Simplicity 9769, or: the unauthentically silk chemise

22 Jul

My sister’s great, and needs spoiling, especially for her birthday. So I made her this (the dupioni silk chemise, that is, not the collection of fridge magnets and list of gardening tasks!) Apparently silk is historically inaccurate for undergarments, as pre-modern-washing machine laundering wore silk undergarments out far too quickly, even for very rich people. Linen was the undergarment order of the day. I honestly can’t remember where I read this, but it was on the interwebs so it must be true, right? 😉

Of course, it never occurred to me to iron the chemise before taking photographs. Besides, knowing my luck I’d manage to melt the polyester lace.

from this pattern:

Here are a few highlights:

The neck yoke ended up clearly being waaay too wide for my sister (hey, she lives in London, I live in Darwin, Australia. Fitting, especially for a surprise present, was a little difficult!) So I found this gorgeous lilac ribbon in my stash, and threaded it through the narrow neck yoke so she could gather it to fit. I also added pearl buttons, just because…  🙂

My first ever triangly insert thing at the base of the sleeve. (Oh, what is the proper name them? I’ve forgotten 😦  )

More lovely lace around the hemline.

And as a finishing touch, I made her some satin-silk bloomers from the colette madaleine mini bloomers pattern, previously made and blogged about here.


  • Fabric/trims/notions used
White silk dupioni
White satin silk
oodles of lace
pearl (fake!) buttons
lilac ribbon
  • Inspiration

Years ago someone gave me 3m of white silk dupioni for my birthday. He said when he went to buy it, the women at Spotlight reckoned 3m was a good amount, I could sew most things out of that much. And to get white so I could dye it another colour if I wanted.

This someone is now my ex – and became my ex not long after this present. (Although I don’t think the present had much to do with it either way!) I just felt a bit … off … about using it for myself so it sat in my stash for years. Then while working out christmas and birthday presents last year (My sister’s birthday is close to christmas) I thought of making her a lovely nightie. (not too hard to get the fit right, and I could make it really lovely, something she’d never find in the shop. And the silk dupioni, now long rendered neutral in feeling, sprang to mind.

  • Construction notes

I flat-felled all the seams, as I’ve found on my own  nighties that’s the most comfortable kind of seam to lie on. As all the seams in this pattern are basically straight, it was very easy to do them.

The sizing chart wasn’t much help, as the size is essentially determined by the width of the shoulders, not the bust/waist/hips, so I had to guess. I measured it on myself, then went down a size as my sister is smaller than me. It turned out HUGE, hence the lilac ribbon to draw it tighter. Apparently it was still far too big on her anyway. Oh well.

The width of the actual chemise was crazy-wide too so I cut it a bit smaller too – just eyeballed it.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow. The underarm/sleeve gusset (aha! finally remembered the word!) was easy to achieve, following their instructions.

  • Last word

Well… as sewing goes it was a spectacular success. A beyooootiful lingerie set. But, sadly, as presents go it wasn’t. Oh dear. You see, my sister lives in London, and my innocent self thought she could wear this as her Summer Nightie. However, my sister explained very gently to me, she only wears a summer nightie for less than 3 weeks each year. Basically it’s so darned cold in London she wears long-sleeved jammies all year round.

Oh. *gulps* I knew England was cold and damp and miserable all the time but I didn’t realise it was that bad.

However, she found the mini-bloomers lovely to wear as a slip-substitute under her work-dresses. YAY!

So I suggested, rather than all my hard work and love in every stitch go to waste have it sitting unworn in a cupboard forever, she sent it on to a dear friend of mine who loves a poet-shirt style for her night attire, and … lives in Florida. A lot more opportunity there to wear a nightie like this.

My friend was the happy recipient of the set 🙂

However in the end, my sister’s birthday wasn’t a resounding present-failure. Over the years, through op-shopping, I’ve collected some very nice silk camisole-slips of the slinky wear-so-your-bedmate-can-take-it-off kind. Or maybe you’re supposed to wear them under a dress for warmth?

I ended up never wearing them. Not my style of bed attire and I don’t need added warmth in my clothes! (And my partner, in that mysterious way men have, seems to find the shapeless tent night attire more alluring. Something to do with invoking his imagination, apparently …???) I asked my sister if she’d like those as a present instead? She did, I sent them off.

I got a call when they arrived. “Imogheena! They’re fabulous! I showed A___ [Her bedmate] and he was very impressed that you sew such gorgeous things.”

“Oh… ah, well… I didn’t actually sew those… ” and I ‘fessed up about the op-shopping.

“Oh. Oh dear. I er, told him you sewed them.”

“Oh that’s alright, I don’t mind A____ thinking I sewed them!”

13 Responses to “Simplicity 9769, or: the unauthentically silk chemise”

  1. Josie Brady July 24, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    Didn’t have time to comment earlier. You did a fantastic job sewing the nighty, a shame that it wasn’t right for your sister, but everyone was happy in the end.


    • Tropical Threads July 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks Josie 🙂 It was quite interesting to sew, too. The way it was so economic in fabric-use, basically a series of rectangles and triangles, all going into creating a very comfortable shape.

      I’m glad it found a loving home in the end 🙂


  2. Josie Brady July 24, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Oh, and the knickers are gorgeous!


    • Tropical Threads July 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      Heh yeah they are. I’ve got enough silk satin to make a pair for myself. Must get round to it! My partner seemed to think I ought to, too 🙂


  3. Katherine July 24, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Such beautiful details. I’m glad a happy recipient was found in the end.


    • Tropical Threads July 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks Katherine. It was interesting to sew too, as it was (supposedly) historically accurate. Well, except for it being silk!


  4. Maria July 26, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Imogheena, you did a marvelous job! The details makes it a beautiful work of art :0) I am glad that someone was able to enjoy the fruit of your labor…and she will share it with everyone, I’m sure, that it came all the way from Australia ;D.

    As you could tell, I am dabbling in opening the blog again…we will see ;0) m.


    • Tropical Threads July 26, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      Hi Maria,

      thankyou! I’m very pleased with the results, and glad it found a loving home in the end. I’m sure she will share with everyone that it’s from her friend in Australia 🙂

      Oh I do hope you open up your blog again. I was going to read through it and see if I got some inspiration as to what to send you for the swap!


  5. Amanda July 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    These are fab! And I am so glad your friend is able to wear and appreciate the nightie and your sister loves her bloomers. Yay for present success!


  6. Lyric December 5, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    Braaavoo! I’m clapping wildly as I have this pattern and don’t think I’ve even touched the tissue. Good job, I! I would like to tackle this in a bamboo, Egyptian cotton, or lawn some day.




    • Tropical Threads December 5, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Hi Lyric,

      Thankyou! It turned out gorgeously, that’s for sure. It’s a good pattern, easy to follow and quite fascinating how the chemise is built from rectangles. I later made it up in a craft cotton for myself as a nightie. I’ll definitely use it again.

      Your choices of fabric sounds marvelous for it!

      Now I’m going to go add your blog to my bloglovin’ feed 🙂



  1. Pink Camo Shift Dress | Tropical Threads - July 27, 2013

    […] friend in America that ended up with the white silk chemise had sent me this delicious pink camo cotton drill fabric as a birthday present back in March. I […]


Leave a Reply to Tropical Threads Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: