Celefinniel's Kensington Project page

From The Skin Out: Undergarments

This project will be built from the skin out, using the useful 'exploded' gentleman's outfit from the same Court Costume collection at Kensington Palace. It shows everything from underclothes to wig and all the parts of the elaborate garments worn by an 18th century gentleman. I'm starting with the shirt.

The Shirt

There appear to be a number of websites documenting shirts from the 18th century which give instructions and do not require a pattern. I already have the Folkwear #204 Missouri River Boatman's Shirt as a backup for the fiddly bits, but plan to try without it.

I'm using 4oz.linen described as "very delicate, natural white unwashed linen" that is 54 inches wide. This is creamy or slightly off white in color not the bleached modern white fabric.

When the linen arrived it went into the washer. Then I put the damp mass into the freezer for a day or two to soften it up a bit more before I start working with it. The GBACG (Greater Bay Area Costumers' Guild) yahoo group was talking about this method for a week or two, so I decided to try it.

It came out of the freezer and thawed overnight in the bathroom before I washed it again. This linen doesn't feel all that stiff or rough to me, but I don't have to wear it! It does feel different after being washed and frozen.

April 18, 2010 - I cut the linen for the shirt last night after spending two days fighting with the fit on the breeches/underpants. I don't know whether he's just VERY flat behind or the pattern was made off breeches belonging to a bowlegged fellow with a beach ball butt, but I am glad I made a muslin. I knew about the warnings that the legs would need individual fitting, but the changes I had to make were very, very extreme.

I tried changing the inseam as patterned several ways first - matched the bottom of the legs and gather all the extra into the crotch - nope, - matched the crotch and planned to cut off the legs - they coiled around his legs like ivy on a column. At that point I told him to put on his tights, and started draping on him.

I had to re-engineer the entire leg part of the front from the crotch dowm to keep the flat and tight look appropriate for the period. Then I had to do major surgery on the seat area of the back piece to take out the "beach ball". I may need to do more yet. The wonderful photos from the V&A of the fellow in dishabille (bless them!) shows a slimmer silhouette than I have yet to achieve and the tension on the garment seems to come from a different direction than I have yet managed to replicate, but I'm too sick of it to keep on plugging right now.

The shirt looks as though it will be plain sailing once the linen thread arrives. It irons bee-you-tifully too. I'm starting to wonder whether I can find some linen batiste to use on the neck stock. A costuming buddy says that architect's drafting linen works well if you wash the sizing out first. I'll have to see if I can find a source for that.

Thread arrived. Shirt is cut out and the neck and collar are done. I find that I have no trouble keeping the stitches small, but can only work for a certain amount of time before the old elbow damage starts to kick in and I have to stop. I am pleased with how the collar came out. Now to tackle the sleeve gussets.

January 7, 2011 - Well last year was mighty exciting and I only got to work on the project sporadically, but I have refitted a muslin for the underdrawers using a pattern from Eagle's View that was recommended. It's working much better for me. Thanks Chris! The shirt is finished except for button holes. I have also finished the detachable lace for the cuffs and have almost completed the bosom lace, so I should have guy in underwear soon. Hopefully this year will be a better one for us, and a good one for all of you.

January 21, 2011 - Prseident's day weekend was profitable. The finer linen I ordered for the stock arrived. I was a bit put off by the fabric since the "fineness" was due to transparency rather than threadcount (as I hoped) and it had a tendancy to raveling and more lots more slubs than I would have preferred. I decided to have a go at it any way and it turned out well - not the 40-odd pleats of King George, but the 10 I managed look rather good I think. As usual, I'm saving those pesky button holes for last.


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