c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part III: The Pattern

The Beginnings, The Longer Version

Let me back up from the current state of the Stays Of Fail to all the wonderful documentation I did about making them, at least to this point. When I started these stays back in 2018, I intended them to be a sort of in-between-projects-project for when I wanted a bit of hand sewing to do. Given that, the project moved at a pace only slightly faster than a glacier!

Somewhere very early in the planning stages of these stays I decided to try out a new book for patterning them: Stays and Corsets: Historical Patterns Translated for the Modern Body by Mandy Barrington. This book presents the idea that you can use any person’s measurements to draft a basic block of the body and then use the basic block to draft any of the historical stays in the book. It’s a neat idea, in theory, and I wanted to try it out.

The Pattern

I didn’t keep track of how long the patterning/drafting process took me. But it was a long time…

There was lots of math, which always happens with drafting a body block and is to be expected, but on top of that there was also the drafting of the specific pair of stays I’d decided on: the 1785-1788 Half Boned Stays (patterned from a pair of stays held at the Chertsey Museum). I was doing my pattern drafting while being often interrupted, so that slowed me down, but despite that the process was longer than I was expecting (and I’m not new to making body blocks or patterns).

This is the original pair of stays at the Chertsey Museum. (Accession number M.2008.53)

(The nice thing is that if I were to use this book to pattern another set of stays or corset I would be halfway there, having already now created a custom body block, but I suspect it would be faster for me to start with a pattern from another book source, because I think my brain wraps around the idea of resizing a pattern without the body block drafting pretty easily.)

I eventually had my body block and was able to draft my pattern using the instructions. The instructions were quite detailed, so that was great. I finally had a pattern that I was able to cut out and make a mockup out of! I was able to get into the fun part: sewing!

Testing The Pattern With A Mockup

I had expected that, after spending a lot of time spent patterning the stays to fit my measurements, I would have stays that basically fit. And I did. But they fit my measurements with the center backs touching and no compression, just sort of lightly surrounding my body without providing support.

The drafting did it’s job of making stays to my measurements, but I was dubious about whether they would do their supporting job when fully boned and finished. So I decided to adjust the mockup a bit–taking some in at the waist, in particular.  (While this is a small adjustment to make, it reminded me that at the point at which I had to alter the mockup I might as well have started with a pattern that took less time to create.)

But perhaps, that alteration was my downfall. As you’ll see in later posts, I later had to add fabric back into the waist size.

That’s all for now. Next post, I’ll detail the early construction process, including stiffening my own linen!

You can read previous posts in this series here:
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update

In March 2022, I had another fitting on the pair of stays I started posting about recently. I tried a few different things and some seemed to work. It gave me hope!

I decided to add tape straps to these stays, partly to help counteract the back pulling away from my shoulder blades and slouching in towards center. This method of straps comes this pair of stays at the McCord Museum (accession number M969X.26), which is dated 1785-1790.

The idea has intrigued me for awhile and specifically appeals for this project because I didn’t like the fit and feel of the attached fabric straps and had already cannibalized them to make gussets, anyway.

Adding the tape helped the stays feel better, but the gussets were still a problem. I decided to move the gussets up higher by about 3″. I didn’t have quite enough fabric length to do that but I decided to piece on additional sections at the bottom. Piecing is completely period and seemed like a better idea than not having stays that I could wear!

Additionally, I maxed out the seam allowance on both sides of the gussets and the abutting pieces. I’m hoping those things will help narrow the back gap. I’ll also add a new boning channel in the gusset.

In terms of fit, the side view actually isn’t bad with the added strap!

The tape shoulder straps wrap across the back and then will hook in the front. For the fitting the test strap is just safety pinned. Other pins are marking where the strap hits as well as the finished length of the tabs.

After this fitting, the to do list includes:

  • resetting/piecing the gussets and adding boning channels and boning to them
  • whipping the edges of the stays in preparation for binding them
  • binding the edges of the stays
  • adding the tape straps for a final fitting

I’ve been very busy, so those things are moving along quite slowly. I did update the gussets and start whipping the edges, so there is some progress.

That’s all for now. Next post, I’m going to go back to the early construction details of these stays.

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

The Beginnings, The Abbreviated Version

The very late 18th century (1780s and 1790s) is a mostly new period for me. I have a chemise… but no other underclothes that fit, no dresses, and quite likely no accessories… I’m starting mostly from scratch! And as one does (or at least as I do) when faced with a new period, I decided to make completely hand sewn stays as the foundation. That was in 2018!

