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Making an 18th Century Shift

14 Apr

I’m starting on a new historical project, which means it’s time for another set of foundation garments! I’m going to be making an ensemble inspired by this painting, which means I need proper 18th century underthings. That will consist of a shift, stays, bum roll, and a quilted petticoat. 

The most boring garment for this project is the one i’m talking about today: The shift. I used the pattern posted here which was really helpful!

I was originally going to use cotton gauze for this because it’s fantastic stuff. Super cheap, very lightweight, comfortable to wear, and easy to work with. Unfortunately it’s also very delicate, the tudor shift I made from cotton gauze has already required repairs at the seams.

So I decided to use a few yards of medium weight linen that I’ve had for ages. It’s a little heavy for a shift but it worked out okay!

As I said above, I followed the pattern and measurements listed on this site but I added an inch in some places because I’m assembling it with french seams. I also made the sleeves a little wider because my arms are wider haha. The rectangles are for the side gores (will be cut in half on the diagonal), the larger squares are for the sleeves, and the smaller squares are underarm gores (will also be cut in half).

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Then you need a very large rectangle to make up the body of the shift. I ended up cutting mine down by four inches because it was so wide, and even after doing that it’s still huge! I know they are supposed to be loose but this is a little too loose.

Sorry for the dog – the blanket was in a nice little pile but apparently she wanted it to be a big pile.

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She was upset that I didn’t have a bed set out for her. It was in the washing machine so she had to sit on a blanket like some wild animal. She glared at me for two hours before going to sleep.

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Anyway! The gores got attached to each sleeve with french seams.

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And the larger gores were attached to the sides of the shift, also with french seams. I’m going to stop mentioning that part, because every seam is a french seam on this piece!

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The sleeves got attached.

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And the side seams were done up! I made a small slit at the neck so I could try it on and make sure it fit alright, which it did. The body was pretty huge on me but the sleeves fit nicely.

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For the hem I rolled the raw edge over by a half inch and basted it down.

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Then turned the edge up by two inches and whip stitched it in place.

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For shaping the neckline, I cut a small slit that allowed me to get into the garment, then I laced my stays overtop. Once everything was arranged nicely I used a pen to (roughly) draw out where the neckline should be on one half of the shift.

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I took that off and marked the neckline with a colored pencil. I cut half of it out, then used the cut pieces a guide for the other half.

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I folded the raw edge inward by a quarter inch, then folded that edge in by a third of an inch. I whip stitched the edge in place to create a channel for ribbon. I also left a small opening at the centerfront where I can thread ribbon through.

Beneath the opening I stitched two eyelets, where the ribbon can be poked through and tied into a pretty bow!

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This is what it looked like with the ribbon in place! I used a bobby pin to thread it through the channel. I use bobby pins to threat my corsets too, they are very handy!

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The final thing to do was hem the sleeves. I had already turned them under by a half inch but they had a raw edge on the interior and were too long. So I turned them under by an inch and a half and sewed that.

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And it was done!

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I had hoped to have some worn photos but it’s been a very overcast day, which means my sewing room doesn’t get much light and the photos don’t turn out very well. I’ll include worn photos in my blog post about making the stays which should be up next week!

In the mean time, here is how it looks on my dress form.

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I’m pretty happy with it! Not the most exciting project but it only took a day to make and it went really smoothly. I’d use the pattern again to make one with a different neckline…Though I would probably make it sixty centimeters wide, not eighty. And maybe use lighter fabric.

Thanks for reading!

 

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5 responses to “Making an 18th Century Shift

  1. misat0

    April 14, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    The outfit in the painting is awesome! I love those 18th century military inspired outfits. Can’t wait to see this one come to life.

     
  2. Karune

    April 15, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Really nice! I can imagine this being my homemade christmas gift to my friend (she loves these stuffs more than I love fancy clothes :D) btw I have never heard of using bobby pin to threading something through that channel… I always use safety pin😀

     
  3. Mutemouia

    April 21, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Beautiful shift ! I just discovered your blog and I wanted to let you know you make wonderful costumes ! Keep up the good work !

     
  4. Lori Bledsoe

    September 8, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Your work is truly inspiring! You are not only talented, but you are immensely skilled! Beautiful Work! I love costuming, and I love the craft of sewing timeless treasures. I wish the best for you, and know that your future will be full of wonderful creations. Thank you so much for sharing!

     

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