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An American Regency chemise; which seems a little different in style to the English ones.

The third stop on my Regency Journey is to make a chemise to go underneath the corset. The benefit of having a chemise underneath is that is stops the corset pinching, and it protects the corset from perspiration. The chemise is also easier to launder.

Another great thing about the chemise is that it is easy and quick to put together without a pattern!

Steps to Make a Regency Chemise

Step One: Measure! There are several measurements you will need. Firstly, a measurement from the shoulder to the knee, or the length that you want your chemise, allowing a little extra for a hem. (Mine was 105cm in length, but was too long and was trimmed later.) Secondly, you will need a measurement of the length and armhole-height of the sleeve. (My sleeve was a square, 20cm by 45cm, where 20cm is the length of the sleeve and 45cm was the distance around the armhole.) My gussets were 15cm squares. A bust measurement won’t go astray, either. Draw your pattern on your material with taylors chalk and cut them out, making sure you allow extra for seam allowances.

In hindsight, I should have added more to my bust measurement, as the chemise ended up a little snug.

The front and back pieces are cut on the fold. There is also 2 sleeve rectangles and 2 gusset squares.

Traditionally, the body of the Regency chemise was made up of two rectangles (front and back) with triangular gores inserted in the sides. Doing it like this might have solved the problem of the snug fit!

Step Two: Sew the shoulder seams of the front and back. For all my seams, I used felled seams to limit fraying.

The shoulder seams sewn

Step Three: Iron the gusset in half to form a triangle.

The gusset on the left is folded and the one on the right is flat.

Step Four: Sew one side of the gusset to the short side of the sleeve rectangle, making sure the diagonal fold is positioned as pictured, “pointing” to the end of the sewn “strip”.

The sleeve sewn to the gusset, with the diagonal fold.

Step Five: Fold the gusset along the ironed fold, and fold the other side of the sleeve rectangle to meet the gusset edge. Sew these edges together.

You can see where the side of the gusset is pinned to the other side of the sleeve rectangle.

The sleeve should look like this when finished.

Now sew the bottom of the sleeve together, where it is pinned. The larger opening of the sleeve will be attached to the garment in the next step.

Step Six: Sew the sleeves to the garment, leaving the side seams open.

The side seams are not sewn yet.

Step Seven: Sew the side seams.

Step Eight: Sew bias tape (or make a casing) around the neckline of the chemise. Hand sew two eyelets through the casing in the centre front and centre back, so that they are on the inside of the garment and are not visible on the outside. Thread with some ribbon and draw up. I anchored the ribbon at each shoulder so the back and front could be independently drawn.

The front and back eyelets with ribbon threaded through to the inside of the garment.

Step Nine: Hem the bottom of the chemise and the bottom edge of the sleeves to the desired length. I ended up trimming my sleeves back almost to the gusset.

Finished!

I am fairly pleased with it. It is probably a little too tight around the bust, as most chemises from this era appear a bit fuller. I am hoping that is not noticeable once the corset is over the top.

Next item on the Regency Agenda is a bodiced petticoat to wear over the top of the corset.

You can follow all these Regency posts in order at My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Relevant Links

How to do Flat Felled Seams

Examples and pictures of Regency era underwear – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

Patterns for Regency underthings – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion (I got some of my ideas for construction from the links on this page)

Jane Austen Festival – website

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A Regency silhouette, showing the "bust shelf"

The second stop on my Regency Journey is the construction of my corset. Corsets of this era were not made to flatten the bust, as they were in the mid 1700’s. Nor were they made to restrict the waist, as they were in the Victorian era. They were made to “lift and separate” the breasts to form a type of bust “shelf”.

The corsets, or stays, were either long or short with little or no boning. They really just provided posture support and helped to define a high empire waistline that was popular in the fashions of the day.

Making a Regency corset has been a challenge: first drafting the pattern, and then figuring out the steps to put it all together! I decided to make some long stays for my Regency costume.

Making a Regency Corset

Step One: I first cut out the fabric, using my drafted pattern pieces, making sure I had added the seam allowances.

The cut-out pieces (except the bust gussets, hip gussets and shoulder straps)

In the Regency era, sometimes up to four layers of material would be used for a corset, for instance a cotton sateen for the exterior layers and then some linen for the inside layers. I have used three layers: an “unknown-satiny” outer layer (obtained as a remnant), a cotton lawn interlining and a cotton lawn lining. After discovering some cotton sateen in my local fabric shop, I would definitely use it next time as it is a nice soft cotton whilst still being sturdy.

Step Two: Putting the satin layer and lawn interlining together as one, I sewed the front and the side back together. I used felled seams (as is used for modern day denim clothing) throughout. Felled seams usually have three lines of stitching, and are known for their added strength and neat “fray-less” appearance.