I thought I had a grand plan. I was so excited about my stays! I tried a new way of patterning, tried a new method of stiffening my fabric, sewed oodles of boning channels by hand, shoved bones into all the channels that were just a little too tight, put in my eyelets by hand… And I documented all of it to share it here.

Catching Up To The Current State Of Things

Then in mid-2021, I did a fitting… and realized that I was really unhappy with the stays. Really unhappy. Mostly due to the fit.

The stays pushed my tummy downwards so it rounded out underneath the front point and tabs, but, even worse, the back pushed down on my lower back and was super uncomfortable! AHHHHH! After all that time spent hand sewing! And it’s not like I jumped right in to hand sewing stays without mockups and thinking that the pattern fit. No, I’d done those steps and hadn’t noticed anything wrong! GRRRR.

My immediate reaction was to put the project away. I just couldn’t bear it. After I calmed down (weeks later, mind you!), I tried to see what I could do to fix the issues. I decided to add a gusset into the back, since the pressure seemed partly to come from the bottom of the lacing gap being quite wide. I had only very small scraps left, so the only way to do this was to cannibalize my straps (which is fine, because I wasn’t super keen on them restricting my shoulders, anyway).

Here’s a photo of the back of the stays with the triangular gusset already added (and some other things that I’ll talk about later). The gap at the bottom was even wider before I added the gussets!

Fast forward a bit more and I had another fitting. The gusset helped a little, but I still had pressure on my lower back. And… the front problem, I realized, was due to a combination of the front being too short for my frame and this idea I had to use ⅛” bones, to mimic the size of originals…

I’ve had success with plastic zip ties as bones, so I thought I could use narrow ones to create the width I was looking for (I used these, purchased on Amazon). Unfortunately, they were very tight in the channels. It took a lot out of my wrists to cut and push in all the bones. The width of the zip ties looks great, but they’re too flimsy. Look how much I can bend back the front tab!

After much deliberation that included going back to look at the original that the pattern I used is based off of, and the reproduction made from it that is in the book I used, I realized that the original stays are just really short in the front. AHHHHH! (More about the book I used will be coming in a future post.)

I didn’t process this earlier, in any of my fittings, or my mockup, or my patterning, or my looking at the book! And I’m incredibly low on fabric! Below are my scraps, minus the long ones in the center, which were already used to face the eyelets.

So… I was left with a half finished pair of stays that took many, many hours to even get to this point–wonderfully sewn in terms of methods, but which I couldn’t wear. I was very upset and put the stays into time-out (again!).

I’ll stop the story of the stays here and continue on with my updates from the most recent fitting next time.

Homemade Slippers

Months ago, I had a conversation with Kelly, author of the blog Seam Racer, about making one’s own slippers. Based on that, I was inspired to try making a pair for myself.

It can get awfully cold in the winter and I felt that an insulated bit of polar fleece for my feet would be toasty and pleasant.

There were a few things I knew I wanted to incorporate into my homemade slippers.

1- I like bootie shaped slippers in the winter because they insulate even more of the foot than a regular shoe shape.
2- Polar fleece has the possibility of being quite slippery on wood floors, so I wanted to use a different material on the bottom to have better grip.
3- My feet like extra squish under them on the wood floors, so a plush insole would be helpful.

I used scraps from old projects to achieve all of these goals, including polar fleece, leather, and quilted velvet.

To start, I draped a basic pattern. There are two pieces for each foot that are the shape on the left, and then there are soles shaped like the center piece.

I sewed the back and front seams of the uppers up to where the cuff would fold down (already done in the photo above). The top part of the cuff was sewn with the seam allowance the other way, so that it would hide when the cuff was turned down (that’s what’s pinned in the photo above).

I also zigzagged my leather sole to the fleece insole. The sole was then machine sewn around the edge to the assembled upper section (also in the photo above).

Then the whole thing was turned inside out… producing boots (as in the photo below)! I also made an additional double layer fleece insole to add squish. I thought the texture of the polar fleece would be sticky enough to keep them in place, but they just scrunched up under my feet while I walked, which was neither helpful or comfortable. And, even when they stayed in place they weren’t quite squishy enough for my taste.

To fix this, I first decided to add a quilted layer to the insoles. I used scraps of quilted velvet leftover from a decor project. I only had about ⅛ of a yard leftover, so this was a great use for the scraps.

