Pretty white tops or: omgitworked!!!

16 Sep

What worked? Well…. Let me tell you the story. I am SO pleased with myself 🙂 although possibly I should just be pleased that the person who drew up the pattern draft was very competent? *ponders* Nah, there was a lot of my own cleverness in there too!

This, this! I made this! From Tudorlinks, a wonderful site with a number of original patterns for historical clothing.

Front View, Lady's Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893

 

And that’s as big a picture of the finished product you get. It’s called ‘Lady’s old-fashioned chemise‘.

Now see why I’m so proud of myself. I made one that actually works, fits me well, and that regular readers of my blog will already have seen before. These meagre pictures are solely what I created my pretty white linen top from:

Front Piece, Lady's Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893Back Piece, Lady's Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893Front & Back Yokes, Sleeve & Sleeve Band, Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893

And these instructions:

This 1889 pattern was reprinted in 1893 and it can be used at least as late as that date, though this yoked style was in use from the crinoline era.

Note also that there is a misprint on the back yoke. The part marked “Top” is actually the centre back. We have correctly labelled Top and CB in red.

We do not have the scale measures for drafting this garment, so draft to the size given and then alter to fit.

That’s all I had to go on. I’d like you, dear readers, to note that these are inches, and I’m Australian. I am not too bad at working with inches as my mum, when teaching me to sew used imperial or metric in a kinda random manner, (although she learnt in inches, as a science teacher she quickly learnt metric when it was brought into Australia). I ended up using either kinda randomly too, but for the difficult stuff I always use cm because they make the most sense, and besides everything else in my life has been done in metric so of course I’m by far the best at metric, and this project was difficult!

Measuring systems aside, I managed to get this out of this meagre pattern! (I love the way linen creases so I’m making no apology for its unironed state :-).

So how did I do it?

I printed out the pattern pieces given, and the line drawing, and worked my way through each piece, drafting it onto paper. I added in a bit more of a bust dart and length into the front yoke piece, seeing how I usually need an FBA, and I concentrated the gathered sections to be over the bust at front and in the middle of the back. My experience from sewing old-fashioned nighties showed me that’s where it’s most flattering to add gathered ease in. In the original chemise draft it is evenly gathered along the yoke, front and back. Then I added in my seam allowance. (1.5cm coz I cut my sewing teeth on the Big 4, and that’s what they use.)

I had about 80cm of white linen left over from another project, and I decided to try for a wearable muslin. I love wearable muslins! I’ve also learnt if I’m aiming for a wearable muslin to make it up in fabric I like. Using fabric lying around unused because I don’t like it kinda defeats the purpose of the ‘wearable’ bit.)

Fitting

Initially I figured the yoke section would be too small across the shoulders on the general principle of people being smaller back then, but took a punt on it as drafted, because when I measured my shoulders and the pattern yoke width, they seemed to match up pretty well. And … it fits perfectly 🙂 I suspect it would fit well over a range of sizes actually. On someone smaller across the shoulders it would just sit further out. On me the edge of the yoke hits the tip of my shoulder right where it should in a properly fitted shirt.

The sides fall shorter than the centre front and back, which is very obvious in the second and third photo.  But the length for both front and back pieces are even, so I think that is just the pattern. That they are even suggests to me I got the proportions of the ‘FBA’ right and that this pattern is just drafted to be shorter at the sides. I like it. It’s a flattering gentle curve. I also think at a more chemise-y length it would work nicely as well. If it doesn’t appeal, you could just lengthen it at the side a bit.

The length of the chemise I squeezed out of my fabric was just odd, neither top nor tunic nor dress, so I sewed in some wide horizontal tucks to bring it up to a definite shirt length. I then found some pretty gathered broderie anglaise style lace in my stash that I finished the hem with. It’s so pretty! All feminine and soft and gently sitting round my body in a way that is comfortable and loose and floaty, or all pretty and flattering to my little waist with a belt or sash round the waist.

 

Construction notes

Rather than sewing the yoke together at the centre front, I sewed the pieces separately (I lined the yoke with some cotton batiste) and put some fake pearl buttons on it. I didn’t bother with doing them to properly button and unbutton because I didn’t need it to open to get it over my head. I just sewed the front yoke together with the buttons.

