Musings of a Lady

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Le Modiste: Chemise a la 1800-1816

Corset, Epoque Empire, musee Galliera, Paris
Chemise:  An under garment worn by women.  The etymology of the word is interesting in that this word was used before 1050, possibly from late Latin for shirt: camisa, a linen under garment, shirt and replacing Middle English -  kemes and Old English cemes.  I love the history of words, don't you?    Then you have the word 'shift' which is also used for the same undergarment during the 18th century and into the early 1800's. (Shift may have been used even earlier...still checking on that.)   According to  Costume Close-up: clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 (, a shift is...

" ...made of white linen or cotton was the bottom layer of a woman's multilayered ensemble, acting as a washable liner to protect the outer clothing from perspiration and body soil...Equally important, the shift protected the wearer's skin from abrasion by the boned stays, hoops, woolen petticoats...many women slept in the same shifts they wore during the day, whereas those with larger wardrobes had separate nightshifts."  pg. 57

I will need a couple of chemises or shifts for my Regency wardrobe.  One of my friends, newly returned from this years Jane Austin Festival, in Bath, England said the weather was wet this time and indeed, her 'petticoats were 6inches deep in mud!'  Ergo having more than one chemise will be worth the sewing to have just in case the festival in 2014 is also wet.  

The construction of ladies chemises or shifts didn't change much over time.  I consulted my Tudor Tailor book ( the book mentioned above and several blogs where ladies are making period chemises and the construction has altered very little.  Taking a rectangle of fabric and cutting geometric shapes for the body, sleeve, under arm gussets and additional godets for increasing the body width if necessary.  
I have this pattern as a model.  
I haven't used this pattern as my mode operandi has been to just cut my chemises out of a rectangle of linen.  In fact I have used something like this which can be found on:
This image above is from Kanniks Korner who makes really nice patterns.  The structure above is what I basically do for all my chemises/shifts for 18th - Regency fashions.

I have one that I made ages ago but I am currently working on a chemise which I am sewing by hand.  I am using a blouse weight soft weave linen, linen thread and basic hand seaming techniques. 

Using a back stitch to seam.

I do want to make a petticoat to act as a corset cover and will do some research for that.  With that said, here are some items I found on Pinterest and other sources that are helping me figure out what will work to cover the corset so it doesn't show through: 
Petticoat - early 19th century

From  I found on Pinterest a simple sleeveless bodice petticoat that might work for what I need as well: 
1810-12 Petticoat (FYI - I went looking for this at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and couldn't get any info).

The chemise, being a work-horse garment, will take a lot of beating with washing, etc.  However, I like a personal touch to my undies, so I plan to do some decorative stitching or lace insertions or scalloped hems, if I can find the period or contemporary examples to support the effort.  Other than what can be seen above, did ladies embellish their undies?  Though I ask the question, I will probably to take liberties and do some white on white embellishments.   This is why I caution my readers that I am not a professional historian, nor am I confined by re-enactment rules or policies, so I can be a little more free with my interpretations.  Yet, I will say that I like to be as accurate as I can.  So, if any of you, dear readers, have sources for embellishments on under garments like chemises/shifts and petticoats other than what is shown above, please do share with me.  

October To-do list:
Finish hand sewn chemise.
Cut and start over petticoat.
Research Chemisettes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Le Modiste: Creating A Regency Wardrobe for 2014 Jane Austen Festival

Hello everyone!  I hope that this post finds you all well and happy.  I mentioned in earlier posts that I am preparing to go to Bath, England in 2014 for the Jane Austen Festival.  Excitement is not the word for how I am feeling about that.  I have not been out of my own country since 1984! So shameful!  Yet as the economy has been crazy it just hasn't been in the cards for me. I am overjoyed that this will be remedied in a year!

What I will need is a wardrobe that I can use at this event and to the events here in California that are beginning to explode on the scene!  In a previous post I went to a movie opening or preview of 'AustenLand'.  I made a gown and spencer for that.   Luckily, I had a chemise and a chemisette plus a short corset ready to go.  Do you remember my adventure into making a short corset?   It looks like I have already started on the wardrobe, right?  However, before I go any further I want to plan out a wardrobe that will make sense for any event, meet my esthetic style and not exceed my income!

