1780 dressing

When I was getting dressed for the Salon de la Societe raffinee, I also took pictures of my finished 1780s dress. And I figured that it would also be a good time to take pictures of the layers of my undergarments, as I hadn’t actually shown everything yet!

Under my dress, I’m wearing a shift, under petticoat, stays, false rump, two more linen petticoats, a cotton petticoat, a fichu and pocket. Of those, only the fichu is hand-sewn (hand-hemmed at least), and the shift is hand-finished. The petticoats and false rum I just made by machine for speed.

The first step is the shift. A quick note, a 1780’s shift should probably still have cuffs to the sleeves, as those really only disappeared towards the 1790s. However, from the 1780s on, they don’t show underneath the gown sleeves, and it’s always harder to fit gown sleeves over wider sleeves than over narrower ones. So I opted for the more versatile and slightly less HA option to make them rather narrow and without a cuff.

After the shift, It’s stockings, and shoes. Then I put on the bottom petticoat, made of white linen. Then it’s stays (for which I made a simple boned stomacher to further support the center front), and then the false rump. This is what I’m wearing in the following images

 

Then it’s additional layers of petticoats. I wore mine underneath the front point of my stays, but on top of the rest. The front is underneath to keep the center front straight for my dress later on.

 

I made the grey petticoat above for my 1660s gown initially, but it works fine for 18th century as well. After that, it’s another linen (mix) petticoat, this time with stripes.

 

And then yet another petticoat. This one is of cotton (Ikea), and prettier, as this one could show when lifting the skirts.

 

Those are the petticoats. Then it’s accessories, namely fichu and pocket (which is a bit invisible here, as it’s the least historical thing about the whole outfit. I need to make a new one, but the current ugly one is functional at least). After that, it’s finally time to put on the dress. The front of the skirt is put on first and tied around the back. Then the bodice is put on. These pictures show the process before the bodice is pinned shut in the front.

 

And then it’s done! All signs of undergarments are hidden, but the layers are really important for getting the right shape!

 

Some people asked me if the 4 petticoats weren’t too heavy, and I have to say I found it no problem at all. Linen is not very heavy, nor is cotton, and my silk dress is the lightest of all. It might be different if one of the petticoats were wool, or stitched, which would make it a bit heavier. But in general, I think we are just not used to heavy skirts, and modern costumers (myself included) are typically inclined to wear too few petticoats rather than too many. They are all worn on top of the hips, and those can carry a bit of weight easily, especially when worn on top of stays.

17th century shift

Although I finished my 1660s gown nicely on time in 2017, the outfit wasnt’t quite complete yet. Most importantly, I still needed a shift!

In many 1660’s portraits, you see large white ‘under’ sleeves beneath the bodice sleeves, which are (I suspect) usually the sleeves of the shift. Additionally, you often get a bit of white fabric above the neckline of the bodice. Again, probably usually the shift.

Although you see many different styles, both in neckline and undersleeve, this was the look I was going for.

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

Caspar Netscher The lady at the window (1666, Heydt Museum Wuppertal)

 

So a large pouf with a ruffle beneath the sleeve, and a thin white band above the neckline.

Just in comparison, some of the other styles I found.

Many Dutch portraits show the more ‘modest’ (protestant?) look with narrow sleeve cuffs and/or a large lace collar. I might try my hand at these as well some time, but for the ball I wanted a more ‘evening’ look.

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 - Rijksmuseum

Portret van een jonge vrouw, Isaack Luttichuys, 1656 – Rijksmuseum

 

You also sometimes see a clear ruffle above the neckline, instead of just a narrow band.

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

c. 1668 Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90) by Peter Lely

 

Additionally, some sleeves seem to be gathered up and pinned, instead of having the ‘pouf’. You also see some sheer fabric in the necklines, which is different from the sleeves. I suspect these are separate and draped on top, although I’m by no means an expert.

Diary of a Mantua Maker: 1670s Gown

Margaretha Van Raephorst by Johannes Mijtens, 1668

 

Basically the main conjecture for shifts seems to be: gathered neckline, with or without extra ruffle, and long wide sleeves, either pinned up or gathered into a pouf. The portraits showing ladies in their underwear seem to confirm this.

Two portraits of Nell Gwyn. The first shows the gathered strip at the neckline.

Nell Gwyn, was a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella.

Portrait of Nell Gwyn.
Painting by Sir Peter Lely

 

This second one is just gathered at the top.

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

Nell Gwyn (v 1680) by Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

 

In the end, I chose to base my shift on the one made by Before the Automobile. I liked her method of seamless gores, and it ticked also the boxes of having a pouf sleeve (although I made mine slightly longer) and a band at the neckline.

I sort-of measured the neckline to get the width of the finished shift, and cut my pieces about 2x as wide to allow for gathering. The shift is about 1m long from the neckline down. The eventual pattern pieces about these sizes: Front: 75 wide, 100cm long. Back: 75 wide, 105cm long, Sleeves: 60 wide, 50 long, Gussets: 13×13, Gores: 70 wide at the bottom, length to fit with front & back.

Before any gathering. The back is slightly higher than the front.

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I sewed most of the shift by machine as I wanted to finish it in a day. I might go back and hand-finish the seams from the inside.

The sleeves were hemmed with a small hand-sewn hem-stitch though, as these will show underneath the dress. (I need to iron them I see…)

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Some more pictures (apologies for the grainy quality, I won’t have any opportunities to take pictures with daylight for 2 weeks, so it was dark when I took these).