I machine quilted the quilted velvet to my fleece insoles. Then, I zigzagged the new-and-improved insoles to the seam allowance of the boots to keep them in place. Below is an inside view.

And now I have finished fleece slipper booties, with squish!

1850s Ivory Quilted Winter Hood (HSM #5)

I was mentally preparing for my 19th century winter adventure a few months ago by taking note of the suitable warm winter outerwear in my historic closet. One of the warmest garments I have is my 1855 Wool Cape; however, my thoughts ran along the lines of “I don’t have any 1850s winter appropriate headwear to go with the cape….”

That was easily remedied!

Last fall, I’d purchased Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Quilted Winter Hood pattern on a whim (the pattern was being discontinued for the moment and I didn’t want to miss out). I hadn’t had a project with a deadline in awhile and so I decided to quickly make up the Quilted Winter Hood for the winter adventure… by hand (including the quilting!), of course, because I can be a bit crazy sometimes.

Since the goal of the hood was to keep me warm, it is a perfect garment for the Historical Sew Monthly 2022 May Challenge! Protection: Create a garment that protects you from something: weather, dirt, wear, weapons, etc.

As such, here are the facts:

Fabric/Materials: ½ yd of ivory silk taffeta, ¾ yd  ivory cotton, and 1 yd cotton batting.

Pattern: Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Quilted Winter Hood.

Year: c. 1850.

Notions: 1 ¼ yds 1 ½” ivory satin ribbon, 1 yd millinery wire, approximately 45 yards of silk quilting thread, and regular sewing thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good and it is entirely hand sewn. I’m sure it’s not quite the same as an original, though.

Hours to complete: 13.

First worn: February 2022.

Total cost: $27 (approximately $17 for the materials and $10 for the pattern).

The pattern offers ideas for quilting patterns as well as detailed observations on extant hoods and their common features. While straight lines of various sorts seem more common for quilting patterns, I decided to go with the scalloped suggestion taken from a period magazine.

This front view photo looks like a little silly to me because of the very square shouldered silhouette (that isn’t 1850s at all!). It’s due to the 1890s sleeves that are underneath the 1855 cape…

A woman has to stay warm!

Some of my favorite inspiration hoods are on my Pinterest board for this project. (Many more quilted hoods can be found on Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Winter Hoods Millinery Pinterest board, as well.)

In the process of creating my board, I was drawn to a few other winter hoods and cloaks. That set me off down a brainstorming path to see what else I have in my too-full wool stash that could be made into more 1850s and 1860s winter outerwear!

Not that I need more… I’m only one person, after all, and how many wool capes can one person reasonably wear at once? But… there are at least two other hoods and another cape that I’m now seriously pondering. So this quilted hood (and the cape I already have) might just be the beginning of a whole series of mid-19th century winter outerwear someday. (And maybe I should eventually take a photo layering all of it at once, just to be silly!)

1837 Blue Cotton Print Dress #1

I was on a bit of a 1830s tear back in 2020, when I made my 1834 yellow print dress followed up with a coordinating 1838 yellow print bodice and 1836 chemisette. But in fact there was even more than that, because I also made an 1835-1840 (let’s just call is 1837) blue cotton print dress for friend at the same time!

You can spot this dress in the photos from my 1830s Woods Walk blog post from 2021. The fabric for was a bargain at the the local discount fabric shop–only $3 per yard! It’s not technically a reproduction historical print, but the colors, motifs, and details (such as little dots for texture in the design) have the right look to me.

In terms of a pattern, I used my 1834 yellow print bodice as a starting point for this new blue dress, so the two bodices are very similar aside from size. The skirt of the blue dress is made in exactly the same way as the yellow dress (I blogged about that construction process in detail here).

The big different is the sleeves!

After trying a few silly sleeve shapes, we settled on giant elbow height puffs that are set off at the top and bottom with pleats and feature a bit of embroidery and corded bands to hold the pleats in place.

Here’s a view of the pleats and corded bands at the top of the sleeve. This dress has similar pleats.

And here are the pleats at the sleeve cuffs. These are held in place with a subtle bit of embroidery. This extant dress has a similar treatment, as does this one (and it has a matching pelerine!).

The sleeve puffs are supported by separate interior puffs that tie in. I used the method outlined in my 1830s Sleeve Puff Tutorial to make them.

In addition to the base dress, we decided to go all in on the 1830s aesthetic and create a matching fabric pelerine for this ensemble.

I looked at images of pelerines to determine what the shape and edges should be. We decided on a simple but flattering shape (as much as a matching fabric piece can be!) without extra difficulty in the form of scalloped or dagged edges, ruffles, etc. This is the finished shape we decided on.

Cording helps to define the edge and a similarly colored grey/blue cotton lining finishes off all of the raw edges. This was great, as the pelerine could be almost entirely made by machine!

On our woods walk, my usual photographer friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) enjoyed taking a few photos with her Petzval camera lens, which creates the swirled background in the next two photos (you can read more about the Petzval lens in this Plaid Petticoats blog post). I can’t decide whether I like the color or black and white version better, so I’m including both!

So why is the title of this post include the #1? Well… because I enjoyed the effect of the fabric so much that I purchased additional yardage for myself and started making an additional dress for myself, too! What an excellent excuse to try out further 1830s sleeve variations!

Blue dress #2 has been cut out for quite awhile (a year, I think?). However, I’ve been busy and other things have been a priority, so the dress is 0% done in terms of being assembled. Someday…!

 

1920s Star Fancy Dress

The theme recommendation for the evening soiree at Gatsby On The Isles earlier this year was a masquerade. I took that to heart and decided to adapt an existing dress in my closet to make it fancy dress. (It turns out that the majority of people who attended didn’t adhere to the guidelines, so I was a bit out of place, but I enjoyed my fancy dress regardless!)

My requirements for this outfit were: to use a dress as a base that was already in my closet, to not cost much, to not take much time, and to have the elements of fancy dress be easily reversible.

I looked through my 20th Century Fancy Dress Pinterest board and settled on the image below as my inspiration. (Unfortunately, I can’t find a source for the image that isn’t Pinterest. If anyone has information, please share.)

I thought the idea of stars would work well with my 1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style. I briefly considered creating the stars myself and then I remembered that I didn’t want this too take too much time and I started researching purchasable stars. I wanted something nice looking but not costly, remember, and I also wanted to stay away from glitter–the shedding! Ugh! While considering various metallic and cardboard style stars I realized that: 1- those may not travel well (I didn’t want bent stars!) and 2- they probably wouldn’t be comfortable to wear. So I started researching felt stars!

I decided on these felt stars. They were a good size, I liked the color, and they weren’t supposed to be too stiff. Not being stiff would be more comfortable to wear and also easier to sew through! I’d considered making garlands of the stars but I figured they would get tangled, so instead I opted to sew the stars directly onto the lace.

I started by placing the stars in a line diagonally across the top of the dress. The goal was to capture the feeling of my inspiration but didn’t feel the need to add as many stars as the drawing has, so I stopped with the one line. I liked the stars hanging from the hem, so I did those next–one star per each dip in the pattern of the lace.

After that I didn’t have many stars left! I used a scrap of metallic knit fabric to make a veil and put a star on each corner. The veil is a square, with one corner turned under, gathered, and stitched to a hair comb.

I also used some black felt scraps to cut a few stars by hand to accent the star at the waist. I thought this might tie in the metallic knit veil and also draw attention to the grey stars on the grey dress!

I added some sparkly shoe clips, pearl bracelets, and sparkly stars for my hair (reused from my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress) and the outfit was complete! It pays off to reuse themes for fancy dress, I guess!

1928 Egyptomania Inspired Green & Teal Dress (HSM #2)

I was inspired to make a dress! That seems like quite an accomplishment these days as I’ve been so busy with other things that I haven’t made much for myself this year.

It was summer, you see, and I knew that Gatsby On The Isles was coming up. (I’ve attended in the past, check out the past posts from 2019, 2018, and 2016.)

I have plenty of dresses (and let’s be honest, not many of them have been worn in the last two years or so), but I also had fabric that was waiting to be turned into a dress… So it didn’t take too much self-convincing to decide that the fabric ought to be turned into a dress, right now!

My first idea was to create something like the dress on the bottom right (#2346) in next image, but after making a mockup I realized that I didn’t have enough yardage of my proposed fabric.

Needlework Magazine, March, 1925

I’d bought the fabric thinking I’d make a rather simple 1920s dress, but the dress I’d been pursuing wasn’t quite that–and the length was longer than I had yardage for. So it was back to Pinterest to find another idea. I settled on using the green dress below, another one I’d been eyeing for years, as my inspiration.

1928

I’d purchased the green and teal accent fabrics in 2021 and thought they would work well for this second design idea.

