1730’s Chemise – (HSM #1)

When I saw that the first HSM challenge was ‘foundations’, I decided that I wanted to use it to make my first foray into the 18th century sewing, which I’ve never done before. Rather fittingly, I’ll be starting with the foundation of my new wardrobe.

The Spring, by Jean Marc Nattier, 1738 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I spent a lot of time doing research because I started with zero knowledge about this era; just a few general ideas about shape and necessary pieces. It took a while, but I decided on the 1730’s and based my shift’s construction off of the research done by Sharon Ann Burnston and used the painting The Spring (above) as a visual guide.

With all the time I spent doing research, I started really late in the month and had only a couple days to sew it. I swung by Joann’s one afternoon before I had to go to work and bought two yards of 90 inch muslin with a 50% off coupon.

The next night I took all my measurements (on the piece of paper at the top of the photo) and laid out the muslin to cut it up. The fabric was folded four layers thick so the front piece wouldn’t have to be sewn to the back piece at the shoulders and, as it so happened, 45″ was right where I wanted the bottom of my chemise to be so it fit quite perfectly onto the muslin.

I spent the night watching the stage production of Oklahoma! and sewing it all together by hand with cotton thread. I tried to get it all done that night, but, by 4:30 am, I just couldn’t do it any more.

It was going well until I got to the sleeves. I had originally planned to just gather them into cuffs that were loose enough so they didn’t need an opening, but, looking back at my guide picture and re-reading the instructions, I realized that they actually had a small slit up towards the elbow and closed with a ribbon (or cuff-links) through buttonholes. At first I was going to just move past it, but I couldn’t bring myself to and had to go back and re-open part of the sleeves that I’d previously sewn shut.

So it followed me around in a basket for the next couple days as I hemmed the new openings and gathered them in to cuffs. I was a little nervous to do buttonholes for the second time ever, but it turned out alright. At this point I had to face it that I would finish a couple days late but I didn’t want to over-do it on the first entry of the year.

So, in the end I finished two days late but I’m glad that I finished it at all. I had a love-hate relationship with all of the hand-sewing along the way but I’m pretty happy with the final product. If I could do it over, I would have made the sleeves a little fuller, but I think it’s pretty good.

Final Product:

Sleeve detail.
Side detail.

The Challenge: Foundations (HSM #1)

Fabric: White Muslin

Pattern: Made form my measurements using the instructions here

Year: 1730’s

Notions: White cotton thread, pink ribbon

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, I would say. I stuck to historically-accurate methods of sewing and the shape, cut, etc. are right. It’s made of cotton, not linen, but there is evidence of cotton chemises from that time.

Hours to complete: I would estimate 10-15. I need to get faster at sewing by hand…or quit getting distracted by mid-century musicals.

First worn: I haven’t worn it yet. I did try it on once before I added the sleeves to check the neckline, but that was it.

Total cost: Somewhere around $5 because I ended up having a little less than half of the fabric left over. Everything else was taken from my stash.


2 thoughts on “1730’s Chemise – (HSM #1)

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