Fabric: White, hankerchief weight linen from the stash.
Pattern: Drafted myself using the measurement guide here.
Year: general 18th c.
Notions: White linen thread weight 60/2, beeswax for the thread.
Historical accuracy: As accurate as possible, completely handsewn with fibers of the period, and using a common pattern for the era.
Hours to complete: Not completely sure as I started it a couple months ago and just now finished it, but somewhere between 10 and 15. It's my first time sewing something by hand and the first time making a chemise, so I'm hoping in the future it won't take as long.
First worn: The pictures, but won't be able to wear it until an entire outfit is completed. However, I do enjoy wearing it around the house just because. It feels very romantic.
Total cost: $11 for a spool of linen thread, $1.50 for the beeswax, pattern free, and don't remember the cost of the linen as it's from my stash. The spool of thread is huge, though, so it was well worth the price and will get me through many projects.
However, part of the plebian class is making things out of much rougher fabrics than the higher class. This is slightly problematic for me for a couple of reasons:
1) I have insanely sensitive skin, and if a fiber is too rough against my skin it gets very painful after awhile.
2) While I do want to start with the plebian class, I want to transfer over into the higher classes eventually. I don't want to make a whole new set of undergarments for each class. That is more expensive than just using a higher quality fabric right in the beginning.
3) In my research of the 18th c. plebian class one of the things I learned about the era is that cleanliness wasn't determined by how often you bathed, but by how white your shifts were. This was borderline obsessive. The shift was what wicked away dirt and sweat from the skin, and so the shift was washed frequently to keep it white to show cleanliness (or if you were wealthy, many were owned). Due to those frequent washings by the lower classes, the shifts would eventually become bleached by the sun and soften. The washing process of the 18th c. was very brutal on fabrics.
4) For all of those reasons I went with a higher quality linen, and for the third reason I basically felt it would be plausible for someone lower class in that era to have a white, softer shift.
I used a few resources to get this thing done. I didn't use a pattern, but information that's free on the internet. The pattern came from this website, and the way I sewed it together was a combination of that website, and this one here. Another fascinating read on shifts can be found here.
I used a whipstitch for the sleeves and setting the sleeves, a flat felled stitch for all of the seams along the gown, and a blind hem stitch for the hem and the neckline. For gathering I did two or three rows of running stitches without knotting the ends, and then pulled like you would with gathering machine stitches. I learned the stitches from the book by Lady Kannick.
The project went together really well. I made a few mistakes that will be noted for the next time I make one as I'd like to have a few chemises with their own distinct details. The first thing I did wrong, which wasn't a big issue, but I'll definitely correct next time is that I cut out one of the gores for the side wrong. I cut it on the fold instead of cutting it on the edge, and when you put the gores in it's best to first sew each side of the gore with the dress, and then sew up the middle. Not having that middle seam made it a little tricky when I was putting the second gore into the chemise.
|Side veiw of gores.|
The other thing I did wrong was the first sleeve. I made the armholes too small, despite following the measurements. This isn't anything new for me. I have deceptively muscular arms that require lager armholes than one would think. As a result, when I did the first armhole, I gathered a lot of fabric to make it fit. The resulting sleeve was way too small in the armhole and pulls the sleeve off of my shoulder, and is just very uncomfortable.
I'm thankful I tried on the sleeve to make sure it fit before going to the next sleeve. The second sleeve I increased the armhole size by about 2-3" and then set the sleeve. That one was much better. I'll fix the first sleeve during the next couple of weeks. I'm just really dreading taking out all of that hand work. One armhole takes a couple of hours by hand.
For the future I want to add some cross stitched letters (my initials) to the hem, or along the back of the neckline. I'll need to do some research on where initials were commonly placed on chemises. Do any of you know?
|What photo-op would be complete without an outtake? I didn't realize my husband was continuing to take pictures of me when I went to go get the camera from him. Ha!|
I'm very happy to finally have my first garment finished, and enjoy paving the way for this year with my first successful historical garment!