The 18th Century Chemise – Update

Well, I got a bit sidetracked for a few days and didn’t get much sewing done. Poor little chemise, just sitting there in pieces, waiting for some attention. But now all of the main body seams are done, except for the side seams which go in after the sleeves are set. I’ve got the marking, sewing and trimming for the hand sewn French seams down to a science so my speed is definitely picking up while the results look better than ever. I’d show photos, but they’d only be of more straight seams and you’ve already seen those.

So now it’s time for the sleeves and their square BFFs, the gussets.

I originally intended to put in a plain sleeve: gathered at the cap, full and flat through the body, then gathered into a banded cuff at the hem. However I don’t like the feeling of bulk under layers of clothing and I’m not sure how a full sleeve on a chemise would feel under a more streamlined sleeve of an 18th century bodice. And then I found this:

A woman's shift of linen, England, 1740 - 1780. VandA Museum Number T.25-1969.

A woman’s shift of linen, England, 1740 – 1780. V and A Museum Number T.25-1969.

It’s a sleeve of a chemise from the time period I’m trying to recreate. I like the notion of having the fullness pulled in by all of those pleats and then sewn flat, but I’m not about to make myself crazy trying to wrestle a zillion teeny, tiny pleats around the entire width of the sleeve. Nope, not gonna happen. But perhaps I can modify the sleeve I do have into something similar.

That’s the experiment for the upcoming week. I don’t have any more linen, so whatever I come up with has to work without ruining the sleeves I’ve already cut. No pressure, right?

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4 thoughts on “The 18th Century Chemise – Update

  1. I think that if you investigate this more closely, you’ll find that those tiny pleats in the V&A shift sleeve are merely the artistry of the laundress with her iron, they are not stitched in place. They do however help to manage the fullness of shift sleeves inside gown sleeves. But they have to be redone with every laundering. Aren’t they a lovely bit of conspicuous consumption?

    • Yikes! Thanks so much for pointing that out – I had no idea. Conspicuous consumption indeed! Needless to say, I won’t be reproducing this exactly…I am no artist when it comes to pressing. Back to the drawing board. 😉

      • I’m using handkerchief linen, not the lightest weight, but pretty darned light. My concern is that I don’t like the feeling of fuller sleeves worn under more slim-fitting sleeves. It’s just a feeling that bugs me – a personal preference. I know the sleeves of the bodice won’t be tight, but they will fit fairly closely and I know the sleeves on the chemise are wider. So I’d like to find a way to manage the fullness of the chemise sleeves in a way that’s not too historically far off the mark yet will be comfortable and not leave me squirming and tugging at my sleeves.

        Of course, all this fretting and fussing may be for naught. I’ve never worn the clothing types of this era and it may well turn out this is a complete non-issue. And that would not surprise me in the least. 🙂

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