Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Regency Chemise: Trial and Error

My mother and I were going to make Regency (pre-1811) gowns to wear to Worldcon in Reno this summer. We started planning this in 2009. She finished hers; I did not. I already have the gown made (from cotton; complete except for the hem) and the stays (from cotton and... mystery fabric), because I figured a chemise is a chemise and I would make one when I got around to it. Two years later, I'm bit more of a stickler for proper foundation garments, and it was time to make a Regency chemise.

A chemise, or shift, is essentially a T-tunic with varying neckline and sleeves, depending on the time period. It was pretty standard wear for everyone up into 20th century, I'd wager. You wore it against your skin, and it was almost always white. It was easier to remove and wash and bleach your chemise on laundry day rather than your whole wardrobe. Consider, before the advent of the washing machine, you had to scrub and beat your clothing to get the dirt out, and then either hang it on a line or lay it on the ground to dry. Not a fun prospect if you had numerous outfits.

I picked up a medium-weight linen-cotton blend to make the chemise. I love linen to itty bitty pieces; it's a wonderful fabric that is so easy to work with, even if the cut edges tend to fray. And the best part is, it's all natural, made from flax, and breathes wonderfully. Linen is a supremely comfortable fabric.

I'm using Sense & Sensibility's Regency undergarments pattern. This is extra challenging because I've lost the instructions. The pattern itself is very simple: a front, a back, a rectangle for the sleeves, a square cut on the bias for underarm gores, and the width of fabric needed to make self-bias binding for the neckline. I am unsure how deep the hem is, and if I bind the sleeve edges or turn them under.

I've worked with underarm gores before, but I got a little confused on this one. The gore was marked with notches on two sides, corresponding to notches on either end of the sleeve rectangle. The mid point of the sleeve matches the shoulder seam of the body pieces, and the bottom point of the gore will attach to the body to give the arms room to move. It should have been straightforward.

The sleeve. At left is the point of the gore that will attach to the body.

The front neck and top of the shoulder.

As you can probably tell, I chose to sew the sleeve and gore together first, rather than attach the sleeve to the body while both lay flat, and work the gore from there. I wound up attaching the sleeve to the neckline instead.


I decided to call it a night and go to bed... 


  1. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that Bras Blog has reposted this blog post in its entirety on their site - You might want to tell them to take it down. (They did the same thing to me.)


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