Friday 21 February 2014

Early 19th Century Shortgown

At pretty much the last minute I decided I wanted to make something for the third HSF 2014 challenge. The theme was pink, and I had a piece (160x110 cm) of pink cotton print in my stash that screamed it wanted to be an early 19th century shortgown. It’s what I bought it for in the first place, but I got a bit hesitant when it was time to cut – was the print period enough? I posted the question at the HSF facebookpage, and enough knowledgeable people said it was close enough for me to feel it ok to use. I did a bit of research on shortgowns to decide what style I wanted. I was limited by the amount of fabric I had and the fact that I’m rather bigger than I usually am, and will grow larger before I shrink again. It had to fit a range of sizes, and I also wanted it to be breastfeeding friendly. 

In the end I decided on a fitted back and a flexible, drawstring front. I had wanted fuller and longer sleeves, and a longer skirt, but even with piecing this is all I got out of it – I didn’t feel quite as ambitious when it came to piecing as I did last year with the mid 19th century dress. Still, I think it looks rather nice.

I was going for a lower middle class everyday look, the kind of clothes you might wear while cooking, tending to the children, sorting laundry before sending it of and such, so nothing too fancy. 

I drafted and adjusted the pattern myself, and the shortgown is entirely hand sewn with period stitches. Linen thread is used, unbleached for the inside, brown for visible stitching. There are a few pleats at the front to allow extra fullness over the bust without adding bulk to the skirt.

The bodice is lined in the back with plain cotton, and has a loose lining in front which closes by pins.

The sleeves have cuffs that closes with sewn loops and self fabric covered plastic buttons – not period but it’s what I had at home and it will never show. I covered the buttons like this, as described in “Kvinnligt Mode under TvĂ„ Sekel” (Female Fashion during Two Centuries) by Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen. All the stitching was also taken from their descriptions of extant clothing.  

 Wrap the button in fabric.

Cut off excess, but leave a shank.

Stitch to sleeve.

Wrap the thread around a few times and secure. Make the loop for closing.

Flounces, that is seen in many extant garments from this time, finish the sleeves. This kind of sleeve treatment, with the closed flounce and an opening just by the cuff, is seen in two extant dresses at Kulturen in Lund, Sweden. The sleeves have short, less full under sleeves from the lining fabric.

The skirt is sewn smoothly at the front and sides, and is cartridge pleated to the back, as most extant lower class dresses in Sweden. Unfortunately there are no surviving shortgowns here that I know of. 

All in all I’m pleased with how it turned out (though it makes me look huge at the moment [EDIT: pictures of it when I'm not pregnant]), but next time I will make the armholes even deeper in the back, push back the shoulder seem a bit more, and have more material to work with. Also, I intend to wear this over stays, but at the moment mine don’t fit, and who knows if I’ll get the maternity ones finished before they’re of no use… As a result the shortgown doesn’t sit as well as it should at the moment as the pinned lining does all the supporting.

The Challenge: #3 Pink

Fabric: Cotton print, plain cotton for the lining

Pattern: Drafted my own from pictures and patterns taken from extant examples

Year: Ca. 1810 

Notions: Linen thread, cotton tape, plastic (!) buttons

How historically accurate is it? Pretty much; it’s constructed like period examples, hand stitched with period stitches, using period correct materials for the most part. 

Hours to complete: Not sure… for such a simple garment it took quite a bit of time: I was quite sick of it in the end. I’ve worked on it between two and four hours most days during the past week, but then I’ve also had “help” from my toddler most of that time. 

First worn: For the pictures

Total cost: Nothing at this time, everything came from my stash.