The gathering on the neckline and sleeve.

 

Left is the view from under the arm, from the side. The gusset is inserted into the gore, which is cut open, and then attached to the sleeve. And left is the finished shift!

 

 

Back to basics

In my plans for 2017, one of the big projects was a burgundian gown. That means medieval, 15th century to be exact, and a totally new period for me. And, of course, a new period means new underwear.

Medieval underwear is relatively simple, especially compared to the 1870’s bustle period I did last time. Although not a lot has survived from the era, we have enough visual material to get an idea. The general consensus seems to be that a smock/shift of linnen is worn close to the skin. Linnen could be easily washed and bleached, and was therefore suitable as first layer. You see both sheer and solid smocks, with straps or long sleeves. We know very little about construction, the most common guess is that these are similar to smocks in later centuries.

Lara Corsets - 15th century guide to Women's clothing during England's War of the Roses. The detail on some of these images is astounding.:

Smock with longer sleeves

corset-like undergarments? You can see the lines of stitching which form channels for what is probably cording. An undergarment like this would completely explain the shape and fit kyrtles from the mid14th century thru the 15th. I don't buy the tight, supportive dress theory at all. A corseted chemise such as these would be far cheaper to make in the first place and remake ...:

Smocks with straps

On top of the smock you normally see a kirtle, a basic dress. Kirtles come in various types, short/long sleeves, lacing front or sides, with/without waistseam. They are often worn as under-dress, but also on their own for the lower classes/work wear. A burgundian gown would always have at least one kirtle underneath. Evidence also exists that more than one kirtle was worn at times.

Les Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry, created in 1416:

Short-sleeved kirtle on top of a long-sleeved smock

 

Kirtles also often seem to serve as supportive garments. One medieval bra-like garment has survived, so these did exist, but they seem to’ve been more rare. Generally, the kirtle is cut in such a way that it sits very flush to the body, especially under the bust. That provides the necessary lift/comfort.

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Lengberg castle bra

 

So, before I start on my burgundian gown I’m making both a linnen smock and linnen kirtle. The kirtle is in progress, the smock is done! I’ve chosen to make a long-sleeved smock, as you often see hints of smock sleeves beneath kirtles with short sleeves. I also want quite a low neckline, so I can wear it underneath any type of kirtle neckline.

The pattern I went with is quite simple, identical front & back. A basic flared bodice block, with straight sleeves with gusset. Main inspiration came from the Medieval Tailor’s assistant book, although I kept the bodice straight down to the waist and flared from there. It’s made of plain linen.

Basic construction was done by machine to save on time, because no one is ever going to see the main construction seams on my smock. Finishing was all done by hand. In the end, I might have cut the neckline a bit too deep and it tends to fall off my shoulders when worn on it’s own. I suspect wearing a tight-fitting kirtle on top will fix that though, so I’m okay with it.

This is the only construction image I took… Finishing the neckline in a very narrow seam, because I’d cut it a bit too deep.

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And finished! I should probably iron it a bit…

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The finished neckline

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Holding out the sleeve, sowing the gusset and basic rectangle construction.

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White cotton – Underwear

I had a productive weekend, and made 2 new (under) garments. One is a new petticoat for over my 1860’s hoop, the other an Edwardian shift.

I started with the petticoat. My old one was quite heavy and seemed to do some weird things with my hoop dimensions, compressing it. As it was also not very period correct, being made of black polyester, I decided to make a new one. The new one isn’t quite as full, as I only had 3 meters of fabric, but it should do the job.

It consists of 2 rectangles, the first gathered to the waistband and the second gathered to the first. I started with the first rectangle, and put it on my hoop to measure for length.

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I then drew a line along the 2nd full hoop (so not the half-circle ones). I sewed the bottom strip along this line, and actually ended up with a petticoat which is pretty even along the hem! It’s just a bit short, due to lack of fabric, but with a velvet over-skirt (which is quite heavy), that shouldn’t be a problem. If I’ll ever make a new skirt for over this hoop with less volume, I might need to make another petticoat as well though.

 

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The second thing I made was an Edwardian shift. I used the Truly Victorian Edwardian underwear pattern (top left is the shift):

Edwardian Underwear

 

 

I ended up skipping the lace along the arm holes, and just made a small seam there. It has lace along the neckline, and 4 pin-tucks in the front and 2 in the back. I pieced the back, because I was using left-over fabric and couldn’t fit the whole thing without a seam. I quite like it, there’s just something about white cotton, lacy underwear.

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Front

 

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Front-detail

 

 

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Back

 

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Back detail

 

Regency shift

When buying the fabric for my regency stays, I decided to also buy some linen to someday make a shift. I can wear the stays over a shirt with a wide neckline, but I already had the pattern for the shift (Regency Underthings Pattern, from Sense & Sensibility), so why not do it right. I sewed up the shift this weekend, it does make for some quick sewing! I cheated a bit by doing it all by machine though. I didn’t have any white cord, so the cord is dark red (a leftover from a corset string), but I actually quite like it. I also found out I hadn’t bought enough fabric, so I slightly narrowed the shift and instead of using bias to make the casing for the string I simply hemmed the neckline with a string in it. No idea if any originals do it this way, but it saves fabric, so that at least is historically accurate!

The shift:

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And one of me in the shift and stays. Not a very good picture, but just to get an idea of the fit.

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