The Chemise

Every Elizabethan women, whether a peasant like yours truly or a queen, would have started off her outfit with a chemise. It would have been the easily washable barrier between skin oils and sweat and the more valuable (and harder to wash) outer layers. Any woman would have had at least two of these, in order to cycle them out to wash them, and would have slept in a chemise as well. They were always white or off-white and would have been linen back in the day. I made mine out of cotton muslin for budget reasons, and because as this was the first item I had sewed I didn’t want to invest in fancy fabric in case I made a mess of things. Which I nearly did! But I fixed it. See below.

I made a thing!
I made a thing!
  • I used Drea Leed’s pattern generator on www.elizabethancostume.net
  • This made a straight-sleeved English/Tudor/Early Elizabethan shift. If you want a poofy Italian style chemise, check out this camicia pattern on Festive Attyre.
  • note to self: check fabric width. My muslin was cheap because I got the 36” wide stuff and not the 45” inch fabric, so I had to get more creative with my cutting. I couldn’t make the gores as wide as suggested because of the amount of fabric I had, so I left slits up the sides. Not sure if this is period, but it works!
    • update: I wouldn’t do the slits as an intentional modification to the pattern. It makes the shift ride up in a really inconvenient fashion.
  • I modified the pattern wherever possible to include french seams, in order to reduce thread monsters when machine-washed. In order to do that, I added a half inch to every seam allowance. I ended up being able to do this on every seam except for the underarm gussets, but that’s a short edge so I’m not too worried.
  • I made the neck hole 8 inches deep instead of 9, and 7 inches wide, and secured the raw edges with a facing that extended 1 inch down in the front and back and all the way to the side seam on the sides.
  • I should have made the sleeves wider so I could push them up. I just ended up leaving in a slit to allow them to be rolled. They still tend to unfold, so I might have to come up with a cuff treatment
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