Wednesday, 14 January 2015


When historical costuming people talk about foundation garments they usually mean women's garments such as corsets, but a gentleman's outfit needs appropriate foundations too.  Especially in the 18th century when a clean shirt was also the foundation of a gentleman's personal hygiene routine.

I want to make a 1790s waistcoat for one of the challenges this year, so I'm taking this opportunity to make a shirt to go with it.  I have actually tried one of these things before, but *ahem* it didn't work out very well and got abandoned halfway through.  This shirt was a lot more successful.

Here is an interesting look at an existing shirt from the 18th century, and I've referred to this description while making my shirt.  As a result, I've used very narrow seam allowances (about a quarter inch in most cases) and I found this worked really well.  The resulting flat felled seams are very neat and tidy, and I don't think that would have been the case if they were wider.

My thread buttons are shamelessly copied from buttons made by The Victorian Tailor.

The Challenge: Foundations.

Fabric: 1.5 meters of lightweight linen.

Pattern: Diagram XXXII from Norah Waugh's The Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600 - 1900.

Year: Anywhere from the late 17th to the early 19th century.

Notions: Linen thread, including buttons made from linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?  Maybe 85% to 90%.  I suspect period linen was more like airplane linen* and mine is not that fine, but there was probably a certain amount of variation in the quality of period linen.

Hours to complete: Okay, let's see... 15 episodes of Stargate Universe at 45 minutes each = 11.25 hours.  Yikes.  I'm really slow.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: Somewhere around $15 maybe?  I honestly can't remember how much I paid for the linen.

* My grandfather was in the Airforce during WWII and my mum still has a few articles made from airplane linen that my grandfather acquired.  Like many Airforce wives, my grandmother also had a lot of underwear made from parachute silk.

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