 

The biggest issue I had in putting the whole thing together was the sleeves. Honestly? I’m used to sleeves being cut INTO, not set OUT from the bodice. My modern perspective meant it took me a while to work out what to do with them, what bit to attach to what other bit. The sleeve band is shaped too. Another thing to confuse the uninitiated. It took a few goes and lots of unpicking to get it right. *phew*

My arm is waaay bigger than the sleeve band so I didn’t sew it together at the underarm, and then left the sleeve bit open far enough down to accommodate my modern-sized frame and bowhunter-y arm muscles. It’s really comfortable, which I’m glad of. I really didn’t know how comfortable adding a supposedly sleeve-like affair OUT from the straight edge of bodice would be. But yeah, it works! It’s actually similar in feel when wearing to this chemise pattern (Which, although this silk chemise got sent to my sister, I made the pattern up in cotton as nightie for myself as well. YUM!)

Here it is inside out. The sleeve opening goes down to the bit of a corner in the fabric near the 4 corners of the ceramic tiles at low right. The band only goes for 2/3rd that distance. Did women have tiny arms back then? The sleeve piece itself goes down to the bottom of the picture. You can also see where the batiste inside yoke has pulled away a bit near the shoulder. Oops!

 

The right way out: The seam joining the band to the sleeve is messy and folds out to show on the outside at the bottom of the band where it’s narrower than my seam allowance. If I made it again, I’d make lengthen the sleeve band to fit my actual arm properly, and if it was too narrow to hide the seam properly I’d either widen the band a bit or handsew the inside band down. I hate handsewing so it would be the first option, being entirely honest 😛

I do, however like the way the band is shaped to be wider at the top than the bottom. Just looks nice when the seam is behaving itself 🙂

Conclusion

LOVE it! And I’m keen to try some other vintage and historical pattern drafts floating round the internet, some of which I’ve outlined in this post here.And oh boy am I proud of myself for working out how to draft and make this chemise!

What sewing achievement are you particularly proud of? I’d love to hear 🙂

 

 

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6 Responses to “Pretty white tops or: omgitworked!!!”

  1. Kbenco September 18, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    That’s a really pretty top, I love your button attachment with the tiny gap, such a gorgeous detail.
    The sleeve construction is really interesting. Is it comfortable?

    Like

    • Tropical Threads September 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Those buttons work so well with the style of the whole top, don’t they 🙂
      Yup it’s very comfy. It’s a beautiful weight of linen for this climte. And I was so surprised when I first wore it at how comfortable the actual design is. I guess those women back in the 1890s knew what they were doing when it came to chemises!

      Like

  2. bimbleandpimble September 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    Those buttons! Too amazing! I am most intrigued by the sleeve situation here- how do you find wearing them?

    Like

    • Tropical Threads September 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Aren’t they sweet? They really set the entire top off so well 🙂
      As for the sleeves, they’re really comfortable. Like really comfy. I’ve been most surprised by that, I tell you. But yeah, they work!

      Like

  3. Stella Lee @Purfylle May 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    You are totally rocking that chemise top! I just want to thank you for your help with my own attempt at recreating this chemise. It was your comment about the angle of the yoke where it meets the body of the garment that gave me the heads up to fix it. How has it weathered? Is it still in your wardrobe? I plan to make it again with the sleeves but my first version was sleeveless, if you want to take a look you can see it here http://www.purfylle.com/2016/05/1888-chemise.html

    Like

    • Tropical Threads May 13, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

      Glad I could help 🙂
      Sadly I lost weight – a lot across the top of my chest/back, so it kept falling off my shoulders which drove me crazy. It’s been put away in a special box of clothes I no longer wear but love too much to give away. But before that, the linen was beautifully hard-wearing, and the style is fabulous for the tropical climate.
      I like your sleeveless version a lot, also your pintucks over the bust. I have lots of pretty nighties, and next time I make a new nightie, I think I’ll use this pattern again – fitted to whatever size I am then, sans sleeves and with pintucks. Especially now I’ve seen your version!

      Like

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