Monday, July 29, 2013

HSF Challenge #15 - White ~ 1910's Petticoat and Chemise

It's a cold July morning and I'm sitting here in a flannel nightshirt with a cup of steamy tea, trying to stop shivering and looking up fashions of the year 1916. It's a pleasant way to spend the little hour or so that I have after David leaves for work and before the children wake up. While I'm loving the airy, frilly summer frocks, after this morning something in heavier material may be preferable - like wool. I'm loving this suspender skirt from Past Patterns.

I might have to actually get this pattern. I can see it being very cute in something like lightweight wool, or corderoy or a heavy cotton twill. I'd try to make a similar style myself but do you think I can find any other diagrams, or patterns, or advertisements, or illustrations, or photographs, or extant garment example, of this type of skirt? No. All I have to go off of is this little illustration. So the pattern would be useful to have. 

But first - one needs the right undergarments, of course. I finished my petticoat on Saturday by adding a simple placket and a band at the waist. My 1917 book The Complete Dressmaker was helpful in instructions on how to make the placket and the waistband (just straight strips of fabric really. . .very simple.) I added a buttonhole at the waist and another one in the center of the placket and dug out two tiny antique china buttons from the stash to fasten them with. I really like these little buttons. Original buttons or good reproductions really helps things look real. 

After that I realized I still did not have a chemise. I remember being frustrated when researching this period earlier this year because it is hard to know exactly how the undergarments were worn. How were they layered? In the online 1919 book Garments for Girls, instructions are given for an "envelope chemise", which is described as being a combination of corset cover and drawers. So that would indicate they were worn over the corset, right? But what about a brassiere? Over or under? And what goes under the corset? Below is a photo of a c. 1915 chemise that was sold on Etsy (the listing is no longer up, so I wasn't able to see more photos of this garment, sadly!) 

I decided to make a plain chemise instead of a combination. I did not have a pattern or any real idea of how they should be cut, but decided to use the top portion of the diagram given in Garments for Girls for the envelope chemise, for the top portion of my chemise. I used my brassiere as a guide for the neckline and armholes and cut a wide tank-top shape. 

I used an old 1860's petticoat of soft cotton muslin for the chemise and the panels were not quite long enough to cut the full length I needed. I added a little flounce at the bottom of the chemise to extend the length. I wanted to know how the scalloping stitch would look on a 100% cotton fabric so I scalloped the edges of the armholes, neckline and the hem with the stitch. It worked much better on this fabric and I was very pleased with the little touch of femininity the scalloped edges lend to the finished garment. 

The last thing to do was to work eyelets along the neckline for the ribbon drawstring. I made 40 of them,  by hand, Saturday evening while David and I watched The King's Speech. (btw - that is like the best movie, ever.) The ribbon was threaded through them and the chemise finished! Finally a proper chemise!

Yesterday David took some photos. It is hard to see detail in these since everything is white but they give a general idea of the overall silhouette the foundation garments provide for the (hopefully soon forthcoming) outer clothes. 

For these pictures I am wearing the antique brassiere (or what I think is probably a brassiere) that I found at an antique mall back in the winter. You can see the support it provides is quite different from the one I made, though both shapes are probably okay for the time period. The original one provides little lift, but it does offer a bit of support without being stiff or unnatural and it keeps everything neat and contained. I really need to make a reproduction of this! It's so simply made. 

In my 1917 dressmaking book I did find a description for a "circular flounce" as "a flounce cut to fit the skirt at about the knee, but which flares into a circle at the foot of the skirt". This describes the flounce on this petticoat quite well! 

I still need to make some drawers but I need to do more research before deciding which style to make. Below you can see the chemise, since you can't really see it with the brassiere/petticoat on over top! It could stand to be a tad longer but I had fabric limitations!

I need to get to work on regency outfits for my little boys, but I really do want to make another 19-teens garment for the next challenge, which is "Separates". I would like to make a simple shirtwaist, but we'll see. I am not sure what kind of fabric I would like to make it in, though one can never go wrong with a simple light white blouse, right? It goes with anything! There are very thorough instructions on how to both draft and construct a basic shirtwaist in Garments for Girls



  1. I love this outfit. It's actually one of my favorite time periods for clothing. It looks great on you.

  2. Thanks! It's a new era for me, so I'm still not sure yet what I think of it but I am anxious to see how it is once there is a finished outfit to wear. I guess the movie War Horse is what really sparked my interest in this period. . .and of course, Rilla of Ingleside. :) I'm definitely finding out I like the later 'teens better than the earlier teens - there are some really cute outfits from then that would not look all that out of place even today!

  3. Ooh, what a lovely era. It's something I'd like to get into once I get some Regency things made. I love the detail you put on the chemise. Very feminine indeed! (And I agree about The King's Speech!) :-) It's impressive you got 40 of those holes done while watching just that one movie! I think you've achieved a very nice silhouette. I can't wait to see your finished dress!

  4. I've got to do you manage to sit down in that corset? The outfit looks lovely, but I wonder at the mobility.

  5. A True Amateur;

    lol, that is a good question! Actually, it is a really comfortable corset to wear. Though it is quite long and goes down over the hips quite a ways, the boning does not go the full length of the corset and it stops where boning would stop on, say, a Victorian style corset. So the bottom of the corset is quite flexible.

  6. I've been looking for images of that suspender skirt, too! Here's something I found from 1914...

    Best of luck, can't wait to see how it turns out!

  7. THANK YOU so much for sharing that photo Sarah Jean! Awesome find!! :D This is so helpful to me since now I can see what a similar skirt may look like on a person, instead of just a pattern illustration. Yeah! Thanks!!!

  8. Hi Sarah,

    I just got back from a 2-week vacation, so I'm just now seeing this. Anything after 1912 is definitely under-represented online! I'm about to do a 1915-1916 outfit for myself, so one of the things I did on vacation was study the collection that Lauren (of Wearing History) has. I went through her original patterns, a few repros, and lots of catalogs and a few magazines.

    One of the things I found in a 1916 McCall's magazine was an article on underclothing. Particularly on the changing line of the corset, but I was fascinated that it listed all the different possible combinations and orders that underthings can be worn. Basically, all of them are valid, and in nearly any order! Chemise, drawers, combinations (chemise & drawers or corset cover & petticoat drawers), corset covers/brassieres (in catalogs they were on the same pages; brassieres seemed to be the ones with boning), corset covers WITH petticoats, plain white pettcoats (waisted with corset cover tops, princess seamed, or just half pettis), and colored silk petticoats with lots of ruffles and trim. Brassieres can be either over or under the corset; chemise and drawers is just as fine as chemise combinations; etc.

    Really, do anything you want and it is totally valid! Just make sure you have at least one petticoat with a full flounce. I love the 1915-1916 silhouette because of the full skirt, so different from the Directoire of a few years earlier.

    Hope this helps a bit! I took photos of that article, which I can share if you want to see it. Lauren will scan it and put it up properly on her blog, because it was so interesting, but it might be a little while before that happens.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!