Wednesday, 27 May 2015

HSM15: Challenge 5 - Practicality

What the item is (and what practical things you can do in it):

For the Practicality challenge I decided to make a shirtwaist, suitable for the first decade of the 20th century. At the beginning of the year I didn't have a plan for this challenge, but then I got invited to attend the 100th anniversary of the National Railway Museum, with a theme of 1900-1915. In the end the finished garment fitted the challenge in two different ways.

The shirtwaist in the end of the 19th century came to be almost a uniform for the respectable and independent working woman. From the beginning the shirtwaist had been modeled after men's shirts, but at the end of the 19th century application, embroideries and other detailing could be added to make it into a fashionable item.

For the bodice of the shirtwaist I used the instruction in Text-book on domestic arts from 1911. Then I looked quite a lot for inspiration pictures, since I wanted to go for a ca 1900 look. The pattern was easy enough to modify for an earlier look. I wanted to add detailing to the front, that wasn't in the instructions, so I simply added extra length to the bodice fronts and pleated them down in the front. The pleats fanned out from the neck down to make the shirtwaist fit snug at the neck, but be roomy over the bust and give some poufing when tucked in at the waist. For the sleeves I used the two piece sleeves from TV493. That's a fitted sleeve, but I cut out the largest size to give it extra width. That meant that I then had to take it in at the wrists, but the should fit very well. The collar was also taken from TV493, but made higher. It was constructed of one of the fashion fabric and one layer of heavy white cotton. The cotton is actually an antique bedspread from my great grandmother, so it's probably around 100 years old. The lace on it is shredded and the cotton has been worn out in many placed, but it's perfect to use for small pieces where you want a nice heavy cotton. I also love using these antique things since it gives a nice connection back in time. The cuffs were simply a length of fabric folded double and attached to the end of the sleeve. It's closed with 10 buttons in the front and a button each on the cuffs.

Putting the pieces of the bodice was easy. Most of the shirtwaist is actually handsewn. Not because of a wish to make it more accurate, since sewing machines were around at the time, but simply because I was up in the mountains and didn't have access to a sewing machines. I've also learned to make button holes by hand now. They aren't perfect, but they work and look just as good as when I do them on the machine. It was good practice to make it by hand, since I could practice stitches, but since it's not a very tight garment the seams won't take a heavy strain so I don't have to worry about the strength of my seams.

The shirtwaist turned out to be such a comfortable and practical garment. Coming from 18th century upper class clothing, it was so wonderful to have full range of movement in the arms and it was easy to close with the buttons in front.

I also found it to be a very practical pattern. Under the shirtwaist I'm wearing a corset cover and a chemise made from the same basic bodice pattern. The only difference is the extra pleating on the shirtwaist and the deeper neck opening on the corset cover and chemise. It's so practical to have a basic pattern that can then be tweaked to fit whatever you need it for. I'm definitely going to use it again, if I make more clothes for this era, since it's so simple and the possibilities to adapt it are almost endless.

The Challenge: 5 - Practicality

Fabric: 2m of embroidered cotton, 10 cm of antique heavy cotton

Pattern: Adapted from shirtwaist from the Text-Book on Domestic Art, combined with modified sleeves and collar from TV493.

Year: ca 1900

Notions: regular sewing thread, buttonhole twist, 12 buttons, 0,5 m cotton lace for the neck

How historically accurate is it? As far as I know it's accurate both in pattern, choice of fabric and techniques used.

Hours to complete: Handsewing took some time so probably 25-30

First worn: May 23, the Swedish National Railway Museum's 100th anniversary

Total cost: $45

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