If you have been reading my blog for a while or decided to browse some of my older post, you are probably aware of how much I love historical clothing and how badly I want to make some. I keep putting it off, however, because I have a little voice in my head telling me I can’t do it. “You know, sewing a shift is going to be hard,” it keeps telling me. “You don’t have any time to do that. Your clothing skills have gone down. You haven’t sewn clothes since 2009! You’re going to suck.”
I finally decided today that I wasn’t going to listen to that annoying, pessimistic voice anymore. I am going to sew historical fashion, dang it! I know I need the foundation before the rest of garments and to start, I was/am going to make an 18th century shift!
An 18th century shift (or “chemise” as it was called in french) is the first layer of clothing for an 18th century woman. It looks like a white nightgown, usually made of linen, reaching to about knee to mid-calf length, with elbow-length sleeves and optional ruffles. Its purpose was to protect the upper layers of clothing from body oils.
I stumbled upon this little guiding “tutorial” on Pinterest, which is what gave me confidence that, hey, I can actually do this. Finally, a tutorial I can understand! However, to make sure I was correctly making the shift (or making sure the shift fits me), I decided that I was going to do a mock up! I did buy some muslin fabric, after all, to make the mock up (although, I could have probably just used scrap fabric of mine…oh well.)
My lovely assistant isn’t here to help me and everyone’s asleep, so I attempted to take the best measurements I could on my own, dragged my dress form and muslin back upstairs from the basement, and started the dang mock up!
I used one of my fabric marking pens to mark all the lines I needed to make. Everything seemed to be going pretty decently, other than the fabric for the gusset looked too large to me and I didn’t realize that the shoulder area was also a fold, so I have to fold that after I marked up everything.
This was my result (after stitching up to the gusset area and leaving the sleeves open):
Now, I didn’t seem to do that badly…I just didn’t cut it perfectly. This is okay though, since this is a mock up! This is the stage I can make mistakes on. Once I perfect the mock ups, I can move onto the stage where I make the actual shift, instead of the line ridden, mismatched threaded mock ups.
The first glaring mistake I could see right when I opened it was that the top was too large. The way I cut it, I mean. It’s meant to be cut so you can see my cleavage, so I needed it relatively low…but with the width and length it’s cut, you wouldn’t just see my cleavage, but my entire breasts! Not to mention, the shift would be falling off my shoulders, where I might as well not be wearing anything at all.
Then there was the shoulder length. The shoulder length was both too long and too small. The length would have been perfect, if it had actually been on my shoulder, rather than off like it had been.
The length of the dress also seemed too long, which is fine to me – I was planning on seaming it anyway.
For the gores, I found that they were too wide, but too short for the shift. I began pinning them on, but decided to wait until tomorrow to complete them.
Since I started this mock up, I would like to finish it. Seems silly to work on something that needs to be redone, right? However, I would like to finish it so I have a good idea of what else will need to be fixed on the second mock up. For instance, if I find that the sleeve is too long, I know to shorten it in the next version.
I’m actually looking forward to getting this done. If I can just get the shift done, I can move forward and start creating the rest of an 18th century woman’s ensemble.
For those of you who are like “Kelly, why aren’t you working on your other goals?”. My answer: I’m far too distracted to do that right now. My brain just isn’t in the kind of place where I can down and work on them. Even if I do sit down and try working on them, like I have tried to, I just get distracted. I just want to do something a bit different. Just a bit different.
I want to start with this.
Not neglecting the other goals.
Just taking a break.
Like I was suppose to this month.