Monthly Archives: June 2015

Early 1860’s Civil War Era Chemise

My friends have been working on getting me into Civil War reenactment.  My friend Kay of Lavender’s Green Historical Costume loaned me her daughter’s costumes–chemise, drawers, corset, hoopskirt, petticoat, jacket, 3 dresses.  I just made another chemise because when you’re out in the heat and you’re wearing something right next to your skin, it can get damp and stinky, even with deodorant.  TMI?  Sorry!  It was very easy to make and I traced the original chemise…didn’t use a pattern.  I used white cotton (or cotton blend, not sure what it was) like the original and overlocked the seams instead of using a French seam or whatever they would have used back then.  I’d rather the outer layer look authentic then spend way too many hours hand sewing, which I’m slow at.

I carefully cut the fabric, taking into account that the front and back tucks made the chemise narrower, so I made sure to compensate for that.

Then I pressed where the tucks go.

The tucks don't go all the way down, so I pressed only the 7 inches that the original chemise has.

The tucks don’t go all the way down, so I pressed only the 7 inches that the original chemise has.

The back tucks are further apart, longer (10 inches), and wider (3/8" as opposed to 1/4").

The back tucks are further apart, longer (10 inches), and wider (3/8″ as opposed to 1/4″).

Here the tucks are stitched and pressed.

Here the tucks are stitched and pressed.

Next I attached the sleeves and sewed the side/underarm seams.

cwarchemise4attachsleeves

cwarchemise5sideseam

Hemming the sleeves and the bottom of the chemise was next.  The sleeves have a narrow hem.  The bottom was around 1 1/4 inches.

cwarchemise7hem2

cwarchemise6hems

The neckband was next.  It was just a strip of on-grain fabric around 2 inches wide, not on the bias like I would have expected.

I sewed on the neckband and pressed it upward.

I sewed on the neckband and pressed it upward.

Then I pressed under the other edge and sewed the neckband down.

Then I pressed under the other edge and sewed the neckband down.

Here are photos of the finished chemise, front and back.

Front

Front

Back

Back

No, it isn’t very long, only to just around my knees.

Kay also showed me some trim on one of her antique garments from the Victorian era.  It looks scalloped, but the way to do it is make gathering stitches on a strip of fabric, but instead of straight along the whole strip, you go diagonally from edge to edge, like a giant zigzag.  When you pull in the gathers, it looks scalloped.

Stitch the gathers.

Stitch the gathers.

Pull the thread into a ruffle.

Pull the thread into a ruffle.

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