Saturday, 31 January 2015


A slightly early post this week; I must admit that the sole reason for this is to get my January entry for the Historical Sew Monthly out into the world in the correct month! I did think that this one was going to be easy, and that I could run it up in next to no time (you would think that I might have learned the folly of making this assumption by now, but no). Naturally it didn’t turn out that way, and I finished it with very little time to spare.

This month’s challenge is Foundations: very simply, “make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.” I chose to make an Edwardian chemise, to go with my 1911 corset.

Completed chemise

Although corsets are described as ‘foundation garments’, for me a chemise (or shift for earlier periods) is truly the foundation of any period outfit, as it is the first garment put on. A simply-shaped and easy-to-wash piece of clothing worn next to the skin appears in a great many cultures, for example the qamisa of my Tunisian costume.

I used the Truly Victorian Edwardian Underwear pattern TVE02 (available in the UK from Vena Cava Design) for my chemise.

I shortened the pattern slightly to create a knee-length chemise, similar to this one.

From The History of Underclothes by C Willet and Phillis Cunnington

Despite being entirely hidden from view, chemises seemed to often be lavishly decorated with lace, embroidery and pin tucks. As it was my first attempt at anything like this, I decided to keep it plain.

Chemises from the 1909 National Suit and Cloak Company catalogue

The chemise is very easy to construct; the side and shoulder seams are simple French seams and the yoke insertion, while slightly trickier, is not difficult. The end result is surprisingly full for something which is to go under a corset creating such a narrow silhouette. I assumed that my short waist wouldn't be an issue under all that fullness, and that I didn’t need to make any height adjustments. This assumption turned out to be wrong, as the yoke was far too low on me. I took the shoulder seams up by 2.5cm / 1”, and used this as an opportunity to replace the French seams with flat felled seams. I then recut the armscye, and the end result was a much better fit.

The pattern instructs you to cover the yoke seams and the raw edges of the armholes with lace. I decided to use broderie anglais with ribbon threaded through. Judging from this illustration (for which I stupidly forgot to note the source, apologies to whoever posted it online, if it's yours please contact me and I'll add a link), this is a perfectly acceptable technique for the period.

Late Edwardian chemises with ribbon and broderie anglais trim

I ended up overcast stitching along both edges of the ribbon where it was beneath the broderie anglais, and this completely encased the raw edges of the chemise. On both the armholes and the neckline I was able to get the broderie anglais to match at the join, plus I was able to mitre the corners perfectly around the neckline. All of this made me absurdly pleased with the end result.

Yoke and armholes with matched and mitred trim

The small print:
The Challenge: Foundations
Fabric: cotton, possibly lawn
Pattern: Truly Victorian Edwardian Underwear pattern TVE02
Year: 1901 - 1909
Notions: Broderie anglais and ribbon for trim
How historically accurate is it? Pattern, fabric and construction techniques are all accurate, so I'd say 95%
Hours to complete: There was a lot of hand sewing to apply the trim, so about 10 hours
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: Fabric £4.60, broderie anglais £2.80, ribbon £1.35, total £8.75

1 comment:

  1. This is nice! I still need to make my Edwardian under garments.