Linen is a fabric that I have always been interested in using. It has been around for hundreds of years and been used for undergarments, skirts, kirtles, cotehardies, and many other types of clothing since the middle ages, and it has stayed popular all the way until now. Linen does not take dye as easily, so you cannot get quite as bright colours as you would with cotton, and it wrinkles easily, but it has many redeeming qualities. For example, it is very easy to work with when it comes to sewing, plus it breathes very nicely, so it is perfect to wear on hot days. Linen also soaks up water very well which makes it a great choice for kitchen towels and such.
I was thrilled to find this light blue linen on sale at Fabricland, so I had to get it for a 1930's styled skirt pattern that I have had for a while. I used a pattern from the McCalls Archive Collection. This pattern is very simple and easy to follow, and I was able to whip up this skirt in a few days.
This is actually the second skirt that I have made from that pattern. The first I made will a light wool and lined it. The second time went much quicker, and the linen was so lovely to work with, it made the whole process go by much faster.
Even though I will not be using linen for my Special Project, I am very glad that I got to try out the linen, and I can see myself making much more out of it in the future.
The start to anything is always a bit daunting, isn't it?
After a lot of thought, I have decided to start with a plan, and some research. The late 18th century has always interested me, so I have been researching it for years. However, it wasn't until a few years ago that costuming and historical clothing started to appeal to me.
An average woman in the late 1700s would wear many layers, starting with a chemise. A chemise is the main undergarment for any clothing from the 1500s until the early 1800s, and were a basic shift that went underneath the stays (corset). Mainly made from linen because of how white it could be bleached and how easily it breathed, chemises could also be made out of cotton. Cotton is not something that would be seen in clothing from Prussia, France, and England from the mid 18th century because it was illegal (more about that in later posts...).
Over the chemise, a woman would wear stays, a stiff garment with boning in it to shape the body as well as support it. Stays often get a bit of a bad rap now because of the false information that is commonly believed. The amount of layers and weight of each made it so that it was more painful to not wear the stays than to wear them.
After the stays come the petticoats. You can wear however many you want underneath an 18th century dress, but the more that were worn, the nicer shape one would get. On an everyday basis, a woman would wear at least two. Petticoats were just a simple linen or cotton skirt that was tied around the waist. They can be corded or quilted as well to add more fluff to the whole outfit.
Next comes the main dress or skirt and jacket. The skirt would be made in the same way as a petticoat, just in the fabric chosen for the ensemble. A dress or jacket would normally be worn with a stomacher, a triangularly shaped piece of decorated fabric that was pinned to the front. All of the clothing worn during this time was made so that it could be worn for a very long time, meaning that it could change with your body. Stomachers allowed one to change the size of the bodice with a small amount of fabric. Skirts were tied around the waist so that they could change size easily.
The outfit doesn't stop at these pieces- you need all of the accessories! This includes stockings, shoes, a carefully styled wig, a hat, gloves, fichu (a piece of fabric/lace to go around the neck), jewelry, etc. When it comes to the 18th century, the more the better.
After all of that information, here are my plans for this project-
I will need to make:
One (1) chemise
One (1) pair of half-boned stays
Two (2) petticoats
One (1) overskirt to go with a bodice
One (1) bodice with stomacher
I have decided to use the American Duchess patterns from simplicity. I am thrilled to be working with these patterns, being a long time follower of the American Duchess blog.
I can't wait to get started!