Step Three: My next task was to decorate and strengthen this front/side section. In the Regency era, corsets were strengthened by cording and light boning. Embroidery and quilting were also used. I drew a basic design on the lawn interlining, drawing on some of my research of period pieces. Some of these areas would be corded, some embroidered, some quilted, and some boned.

The front and side back sewn (not felled yet), with a design drawing for the placement of the various decorative effects.

Whilst white embroidery seems relatively common on Regency era underwear, there are none that I have discovered that have coloured embroidery. Indeed, most of the Regency era underclothes are quite plain when compared to the embroidery in the Rococo era only 50 years before.

However, I can never resist a little embroidery! The design on the front busk pocket is a simplified version of one I have seen on a Regency gown.

Front detail: cording, quilting, boning, machine embroidery and busk-pocket hand embroidery.

Step Four: I then switched my attention to the back pieces. Treating the sateen and interlining as one, I sewed the lining to it on the centre back seam, right sides together. Then turning it to the right side, the boning channels were sewn, leaving a space for the hand sewn eyelets.

The two back pieces, with one boning channel sewn.

The back was then sewn to the side back with a felled seam, leaving the lining free. I hand sewed the eyelets with a small blanket stitch and laced it up with cotton cording.

Back detail

Step Five: Then I started on the lining. The lining front and lining side back were sewn together and then pinned (wrong sides together) to the embroidered outer. I sewed through all thicknesses when I did the third line of stitching on the felled seams, thereby attaching the lining to the outer layers.

Step Six: I cut slits through all three layers in the top of the front section for the bust gussets. The slits went either side of the nipple area, so it can be useful to have a bust separation measurement (the distance between the nipples) for that part of the construction. I used the instructions from Sempstress’s tutorial on setting gussets, which made it very straightforward. In the end, I didn’t need to put the hip gussets in. A bit of decorative embroidery was added around the breast gussets.

Bust gusset detail

You can see from the picture above how the breast gusset forms the lower support for the the bust, and the chemise forms the top part of the “cup” support. There is also a short strip of boning to the left of the picture (right next to each armhole), which helps push the breast to the front, a bit like an underwire bra does.

Step Seven: I attached the straps, once again using felled seams.

Step Eight: The garment was then bound with bias binding around the top and bottom edges and around the armholes.

Front view

Back view

An aluminium ruler works well as the busk, which slides in and out of a pocket behind the dark green embroidery. The ruler (busk) is a little too short, which causes the centre front to bunch in a little. I am undecided whether to find a different one or just shorten the busk pocket.

Overall, I am really pleased with it!

I have bought my ticket to the Jane Austen Festival, and am VERY excited! Next item on the Regency Agenda is the chemise to wear underneath, which you have already seen in some of the photos.

Go to My Regency Journey to view all my posts in order.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Relevant Links

How to do Flat Felled Seams

Cording a corset

How to set a triangular gusset – Sempstress

Achieving a proper fit with Regency stays – by Oregon Regency Society

How to make Hand-worked Eyelets – Sempstress

Examples and pictures of Regency era underwear – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

Jane Austen Festival, Australia – website

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The first stop on my Regency Journey is drafting the pattern for my Regency corset. I did a short corset-making course a few years ago, where I learnt the art of moulage in dressmaking, and I will be putting some of those skills to good use!

A moulage is essentially a mould of an individual’s upper body, obtained by their body measurements. An adjustable dressmakers dummy works well as a moulage (however the vertical dimensions of the dummy are not usually adjustable). The moulage can then be used to form a sloper, which is basically a two-dimensional pattern of this body shape, designed to fit the body like a glove. The sloper can then be used to draft practically any pattern by merely changing the design features.

For instance, once you know how big the waist is and how far above the hip line it sits, you can make a skirt with any feature (pockets, thick waistband, full-skirted, etc…) to fit these body dimensions, merely by changing the design of the pattern.

Using some of these techniques, I will be drafting a Regency corset pattern to fit me! The benefit of this is that the resulting garment is very comfortable and should fit soundly.

Whilst I have completed a short-course in corset-making, I am unfortunately no expert in the area of drafting patterns. One day I would love to learn the art of pattern drafting more thoroughly.

Steps to Drafting a Corset Pattern

Step One: Take your circumference measurements (of bust, waist and hips). Also take the vertical measurements, i.e. how far apart your bust line is from your waistline and your hipline. I also took my under-bust measurement. A bust separation measurement (the distance between the nipples) is also useful to help with the bust gusset placement.

