Thursday, April 18, 2013

18th Century Underwear

It's been awhile since I posted anything, but I thought I'd put up some images of my 18th century-ish underwear. I posted about the stays earlier, but here's the full set from the bottom up:

The Shift (aka chemise)


I used the cutting layout for 18th century shifts on (I used variant "B") and the fine-weight handwoven linen from Nehelenia. (The reason this fashion show is taking place on the dress form instead of on me is that the shift fabric is very fine, and if I were to wear it by itself you would see everything.) 

I'm generally more inclined towards late-18th century looks, so my shift's sleeves are narrow to fit under tighter sleeves.

The Stays


I posted about the stays earlier, but they're white linen with a cotton coutil core and metal grommets. (Hardcore historical costumers might gasp at the use of coutil and grommets, but they suit my wearing purposes and sewing interests better than historical materials.)

The bones are German plastic whalebone, though I have a few 1/4-inch cable ties in there as well because I thought I under-ordered on the whalebone. The cable ties and whalebone are quite similar in-hand. The cable ties are a smidge narrower and thicker than the whalebone, and also very slightly more flexible, but only slightly. They make prettier, narrower boning channels, but do not react to heat as well as the German bones do, and I suspect a couple might have melted a bit under the iron. The bones at the edges of the center back pieces are 1/4" white steel to help support the laces.

Lacing up a dress form in 18th century stays is a weird experience. The dress form doesn't change shape at all, so the stays don't really change anything. Instead, the front part stays away from the body, touching only at the bust and pelvis. I'm pretty sure I could dump a package of beans down the front of the stays on the dress form and they'd just fill in all the gaps. It's a little awkward, because it means the dress form is not particularly useful for draping 18th century stuff over the stays.

I would like to take a moment and whine about lacing oneself into a set of stays with spiral lacing. It really made me appreciate the convenience of crossed laces with rabbit ears (large loops at the waist that let you cinch the whole thing from there) and a busk that lets you get in and out without completely unlacing. If only I had a passel of ladies' maids.

I will probably make another set of stays relatively shortly because there are some things I'd like to change about these. For example, my straps are far too wide. With narrower straps, the necklines of my dresses could be much wider. When I first cut these straps, I thought they looked in proportion to the rest of the stays compared with the size of straps to the size of the extant stays they're on, but after seeing several in person at the Fashioning Fashion exhibit in Paris, I realized that those stays had narrower straps than I anticipated.

But the stays at that exhibit were much, much smaller in every dimension than mine must be. Seriously, walking through that exhibit makes one feel like a giant. I don't cut a particularly imposing figure in the modern world, but standing in the Regency clothing section I realized I could conceivably take all five Bennet sisters in a fight.

Also, I found a remnant of green silk taffeta in my storage area that I think will be perfect for stays. I'll probably use the 1780 stays pattern from Corsets and Crinolines.

Bum Pad



Oh, the bum pad. Is there anything sillier?

Mine is just a five-lobe bum pad made of muslin stuffed with cotton batting. I used the bum pad pattern that comes along with the Wingeo Late 18th C. Robe a L'anglaise Pattern.




And over the bum pad goes the petticoat. This one's made of some matelassé fabric I had in my stash. (I bought it in 2004 to make Elizabeth Swann's Rum Island shift from Pirates of the Caribbean. Luckily I never got around to attempting that, because this fabric would have been terrible for that! But the heaviness and body that would have made it a terrible choice for that dress made it well-suited for this.

As I post these photos I note that the hem looks a smidge uneven, but it's actually quite straight in real life. It just looks longer in the back because only the bum pad is holding it up; the dress form doesn't have any, er, padding of its own.

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