Friday, 23 January 2015

HSM #1 - Foundations: A batiste slip or chemise

My main project for this challenge was a simple slip. Now, the reason I decided to make a simple slip is because simple = versatile.

I'd wanted to make a slip out of the batiste lingering in the stash for years now. So when I realised a simple 1920s design of rectangles and triangular gores at the sides (inspired by American Duchess' tutorial, but not the same) would be a reasonable approximation for other eras as well, I decided to go for it. It's so simple and unobtrusive that I can wear it under modern dresses as well: that was the very first idea for the fabric. The slips I got from my mum years ago don't fit me anymore.

The final impulse came from the fact that this year's annual ball held by my church was 1920s themed. In the end, I did not attend, in part because I still don't have a dress to wear over the slip and in part because I want to go to a Regency ball in February and somehow the whole Regency thing takes precedence.

But it gave me the final kick of "Hey, Foundations challenge, and I want to bust the stash, I could make this thing I've pondered for years!"

It's also an approximation for medieval times, namely inspired by the chemises worn in various Czech illuminations, e.g. here. It's not in any way super accurate (and definitely does not look like this), but it's not meant to be - what medieval I do have is more of an approximation overall, anyway.

And the other approximation is this: for the Heritage challenge this year, I would like to look to the folk costume of Moravian Wallachia.

An 1837 lithograph of the folk costume from Hošťálková, near Vsetín, Moravian Wallachia. Scanned from Langhammerová, Jiřina. Lidové kroje České republiky. Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Prague, 2003.

I'm not going to make the full thing, I think, especially because I actually have nowhere to wear the folk costume of a region my family does not live in anymore. But I've always loved this particular style of folk costume and my family actually does, on one side, hail from Moravian Wallachia. And I do have ideas for uses for some parts of it.

Searching for what goes where in the costume, I came across the existence of a slip that goes under these folk costumes, at least in most places in Moravia if not everywhere. It's called "rubáč" in Moravia (and Slovakia, I think). Often, it has a gathered skirt - the only one I've found probably from the Wallachia region does, and so does this geographically unspecified 1940s piece in the Met Museum.

But then maybe that first one is not necessarily a slip that went under a folk costume - it looks quite modern to me in comparison to the traditional style of the Met one. And the Met costume is not a Wallachian costume.

What the dancers in this video seem to wear does probably not involve triangular gores, but it's definitely less full:

Besides, as I said, I don't aim to make a full, super-accurate folk costume, so as an approximation for versatile use, it works.

It's flat-felled, which is the only place where I'm not quite sure I nailed it: I still struggle with figuring out how flat-felled and French seams work where seams meet.

There are pintucks at the bust, which is perfectly fine for 1920s and probably less so for the other uses. (Oh, and those were actually my first pintucks. I'm not sure why I was so scared of them. Making just a few like here is super simple.)

And there's fine machine-made bobbin lace at the bottom hem.

Originally, I wanted to use another piece of lace from my stash (both laces given to me by my grandma or my aunt.) I did not have enough of it and in the end, I'm very glad that was the case, because the fabric is finer than I thought and the finer lace goes much better with it.

I did not hem it: I just used the selvedge.

Just the facts, ma'am:

The Challenge: #1 Foundations
Fabric: less than 1.5 of cotton batiste (or something of that type)
Pattern: my own: two rectangles (scooped down a little in the front after the pintucks were sewn down), four triangular gores at the sides
Year: 1920s, with leeways for elsewhen
Notions: white cotton thread, white cotton machine-made bobbin lace
How historically accurate is it? Cca 95% for 1920s (fiddly flat-felled seams are a bit winged). With the machine-sewing, pintucks, lace, fiber content etc., less so for medieval times and folk costume.
Hours to complete: I can never ever remember, even when I try to keep track. There were some mistakes along the way. Without them, it's quite quick to whip up. Maybe 2 hours? You still have to pin and sew the lace very carefully.
First worn: Just trying it out.
Total cost: It was all stash, given to me, so for me, zero. It would very much depend on the fabric used and your size.

P.S. If you go for it and decide to make yourself a simple slip like this, with gores, don't forget to start the gores at the waist, so that you already have enough fullness at the hips! Just thought I'd point that out. :-)


  1. This is really interesting! I look forward to you other HSM posts. I am interested in historical sewing but have done any research. One of my goals is to someday sew both male and female American Revolution reenactment costumes.

    1. Thank you! I hope there will be more things to post about. And good luck to you! The HSF / HSM and the participants' blogs, by the way, may be a good place to start if you want to make your own costumes. There have been several 18th century men's shirts now, for example. :-)
      Here's a Google spreadsheet with the blog entries - probably by no means extensive, though, because it's dependent on us adding it ourselves...

  2. Cool, comfortable and versatile. What is not to like!?

  3. Good idea, Hana - it looks good to me! Now, the gores are what interest me; you were afraid of tucks, I'm afraid of triangular gores. And I want to make some, opening up the sides of a sweater. I've seen the technique around lately: in an Anthropologie sweater I bought but couldn't keep, and in several examples of repurposing on Pinterest.
    I will have to sew the triangle onto the sweater before I cut it, to prevent the sweater from coming apart. I've got to get some appropriate fabric and just do it!
    Good for you, using up your batiste! So nice to work on that stash.

    1. It would be different, adding gores to an existing garment, and I would be more afraid of that myself. In this, you just sew it together like two neighbouring pattern pieces, and it is - except for figuring out the flat felled seams, which does still scare me - quite straightforward: extremely so, because even the grainlines between the rectangle and the triangle line up! The side seams get sewn up last.

    2. Oh, if the side seams get sewn up last - yes, that sounds very easy. I'll just have to gear myself up for this...