So ... I’ve always been a perfectionist. Painfully so, and one of the lessons I’ve had to learn as a mother of many is knowing when to let go of the Quest for the Perfect.
Here is one time when I just couldn’t, quite. :-)
|A participant in the 2006 Parker's Ferry event|
Okay, I finally thought, IF my historical ever sells. It would be cool to wear one to booksigning events. Then came my first contract for Defending Truth, and the project lurked in the back of my mind through the months of writing and revising the novella. As a challenge to my sewing skills, it would be as much a creative endeavor as the writing, and it was just as important to me to get the research right.
So, a quick overview of 18c (eighteenth century) women’s wear from the skin outward:
- Shift: the equivalent of 18c underwear, made of
pure linen for its availability and breathability. The quality of the linen was
determined by one’s station and wealth. “Chemise” is the French word, more
commonly in use in the nineteenth century.
JP Ryan stays pattern
- Stays: basically the predecessor of a corset, which again is the French word and not in use until later. Often referred to as a “pair” of stays, referring to the two halves, or “bodies,” which is where the word “bodice” comes from (“a pair of body’s”). In the 18c and before, as much of a support garment as for shaping, like an 18c lumbar belt. In use as early as the 16th century, and worn by babies and children as well as adult females. (That scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, where Elizabeth wears stays for the first time, is inaccurate in so many ways ... )
- Pockets: a bag or two, sewn to a cloth tape and tied around the waist for access through side slits in the skirts. Often highly embroidered, and NOT worn on the outside to attract marriageable men ...
- Petticoat: essentially a skirt, at least one, more often two. These were often linen, quilted cotton, silk, or wool. Working women wouldn’t bother to match the petticoat to their jacket or gown, but dressy gowns often had a matching petticoat.
- Gown: an open-fronted garment with sleeves, more or less embellished. Fastened down the front with straight pins (yes! it’s true!), or hooks and eyes. The open skirts are sometimes hiked “a la polonaise.” Made of linen (striped or plain), wool, silk, or a block-printed cotton (see Debra’s recent post about fabrics). In lieu of a gown, women also wore jackets, shortgowns, or bedgowns (for undress/casual wear around the house).
- Apron: also of linen, pinned and/or tied over everything to catch workaday dirt and grime.
- Cap: a very fine linen, of varying ruffled styles, but NOT the “gathered circle mobcap” style so often seen in ‘70’s historical dramas.
|Summer-weight worsted wool|
[to be continued!!!]