Mid Victorian Undergarments: chemise, drawers and a petticoat

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Since  our next Victorian Ball has a Crinoline theme, I have promised a few tutorials and pattern reviews for the folks who are making their own kit. Sew Curvy joined the fun and now offers very attractively priced patterns and crinoline kits from the era ( just a few left in stock…), so I took advantage of the offer and grabbed a few patterns too.

Normally I don’t bother with commercial patterns much, underwear included as I draft my own, and for Victorian Era the patterns in Francis Grimble’s books are of a great help – so this was a bit of an adventure, trying to actually follow instructions. Which I did, to some extent… 😉  And so, below, a short tutorial on making a set of mid-victorian open drawers, a chemise and a petticoat.

The pattern:

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Fabrics: cotton lawn (but any lightweight cotton or linen will do) and cotton lace, 3 buttons.

Finish –  I went for modern finish as was squeezing the project in between commissions and stock-making, but it doesnt mean that you have to follow me and use the same techniques – if you have time, do go for a hand finish 🙂

Drawers.

1. find your size on the chart, trace the  pattern. I traced it onto paper once, so that I dont have to cut the pattern itself.

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2. trace the pattern onto the fabric – fold the lawn in half and you will only have to cut once!

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3.  once cut, I overlocked the side seams and the facing for the size. I decided to save time and forego front and back facings – not really needed, though they would give a nicer finish! Instead of a self ruffle I used cotton broderie anglaise lace.

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4. Follow the directions for working the side openings/facings – they are explained fairly clrealy.

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Pin and stitch as indicated on the pattern

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Cut between the stitching

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Flip the facing onto the left side. Press. I usually run a stitch just next to the edge too.

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Fold the edges ( if overloced they dont actually need to be folded!) , pn and handstitch ( or machine stitch) around

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Ready! Repeat on the other side

5. Fold the overlocked edges of the crotch opening (or follow instructions for facings there)

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6. Gather the legs and top – I gathered mine using a ruffle attachment, but you can pleat or gather on a string, too (lower the thread tension, use the long stitch setting and sew – then just pull the thread to gather)

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7. Gather the ruffle – again, several methods are possible, I gathered mine on an overlocker

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8. Sew each leg

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One leg done – not the gathered bits!

9. Prepare the leg bands and attach lace to them – the instructions are quite clear about how to do it.

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Leg band ready

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Lace attached

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Sandwich the gathered drawer-leg between the band and the lining of the band

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Attached!

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Fold and pin the inside band; hand stitch in place. Repeat for the other leg!

10. Attach the waistbands – again, the instructions are clear!

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Both waistbands ready

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Pinning the waistbands to the gathered edge

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Sewn!

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Fold the inside bit, pin and stitch in place

11. Make buttonholes and attach buttons. Fot this project I used buttons from my secret stash of antique buttons 🙂

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Buttonhole made on a machine

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Ready! it took me just over 2 hours to complete the project – it would be about 3 – 4 if I wasn’t using an overlocker.

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I found them just a bit too big at the waist – if I make them again, I will choose the waistband one size smaller. Apart from that tiny detail, the pattern worked well!

Chemise

  1. Trace and cut the pattern according to your size (again, I found it runs a tad too big for my liking – but it is not a huge issue at all – and it is always easier to end up with a chemise an inch or two too big rather than one too small!)

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2. Overlock the sides and sew together; (or sew the sides together and finish the seam by hand if you prefer.)

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3. Add the shouler strap reinforcement bits. I admit the instructions here were not too clear so I did it my way…  I supose as long as the edges are strong enough for a button, etc, that is all that matters

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4.Overlock the sleeve (or hand finish) and attach to the armhole. You will need to gather a bit; I did it as I sewed.

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Sleeve ready

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Sewing sleeve onto the body of the chemise

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Sleeve ready, but the edges of the seam need to be secured

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…and the seam gets overlocked !

5. Prepare the neckline and hem edge (overlock and fold, or hand stitch – up to you)

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Neckline edge finish

6. Add lace – I used a narrow broderie anglaise, as I had enough to use on the sleeves, neck and hem!

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7. Add buttons and work buttonholes

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The chemise is now ready!

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I have also made another version of the chemise, too – the same pattern, just with no sleeves, and no buttoned-up staps – I simply sewed the straps together instead. The neckline is finished with an eyelet lace with the ribbon, which controls the neckline as it can be pulled tighter, if needs be.

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Next stage was to put one of my corsets on (a suitable corset kit can be bought here: corset kit – the pattern is later but the style works for mid-victorian silhouette and is much easier to make – I have made a mid-victorian corset using a commercial pattern and it wasn’t exactly a success – you can read about it here).

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lacing on!

Crinoline cage on – not made by me, but by a friend – and using this pattern –  crinoline kit. and the tutorial on how to make it – here

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All we need now is a petticoat.

Petticoats are very easy to make – so easy that there is little point in providing an actual pattern. Even ‘Truly Victorian’ provides a diagram and instructions for free – petticoat instructions

I basically used a length of cotton sheeting – a rectangular piece. The length was the circumference of the crinoline cage plus 1m, the lengh –  measured on the crinoline, from waist to the ground. If you do not plan flounces, pintucks etc, but a basic one, keep it a bit above the ground. If you want lots of pintucks, make it longer.

This particular one has been made with 5 rows of big pintucks

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a few tips:

  • dont wast time measuring and cutton your cotton. i usually just ,ark how long i want the piece to be , nicj the fabric  and simply tear it. it tears easily and along the grain, you you have a straight line with no hassle. disadvantage – you will get a few hanging thread to deal with. I use the same metod for cutting the flounce
  •  pintucks – for small, decorarice pintucks you see on chemises etc, I use a seam gauge and a pintuck foot etc – the detail is important. for the petticoats however, where i want my pintucks bigger, and where it doent matter too much if the pintuck is 2mm longer at one side, I save time by not marking them at all – i simply use my finger as a gauge.
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for the tucks on the flounce i used my firt knuckle as a measurement of the folded bit – – and the depth of the tuck is measured against the grid on the needle plate

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flouce ready and pressed

(A short video of how to make them fast using your finger as a gauge can be found on my instagram account. ( here)

I also opted for a flounce, also with pintucks and  lace 🙂

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Once the pintucks and the flounce were on, I simply gathered the wasit (there will be lots of fabric to gather – about 4.5-5m) using the ruffler attachment

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Then attach the waistband, buttons, etc, and you are done!

If you are wondering why pintucks and flounces instead of a simple petticoat, well, they do have a function! PIntucks were used a lot on children’s clothing – as they grew up, the tucks were released and garment lengthened, here however the tucks are not only a decorative feature, but a practical one – they  hide the shape of the cage and they stiffen the edge a bit more, hanging better; the flounce has  the same function – this fills in the empty space between the cage’s end and the ground, preventing the ‘lampshade effect 🙂

There are a few beautiful petticoats still surving – you can fing some on my pinterest page

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Now you are ready for a skirt and a bodice – or a gown. I have already written a post on a day dress – here.

I hope you found this little tutorial useful, the tutorial on how to make a gow bodice and skirt is here

 

Oh, and if you dont sew, dont worry,:-) chemises, petticoats, corsets and whole outfirs are now  available  in our online shop !  There are already a couple of  nice dresses and a few petticoats there, more undergarments will be added shortly

 

And a few outtakes:-) i knew the chamber put would come in useful!

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hmm, what do we have in here….

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eughrr! Wish I hadnt looked!