Adventures in Victorian Underwear

Still in the interminable process of making this darn Victorian ensemble.

I worked with two different patterns for drawers and chemise. I made mockups first using old bedsheets for fabric. It was AFTER I did this that I read posts discouraging the use of polyester blends in the making of period undergarments. The reasons cited are that man-made fabrics trap body heat more, wick less, and do not breathe as efficiently as linen or all-cotton fabrics. I’m a Southern girl. I can see the wisdom in using Linen or cotton batiste for chemises and drawers. My later efforts utilized 100% cotton batiste. I also have 100% cotton flannel set aside for future undergarments for cold weather. I have scoped out some lightweight linen for another future set.

My first efforts were made using the Laughing Moon 100 pattern, which also included two corset patterns, and later I used the Truly Victorian 102 pattern. Each had its benefits and its shortcomings.

Laughing Moon 100

Chemise

Pros: The directions for this pattern were pretty straightforward. It was easy enough to follow. I’ve actually made several chemises from this pattern. I like the shape of the chemise with the use of a yoke and front buttons. It is easily adjusted and graded for size. I made an extra from cotton broadcloth to used as a nightgown.

Cons: Pintucks. Pintucks are the devil. On the upside, the more you practice the better you’ll get. The first attempt, I tried to make the pintucks after the garment was assembled. The second attempt, I made the pintucks BEFORE the garment was sewn together, plus I tried sewing them by hand. The third attempt, I shortened the chemise and gave up on the pintucks.

Drawers

Pros: The directions are easy to follow. The pattern is uncomplicated. It called for a drawstring waist, which according to my reading, reduced bulk at the waist.

Cons: The drawstring waist. That bad boy hurts over time. I only made one of these guys because I didn’t care for the drawstring waist. Also, the bottom cuffs seem to fit a little too snugly for my fat legs. And third con, pintucks.

Conclusions

I might make this pattern again, now that I have more experience with Victorian undergarments. There are things I would do differently. While I like the shape of the chemise, the drawers do not excite me.

Truly Victorian 102

Chemise

Pros: I like the overall shape and construction of the garment. It’s pretty. It’s simple. It’s versatile. The neckline adjusts to accommodate different necklines from day to evening.

Cons: The directions and pattern for this garment presume some knowledge of period garment construction, when it comes to binding armholes and necklines, it’s presumed that the sewist will know what to do without instructions. The pattern includes sleeves, but I opted for the sleeveless version to cut down potential bulk. There are buttons at the shoulders to facilitate the adjustable necklines and large hairstyles of the time. Getting them installed just right takes some knowledge of garment construction. I wish I could say this is an easy garment for a beginner, due to its lack of pieces, but without direction, I fear an inexperienced sewist would get lost and frustrated.

Drawers

Pros: They’re gorgeous. I love the way they come together from the waistband to the ruffled cuffs. They have button closures on each hip.  Of all of the undergarments I have made, these really were my favorite. The directions on how to put it all together just made sense. These drawers fit like a dream from the moment they first slid over my calves and settled into that sweet spot just below my knee. These drawers just feel good in every way. I look for reasons to wear them.

Cons: They’re really not for beginning sewists. While the instructions were very clear from beginning to end, my concern is that someone without experience in garment construction might get turned around by the cuff band and ruffle. To finish these properly, one needs to finish them by hand.

Conclusions

I will most definitely make this pattern again. I love the drawers. I will make a few alterations to the chemise, probably closing the shoulders and using only the drawstring adjustment at the neck band. I made the sleeveless option. When I make this garment again, I will add the sleeves.

I’m happy with how both patterns turned out. Both have historical value. I may actually make a future set using the Laughing Moon chemise with the Truly Victorian drawers.

9 comments

  1. I hope you don’t mind if I share your article on your Victorian underwear project in my blog. It goes perfectly with what I am writing about. I’ll take it down if you don’t approve.
    I don’t sew so your article helps me for those who do.
    Thanks,
    Karen
    The Lady Reenactor For Beginners

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t see them, I’m sorry to take so long in responding. We’re just cranking up for the new school year, so I’ve been immersed in back-to-school prep. Thank you so much for asking. I really don’t mind you sharing my posts. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

      Like

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