step Four: The neckline was then finished with a row of large entreduex and a row of lace. These were sewn together in the same manner as is done in heirloom sewing, with a small tight row of zigzag stitches. Any raw edges were trimmed back to the row of zigzag stitches.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entredeux.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entreduex, and then tied in a bow at the centre front.

Step Five: The armhole was finished with the same lace as around the neckline. The raw edges were turned under and sewn in a small hem.

The lace finishing the armhole.

The lace finishing the armhole.

Step Six: The centre back (which had been cut on the selvedge line) was finished with a button placket by folding over 1 inch of the edge of the fabric. Buttonholes were then sewn and corresponding buttons attached.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

Step Seven: The bottom frill was cut 15 inches deep, and finished with the same large insertion lace as used at the neckline, plus another large row of broider anglaise. The large insertion lace was sewn in the normal way, topstitched onto the fabric and then the material cut away behind the insertion. The raw edges were trimmed and turned under to form a small hem.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The broider anglaise was sewn right sides together onto the bottom of the lace insertion, and then the raw edges trimmed and neatened with a small zigzag stitch.

Step Eight: The frill was gathered and then sewn to the bottom of the slip, just below the knee level.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached. The total length of the frill is 15 inches. The lace is attached at the 10 inch mark.

Step Nine: A row of ribbon insertion lace was topstitched around the bottom of the slip, but above the gathered frill. The fabric behind this insertion can be cut away, and often was in extant examples, however I didn’t do that this time.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

All finished! A bit wrinkly, but nothing that an iron won’t fix.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

One of the undergarments that I had been keen to make was a brassiere, but I felt that I had run out of time to manage it for this event.

So next on the list is the Titanic-era evening gown!

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a Chemise/Drawer Combination Suit

Titanic Panic! – Making a 1911 Corset

Making a Gored Petticoat (1890)

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1912 Sears catalogue, in “What real women wore in 1912“, by American Duchess.

Image Source: An Edwardian Petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Image Source: Detailed pictures of an Edwardian Petticoat, from Antique Dress.

How to sew flate-felled seams – by So Sew Easy

Sewing Lace and Entreduex – by Sew Beautiful

Basic Lace Insertion by Machine – Wearing History

Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910’s Evening Dress – by Demode Couture

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An advertisement in the Sears catalogue for drawers. 1912

An advertisement in the Sears catalogue for drawers, 1912.

When the news of a Titanic-themed event suddenly bursts upon you, panic ensues!

Later this year a costume group that I am a part of is planning a dinner at the Titanic Restaurant in Melbourne. The only unfortunate part about it is that it means doing a whole set of new clothing for a new era – 1912 to be exact – from the undergarments out.

Chemise-drawer-combinations for sale in a catalogue

Chemise-drawer-combinations for sale in a Macys catalogue, 1911.

One of my first concerns upon “embarking on this voyage” was the quantity of undergarments that a late Edwardian woman wore; including a chemise, drawers, corset, corset cover, petticoat, brassiere, and bust improvers. Whilst I do like to make undergarments for all of my costumes, I felt that making a full list of them was going a bit “overboard”! Luckily my research indicated that Edwardian women also felt the same as I, that such an extraordinary number of undergarments could be simplified slightly, whilst still obtaining the same effect.

A chemise was always worn next to the skin, with the drawers either pulled over or slipped underneath it, and both of these were worn underneath the corset. However, as more and more undergarments were added to the undergarment ensemble during the late Victorian times, the chemise and drawers were one of the first to become conveniently combined.

A combination suit, chemise-and-drawers in one. From a private collection owned by

An Edwardian combination suit, chemise-and-drawers in one, showing the split crotch and the wide leg. From a private collection owned by “Lady Carolyn”. (Source link below)

In order to combine these garments, they were effectively just joined at the waistline, with the top of the combinations providing the essential layer between the corset and skin, and the bottom doing the job of the drawers. The chemise of the late Edwardian era was made from thin cotton batiste, sleeveless with thin and often lacy straps, and generally included pin tucks or lace insertion. The neckline was often decorated with ribbon-threaded lace which enabled the top to be drawn in as necessary. The drawers of this era reached to about knee length, and had a very wide leg often with ruffles or lace around the bottom. The crotch was split, as in previous eras, to enable ease of toileting which is generally difficult when wearing a long corset.