The three questions that came up are:  What will I need?  What is my Regency style?  What should I create? I began looking for articles about what is essential to a woman's wardrobe during the period of 1810-1818 or the Regency period in general. At, there was a nice list.  In another article, that unfortunately I can't find now, a similar list was provided but included a special essential accessory to every woman, a Mr. Darcy for an evening event, A Captain Wentworth for a stroll and one other.  I laughed myself silly.
Friedrich Carl Gröger, Emilie und Johann Philipp Petersen, 1806.
What I have believe I need to have for this trip, (which includes two balls, evening events (cards, soirees and dinners), picnics, promenades and visiting), will be:
1 ball gown (possibly one underdress with two different overgowns (?))
1 evening dress (double duty as a dinner dress or soiree/salon dress)
2 day dresses
1 spencer
1 Pelisse or Redingote
3 chemises (1 that is sleeveless for evening)
3 Chemisettes
Bodiced petticoat or a shoulder strap one.
1 night gown
1 dressing gown

1 shawl
1 Tippet and/or Capelet
1 soft crown bonnet (I am limited in travel packing space).
1 turban material - evening
1 reticule for every day
Stockings ( several pairs)
1 walking day shoes/boots
1 heeled slippers for evening
Jewelry of course (includes a tiara of some sort and hair ornaments)
Gloves 1 pair for evening - long white; 1 short pair for day (neutral color)
Fan - very essential when one is all a glow!

Phew!  I think that is a good start, can any one of you think of something else essential that I have left off?  Do I have items already in my costume closet?  Yes, I do they are:
3 Regency day dresses (one I have to seriously alter the bodice as I am a 'few' inches bigger at the top...sigh)
1 spencer
A bonnet
A Pelisse that I can fit in again, hurrah!
A chemise and corset plus one chemisette.
A reticule
A fan

The trick will be if I can stick to the one of this and one of that?  I don't know?    ;)

My esthetics or personal style is very tidy, simple but elegant.  I like my fabrics to do the talking and have details that put pizazz in the look.  Though I am not a frill and lace kind of woman, little bits here and there are okay.  So what floats my boat?  Let's see:
1815 Spencer
 — at
I like spencers with a tailored look.  I really like this one!  However, I do like the military-style ones as well.

Dress (ladies). Floral motif. Dark blue with scattered flowers printed in white and light blue. Linen / flax printed. Around 1825 - 1830. Dimensions: height 133 cm. National Swiss Museumwebcollection.lan...

This dress is just simple and yet pretty without all the frills and fussiness.  Though it is dated later than my 'time frame' I like it and think I can adapt it to what I need.

Day dress, ca 1820-25 UK (made of French silk)
This Pelisse or 'day dress' is very nice.  I like the detail.  Now, with that said, perhaps I should shift my 'time frame' to 1818-1825?  I seem to like these....

Portrait of Countess Sophia Stroganoff, Mosnier, 1808
The Countess looks fabulously elegant.  I would love to look like this when dressed to the nines! Again, this is just outside my 'time frame' but....she looks so cool!

1800-1810 (?) From Imatex - A Spanish textile site.

The embroidery on this dress...well, its absolutely beautiful!  Let's see, I have a year...could I? Will have to think about this one - time, energy and there is a lot I have to put together.

I like the print and the solid colored spencer.  The bonnet is nice as well.

A nice evening gown.
 The next two portraits are just examples of the look I want to have; that certain air, and carriage required of a Regency Lady.  I think I can manage it.
Lieder painting c 1810

Portrait of a Woman - Henry Inman, 1825.
I really like the blue color and the detail around the neck in the Henry Inman portrait.  I think I should shift my focus up a little in terms of time frame.  Mmmmmmm....thinking, thinking...pondering.  

Next steps?  I am working on the chemises and under things right now which is a good place to start.  I am doing the research on period construction and will do these by hand.  I have one machine stitched chemise but the next two will be by hand and given little details that I can embroider. I hope you all will check back in for the next post which will chronicle my work on the chemises and my initial designs and swatching for my garments to come.

If you have any suggestions or links to other sites with information or designs or whatever, please share!