My bodice pattern was adapted from my 1925 Blue Coral Dress, to get the general size, in combination with my late 18th century shift, to get the cut on sleeves. The skirt is just a tube made from what was leftover after that. I wanted to get two full widths of 45″ but didn’t have enough, so the skirt is one full width and two additional sections.

I wanted to match the pattern perfectly at the seams, but that ate up too many inches of my circumference so I settled on not matching them–and frankly, you can’t tell! I spent a lot of time making perfect pleats (the print on the fabric makes that pretty easy, actually), but of course they smoothed out as soon as I wore the dress. Oh well!

The dress qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2

The Roaring 20s: Make something from the 20s (any century) or that somehow incorporates a number in the 20s. .

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: 2 yds green cotton and 1 yd of teal cotton.

Pattern: Created by me.

Year: 1928.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 95%. The pattern and construction methods are quite good. The fabrics are a bit stiffer than those that I think would have been used 90 years ago.

Hours to complete: Perhaps 12? I didn’t keep track.

First worn: August 2021.

Total cost: Approximately $9.

This dress is mostly machine sewn. The goal was to entirely machine sew the dress, including attaching and top stitching the trim, but then as I was reaching the end of the sewing process I realized there were a few things that would look nicer with a bit of hand sewing.

Why is this Egyptomaina inspired?

Well, ancient Egypt was all the rage in Europe and America in the 1920s, particularly after Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922. Egyptian motifs were used in Art Deco design elements for furnishings, jewelry, and clothing. So, while not exactly Egyptian… the colors and patterns in my fabrics remind me of Egyptian things: the Nile river, lapis lazuli, the Egyptian lotus flower, and the tops of many ancient Egyptian columns, for example.

Obelisks were often erected in pairs at the entrances to ancient Egyptian temples, so given the Egyptian association of my dress, I wanted to try and get a photo of my dress with the obelisk on the island. The photo is not quite just me and the obelisk, but it will do. (The problem is that the obelisk is so tall that if you’re close to it you can’t tell what it is… but being far enough away to get the full height means that other elements make their way into the photo, too!)

There are lots of additional photos from tromping around looking for good photo opportunities for this dress, so you’ll be seeing more of it and my accompanying adventures in more posts soon!

1838 Yellow Bodice Construction Details (HSM #4)

Last year, I made a yellow cotton print 1834 dress (there are tons of details about it in this past post). The yardage leftover after that project wasn’t enough for another full dress, but it was enough for another bodice, and I’d been caught up in 1830s fever!

There are so many ridiculous sleeves to explore! Accordingly, I decided to make a second 1830s bodice with different sleeves. I finished the new 1838 bodice earlier this year and over the summer I was able to wear it with my recently finished chemisette.

The 1834 dress was made in two parts, a skirt and separate bodice, so that it was easy to make a second bodice and save yardage on the skirt.

Construction Overview

First, the construction details of the new 1838 bodice, starting with the HSM facts, because this bodice fits Challenge #4:

The Costumer’s New LookGive an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.

Fabric/Materials:Approximately 2.5 yds reproduction print cotton and 1 yd of muslin.

Pattern: The pattern for this bodice is based on patterns contained in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 and Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes, as well as sleeve information fromThe Workwoman’s Guide.

Year: 1838.

Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, about 10 hooks and loops, and thread..

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good. Inside seams are sewn by machine.

Hours to complete: 22.

First worn: August 2021.

Total cost: Approximately $15.

Construction Details

The back of this bodice is made just like the 1834 bodice, with piping in the side back seams. The armsceyes and neck are also finished with piping.

The main difference in the bodice (aside from the sleeves, which we’ll get to shortly) is the front, which has a deep V shape.

I looked at extant garments to see how this style was constructed. There are a collection of pertinent ones on my Pinterest board for this sewing project. The main inspiration for my observations was this garment, featured on All The Pretty Dresses blog (and included on my Pinterest board).

What I saw is that instead of being flatlined (as with the yellow and muslin layers of the back pieces), the lining was stitched separately from the gathered front panels. The muslin provides a fitted shape for the yellow exterior layer. There is a photo of the inside of the bodice of the extant bodice that shows this very clearly.

For my dress, the piping that finishes the back neck continues around the muslin to finish the edge. The yellow exterior pieces of the V edges (which are cut on the straight of grain) are simply pressed under twice.

Here is a closeup of the armhole of my bodice from the inside. The muslin front edge and exterior yellow layer are on the right of the photo. You can also see the ties that hold the sleeve puffs in place.

In addition to those details, the photo below also shows the hooks that are used to attach this bodice to the skirt.

