Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HSM January: Foundations

This year's Historical Sew Monthly started out with the Foundation Challenge. So for my foundation, I decided to make an Italian Chemise. To me, a foundation is the thing you build your entire outfit upon. Mess it up, and nothing else will work correctly. The Chemise (or camicia if you are Italian) is the layer closest to the skin that not only keeps your pretty garments free of body grossness but also is a comfortable, breathable layer. Unfortunately, it's one of those things the film industry has decided are mostly unnecessary!

The Challenge: #1: Foundations
Fabric: 3.5 ys Linen ($11/yd)
Pattern: I used this great tutorial by Jen of Festive Attyre.
Year: Renaissance-ish (1500s)
Notions: thread
How historically accurate is it? It's mostly machine sewn and I surged my seams but the overall shape is correct. And it's yummy linen!
Hours to complete: 4-5
First worn: not yet. This linen is quite fine so I don't feel comfortable modeling it for you!
Total cost: ~$38

It's got this great cartridge pleating detail at the neckline. And it's super comfy to wear!

While we're at it, I decided to photography the corset I made for the 2014 #20: Alternative Universe Challenge but never photographed.

It's made of one layer of coutile and bound with store bought bias tape.

I hand sewed the eyelets but the rest of it is sewn by machine. Coutile is hard to sew by hand!

The seams are all finished nicely for maximum comfort.

I started with the pattern for my kirtle bodice and shortened it. Then I tweaked the fit until I got the shape I wanted. To draft your own kirtle bodice, go to for a drafting guide.

And now that I have the corset and chemise done, it's time to get started on the dress!!!


  1. Is it a non-boned corset? I don't think I've seen one of those -- but I bet it's comfy. :-P

    Oh, and the best thing about camping events if you're wearing chemise? Taking the corset and layers off and going to sleep in the big poofy chemise. It's STILL my fave thing to sleep in! :-D

    1. It's got 4 bones on each side so it's quite comfortable!

  2. This is really interesting. I'm afraid I don't know much about historical costuming, beyond the bits and a bobs a history buff will naturally pick up, but you've definitely got a point about how the foundation needs to be correct for the rest of the outfit to work. You can always tell in a period piece when they've got the proper undergarments on, because it doesn't just alter the shape of the body, but the way they carry themselves, the way the clothes hang.
    I just started watching The Borgias - have you seen that show? If you do, what do you think of the costuming?
    Jessica, Zella Maybe

    1. This is actually for a Borgia costume! :D I love the costuming. It's not 100% accurate but they use gorgeous fabrics and trims and the hair is pretty good and they are wearing chemises. Here's a post about my project: