It is amazing that these little garments were about 10 years in the making, since I first bought the patterns in college (undergraduate, that is). I started the chemise in 2010 and completed it in the fall of 2012. I’ve since made one in a week, easily, as a birthday gift for a friend, so don’t be intimidated, I was just procrastinating! The stays were begun in 2013 and completed in 2018 for my local JASNA chapter’s annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea.
Pattern: Sense & Sensibility Patterns Regency Underthings
Time Frame: 2010-2012 for the chemise and 2013-2018 for the short stays.
Fabric (Chemise): 100% lightweight cotton, probably a batiste.
Notions (Chemise): 100% polyester ribbon, all-purpose thread.
Fabric (Stays): Outer fabric was a printed quilting cotton from stash, interlining was a grey cotton twill, also from stash. Lining fabric is 100% cotton muslin.
Notions (Stays): All-purpose thread and a heavier-weight carpet-button thread for the hand-stitched boning channels and eyelets, both from stash. Reed boning came from my basket-weaving stash. Lacing is modern lacing,to be replaced eventually.
Cost: All purchased materials were from JoAnn Fabrics. It was so long ago that I no longer have the cost for them.
- According to a post I wrote in 2013, I took in some width in the back and some width from the side seams as well.
- Much of the sewing is machine-done, although I did some handstitching.
- I think the lace on the bottom of the chemise was my idea back when I made it, not a pattern suggestion. I might remove it in future as I don’t recall lace on chemise hems being a thing in this period, and certainly not polyester lace.
- I did not use historically accurate fabrics for the stays, at the time I was trying to be thrifty and use what I had on hand.
- The current lacing is modern, I need to invest in a roll of linen twill tape to make more historically accurate ones.
- I would say the fit is not perfect, but overall it was a good learning experience. There should probably be more of a gap at the center front and I wish that the straps sat on my shoulders better (the issue is more noticeable in the front view than the back view).
- The instructions recommend that the gussets should be hand-stitched in. After doing one hand-stitched (left side) and one machine-stitched (right side) I agree with this. It gives you a lot more control over something with a very tiny seam allowance and awkward corners.
- As for the chemise, I know better now than to make it out of such a lightweight material, as the channeling for the ribbon has already frayed out in several places. I also suspect that when I repaired it once, the ribbon got caught in the sewing thread, as it now gathers awkwardly.
- You might also have noticed some yellowing near the boning channels…unfortunately I had to wash my stays after I found mold growing in the closet where I had been storing them. The reed seems to have stained the fabric when it got wet.
Questions and Thoughts for Future Sewing
- I’d be curious to see how this chemise makes up in linen, which was generally a less fashionable material at the time but more sturdy.
- Eventually I’d like to make a pair of Laughing Moon’s longer empire era stays and see how the fit differs. These are comfortable enough, but the stay strap situation prevents proper dancing moves.
- Did they have gathered drawstring or shortened chemise sleeves for use with ballgowns and shorter-sleeved dresses?