Image Source: Readers Digest – Complete Guide to Sewing

Step Two: Mark them out on a sheet of paper. You will have three horizontal lines representing the position of your bust, waist and hips. The lines should be the same distance apart vertically that they are on your body. (But the length of these lines are irrelevant, i.e. the length of the line representing the waist should not be the circumference of the waist. Instead, just make them long.)

My three measurements (red horizontal lines): Bust, Waist, Hips.

Step Three: Begin to draw your pattern. I have conveniently skipped over the making-a-sloper part, and moved straight to the pattern drafting! At this point, it is important to determine the particular design features of your corset. An eighteenth century corset looks different to a nineteenth century one, so look carefully at the design features you want to include.

My pattern design (blue outline)

Some Regency design features of this pattern include: gussets to enable a breast cup, hip gussets, a busk in centre front (to increase rigidity), and shoulder straps (not shown). The actual gussets (which are triangular-shaped pieces designed to be inserted to give shape to a garment) are not shown here, but the vertical slits where they will be inserted are. I decided to partially make my corset and fit the gussets and straps once I could try it on.

Some tips in sketching out your pattern:

  • Patterns are usually drawn without seam allowances first, and then these are added later.
  • They are also usually drawn next to each other in the way they will be sewn.
  • Divide your circumference measurements (of bust, waist and hips) in half (as the pattern will only deal with half of your body). Use these halved numbers to help you make the pattern fit your body. For instance, if you add up the waist measurements of each pattern piece, they should add up to your halved waist circumference to fit correctly because you usually cut two of each piece.
  • For this particular pattern, the gussets in both the hipline and bustline change the measurements required. I allowed for two 5cm breast gussets on each side (so I subtracted 10cm from my halved bust measurement), and one 10cm hip gusset on each side (a subtraction of 10cm from my halved hip measurement).

You can use this method with any corset design. This is a Regency corset (1815), but I have also used this same procedure with a Rococo corset (1750) and a Victorian corset (mid-1800’s).

Step Four: Once your pattern is drawn accurately and matches your body measurements, overlay another piece of paper on top and trace the pattern pieces. Add the seam allowances (1.5cm is fairly standard).  Add the grainline, which is usually perpendicular to the waistline, unless you are cutting pieces on the bias. If you are cutting a piece on the bias, the grainline will run 45 degrees from the waistline. You could also add notches or some other guide to help you position the pieces correctly for sewing (I didn’t do this).

Tip: Use a dressmaker’s dummy to place your pattern pieces against to double check your measurements. I found this very useful for armhole placement (and to give myself the confidence that I had done it right!). The downside to this is that sometimes the dummy does not have the correct vertical body measurements.

Step Five: Cut out your pattern pieces, pin them on your material and you are ready to cut it out and begin your fabric work!

My pattern pieces pinned down, with seam allowances added.

The next step on My Regency Journey is constructing the corset!

Go to My Regency Journey to view all of my posts in order.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Relevant Links

History of Corsets – This site contains many corset designs from different eras

Achieving a proper fit with Regency stays – by Oregon Regency Society

Examples and pictures of Regency era underwear – Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

An example of Using moulage to draft a Regency corset pattern – Sempstress

Draft Your Own Corset Pattern – by Foundations Revealed (The topic is Victorian corsets, but the same principles apply.)

Jane Austen Festival – website

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I love Jane Austen! She is one of my favourite authors. I am therefore very excited to announce that, in April 2012, I am travelling to Canberra, Australia, for the Jane Austen Festival!

From Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

The Jane Austen Festival is an annual festival held in Canberra, Australia, to celebrate the Regency era. The three day program includes a Country Fayre, a Festival Ball, and a promenade around Lake Burley Griffin. The weekend is filled with dance classes, sewing classes, an archery competition, and a number of talks on a variety of Regency topics.

The other wonderfully exciting thing about this festival is that Regency costumes are worn by the participants almost all the time!

Whilst I love sewing historical costumes, I have never actually made any from the Regency era, so I am about to embark on three months of mad drafting and sewing in order to finish some costumes for the festival. During this time, I will blog my progress, linking each post to the items below.

I will need to make:

A Regency-style chemise

A Regency-style corset

A chemisette – for daywear

A bodiced petticoat

A Morning dress for day wear

An embroidered dress for day wear

A Regency ball gown

Several matching reticules

As well as:

Regency Accessories

Regency Hairstyles

Or you can go to My Regency Journey page to view all the posts in order.

I look forward to posting more about my exciting Regency Journey soon. I hope you enjoy following my progress!

There are similar festivals to celebrate the Regency era and Jane Austen all over the world. Check out the one nearest you!

Dressing up! My cup of tea!

Relevant Posts

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

My Regency Journey: The Destination! – see what I did at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, in 2012.

Relevant Links

Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, Australia – website

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