Saturday, 31 May 2014

Late Victorian Shirtwaist

I was so interested and pleased to find this late Victorian shirtwaist. The more I see of all the sumptuous, colourful and beautiful pieces of clothing that pass through my hands, the more I find myself thinking ''what would I have been wearing though, in such and such a period?''.  Of course so many of the clothing worn by the lower classes was worn, patched, mended, and then finally the fabric was used to make something else or used as rags.

Chances are I would have been working for my pennies. My mother's family came from the London area, and worked in and around the docks. My great grandma was a nurse, and my nan's family owned a pub. On my father's side, my great grandpa had a shoe shop before becoming a pastor, and my grandma's family were often desperate for food. My grandma even had to pawn her father's coat once just to get the family fed that day.

So I think that if I had been around in the late Victorian period, I would certainly have been working. There would have been no huge gigot sleeves and fancy attire for me, but good old serviceable clothing that would have been worn and mended many a time.

And so I come to this poor old thing here:-

Late 1800s Linen Shirtwaist 



The Details~
This shirtwaist is made from a coarse linen. It also has panels on the inside of a thicker cotton. Maybe this was to make it extra warm in the colder months? The seams are machined, and are all raw. There is little shape to it, it is quite boxy. The only shape to the garment is made via gathers at the centre back below the yoke, which are sewn lower down onto a waist tie which then ties around the front. There are also a fair amount of gathers to the sleeve at the shoulder, and the sleeves are gathered into the cuff on the outside edge opposite where the button is. There are 4 buttons down the centre front which stop quite a way before the waist lies, and one at each cuff. They are mother of pearl, but only 2 match, they are otherwise all odd. There is feather stitchery at the top of the cuffs only. The lace around the collar, cuffs and down either side at the front is some type of thick guipure style lace.  At the top of the collar there is a linen lace of 1 1/2'' wide. The collar closes with a hook and hand sewn bar.

This would, I think, have been a very much worn and loved item, easily matching various skirts.

With all the 1860s shirtwaists that I shall be making for a customer over the coming months, I will probably be seeing them in my sleep! But I do not mind one bit... they are rather lovely.

with love,
Naomi