Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bustle Era Chemise

1883 linen chemise (reproduction)
I have been wanting an excuse to to make a cuirass form dress for decades now.  At one point, I made underpinnings for it, but never got further than that.  So, when I saw Jennifer Rosbrugh's Bustle Day Dress class being offered recently, I jumped at the chance. This class has been great so far (3 lessons in).  If you ever have a chance to take a class from her, do it!

I hit a bit of a road block right off the bat when I tried on the old underpinnings I had made.  The petticoat had gotten ruined at one point and as thrown out, and the combinations made from a Mantua Maker pattern no longer fit (oh, middle age spread, what have you done to me?!).  So, back to the sewing machine on those.

First up was making a chemise.  I don't know what the deal is, but the ones I have made in the past from Simplicity patterns have always ended up huge.  Either they were what I found out later were more suitable for 1830s/1840s fashions, or were just plain sized wrong and falling off of me.  So, this time, I grabbed my book, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1 by Frances Grimble, and tried drafting one from 1883.  The description said that the measurements given should fit up to a 14 year old.  I'm relatively thin, but even that size looked like it would have too much bulk from all the cloth in it.  I trimmed it down a couple of inches on the sides.  The version I chose had small sleeves.  Big mistake.  Apparently, this was designed to fit a somewhat wide 14 year old with very scrawny arms.  Unless I wanted the circulation in my armpits cut off every time I wore it, the sleeve had to go.

The illustration looked like the neck opening was barely gathered if at all.  However, when I tried it on ungathered, the neckline was so big that it was falling off of me.  I ended up putting tucks in the front and another pleat in the back to take up another 2 inches on each.

The chemise is made with handkerchief weight linen from and trimmed in 1" wide white cotton lace.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The arm holes are still a little tighter than I would have preferred and there is more gathering than the illustration shows.  I probably would have done more futzing with those aspects if I wasn't already running behind.  Still, overall, I'm pretty pleased

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

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