Ok, but the sleeves are the star of the show here, so let’s discuss them! Being from 1838, they still use a lot of fabric (a yard each), but the fullness is pleated to force the puff down to the elbow level.

Here’s a closeup of the completed sleeve. The pleats are held in place by two bands of double piping that are hand sewn in place.
To make the double piping I machine sewed the cord into one side of my bias and hand sewed it into the other, then pressed the bias in half and attached it through all the layers. In my sample below I didn’t bother to put the machine stitching on the under side, but on the dress the machine stitching is not visible.

Before the piping was added, the pleats were machine basted in place. My machine basting wasn’t exactly where the piping ended up, so I removed the basting anywhere it showed.

Backing up some more in the process, below is one of the sleeves with the pleats pinned in place. I did this while the sleeves were flat, before I sewed up the inseams.

There’s no pattern for the pleats… it was just a matter of knowing what dimensions I wanted to end up with for my top edge and bicep and then eyeballing it. The pleats vary in depth on the inside, even though the outside is pretty even at ¼”. Part of this is due to the fact that the pleats have to angle in order to create an armsceye that keeps a curve up in the middle. Figuring it out is a great mind puzzle!

Below is the sleve before being pleated, etc. Between being over a yard high and also being cut on the bias you can see why each sleeve takes a yard of fabric!

After pleating and sewing the inseam the sleeves had this shape (below is my mockup sleeve). I really wanted an exaggerated elbow puff, so this isn’t quite the shape I wanted to end up with. To get the shape I wanted, I took horizontal tucks about halfway down the sleeve. This keeps the forearm relatively unwrinkled while creating lots of elbow puff. The tucks are lost in the pattern of the finished dress.

Could I have altered my pattern to not have to take tucks? Sure! I’d probably change the curve of the sleeve inseam to do that. But… I’d already cut my pieces. And adapting sleeve shapes to adjust for changes in styles seemed very appropriate and in the spirit of what 1830s ladies might have done.

So for a bit more sleeve information… These sleeves have an opening at the cuff to allow for the tight fit of the forearm. The openings are finished with self fabric facings and then the hem is turned up.

Here’s what that looks like on the inside.

And that’s it for construction!

Here’s a bonus photo of the dress with a quince tree. I’ve heard of quinces but never encountered them before.

They sort of look like pears!

I’m very pleased with this cross front bodice and the sleeves that go with them. I appreciate their minute detail even though they were definitely the most time consuming part of this bodice!

An 1836 Chemisette (HSM #3)

The third challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 is ‘small is beautiful’. Little things can make a big difference to the finished look.  Make something small but perfect. My entry for this challenge is an 1830s chemisette to fill in the neckline of my 1838 bodice (the sister of the 1834 dress I posted details about last year).

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: Approximately ½ yd of silky cotton voile from Dharma Trading.

Pattern: Adapted from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, with adjustments for fit and style.

Year: 1836.

Notions: 1 ½ yds ¼” white cotton twill tape, 1 metal hook, 1 cameo button and thread.

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good. It is entirely hand sewn. The most modern element is the plastic cameo button.

Hours to complete: 19 ¾.

First worn: August 2021.

Total cost: Approximately $5 for the fabric/shipping (though it is leftover from another project), $1 for the twill tape, and $1 for the button = approximately $7.

The chemisette pattern shape was based on this fashion plate from 1836.

Without a body in it, the chemisette looks like this. It is entirely hand sewn, with small rolled hems and drawstring channels on the bottom edges.

The shoulder seams are sewn with French seams to encase the raw edges. The collar is attached with a flat felled seam for the same reason.

The gathered ruffle on the edge is hemmed on all sides with a tiny rolled hem and then whip gathered to the hemmed collar edge. I haven’t tried whip gathers before and this seemed like it would be a fun project to try them out.

On the underside of the ruffle the whip stitches are more visible.

The inspiration fashion plate doesn’t show the back of the chemisette, so I had to decide on what I wanted. After looking at extant collars and chemisettes, I settled on a rounded point that extends just under halfway down the back.

On a body, it looks like this.

The final touch is a hook and thread loop to close the collar, with the decorative cameo button on top. The plastic is obviously not correct for the 1830s, but it does have the benefit of being lightweight! I was worried that if I used a metal brooch (not that I have one, but if I did…) it would pull the collar down or out.

And that’s it! There was no rushing with this project. I took my time and enjoyed the hours of tiny hems and whip stitching.