Pattern

I didn’t bother using a pattern for this undergarment, but instead used a singlet top and a pair of loose shorts as a guide to cutting out.

As this garment is worn under the corset, it did not matter too much about the fit. I took notice of my waist, bust and hip measurements to make sure I didn’t make it too small, but as this was a looser fitting garment, bigger was a bit better. The most important part of the fit, I found, was to ensure there is enough room in the length (shoulder-to-crotch) so you can still sit down comfortably.

The singlet and shorts I used as a pattern guide.

The singlet and shorts I used as a pattern guide. After cutting out, I pinned and draped the pieces on a dress form to make sure I was on the right track. I made the leg sections longer and wider.

My combinations were made from white cotton batiste, and trimmed with various sorts of cotton lace. The buttons I used were plain-and-plastic.

Construction Steps

Step One: After cutting out the pieces, I began with the top half. The side seams were sewn and then the shoulder seams. The centre front seam was cut on the selvedge and was left open for a button placket.

The top (chemise) of the combinations. The centre front is on the left, and the centre back on the right, showing the side seams pinned.

The top (chemise) of the combinations. The centre back fold is on the left, and the centre front (selvedge) is on the right. This picture shows the side seams pinned. You can also see that there is very little shaping in the bodice area.

Step Two: For the bottom half of the combinations, I first sewed the side leg seams. Then the inside leg seams were pinned and a small part of the centre back seam (at the top of the drawers) was sewn closed.

The combination (drawers), showing the inside leg seam and the split crotch.

The bottom (drawers) of the combinations, with the side seams sewn and a small part of the centre back seam also sewn. This picture also shows the inside leg seam and the split crotch.

Step Three: The raw edge around the split crotch was hemmed. At this point I decided to make the inside leg seams button-up to make it easier to use toilet facilities. As keen as I am as dressing in historical dress, I have not got to the stage of foregoing modern underwear!

The inside leg seam is buttoned up. The split crotch seam has been hemmed.

The inside leg seam is shown here buttoned up. The split crotch seam has been hemmed. At the front the split crotch goes straight into the centre front button placket.

Step Four: The top and bottoms were sewn together at the waistline. I used insertion lace to attach them but there were various other methods used, such as using ribbon-threaded lace or a simple waist seam.

The two halves are attached with insertion lace. Here you can see that the side seams did not match up.

The two halves are attached with insertion lace. Here you can see that the side seams did not quite match up.

Here is a good tutorial for insertion lace, although the method I used was a little different.

Step Five: Ruffles and lace were added to the bottom of the drawers.

The lace was first attached to the ruffle strip, which was then gathered and sewn to the bottom of the leg.

The lace was first attached to the ruffle strip, which was then gathered and sewn to the bottom of the leg.

Step Six: The raw edges of the neckline and armholes were both hemmed with lace, and ribbon inserted around the lace at the neckline.

The neckline and armhole are finished with lace. The neckline has an extra row of ribbon-threaded lace to draw in the top edge.

The neckline and armhole are finished with lace. The neckline has an extra row of ribbon-threaded lace to draw in the top edge.

Step Seven: Buttons and buttonholes were added to the centre front of the combinations. I was a tad lazy and did not make a proper placket for the buttons and buttonholes, preferring to just use the selvedge edge. This has caused a bit of puckering as the material was a bit thin.

The buttons down the centre front.

The buttons down the centre front.

And all finished…

The front view. The inside leg seams are unbuttoned in order for the garment to sit on the form.

The front view. The inside leg seams are unbuttoned in order for the garment to sit on the form.

The back view. The split crotch does look as though it would be a bit breezy. Apparently drawers tended to have so much material in them with made the

The back view. The split crotch does look as though it would be a bit breezy. Apparently drawers tended to have so much material in them which made the “breeziness” not as apparent.

This was a fairly straightforward piece to sew, mainly because the fitting of it did not need to be very exact. The next thing on the list may prove to be more tricky! A 1911 corset.

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Chemise

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

“Titanic” Theatre Restaurant – in Williamstown, Melbourne.

Image Source (1): Sears Catalogue (No. 124) at Archive.com

Image Source (2&3): Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

Tutorial: Basic Insertion Lace By Machine – by Wearing History

Dressing for dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910s Evening Dress – by Demode Couture

Turn an op shop find into Victorian/Edwardian undergarments – by Fashioning Nostalgia

Combination Brassiere-and-Drawers – by Lady Carolyn

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