HSM8: Heritage and Heirlooms – 1908 Chemise

I’m way behind on the Historical Sew Monthly challenges, but I have (finally) completed the one for August: Heritage and Heirlooms. Okay, so it’s only one layer of an overall project, but the layer is done, and the project fits the challenge, so I’ll claim it, as I’m way behind on a book deadline so there’s no way I’m going to get the entire outfit sewn any time soon.

This is a photo of an original photographic portrait of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Anne Whitla, née Bawden Bryar. She was born in Breage in Cornwall in 1853 and emigrated with her parents to Australia when she was a child, first to the tin mines in South Australia and then to the goldfields in Victoria. She married at 16, and died in 1932.

Portrait of Elizabeth Ann Whitla, nee Bawden Bryar

Her father, Thomas Bawden Bryar, died in Bendigo in 1908, and I’m guessing that this may have been a mourning portrait taken at that time. Elizabeth lived all of her adult life in rural Victoria, and wasn’t wealthy, so fashions may have been a year or two behind.

My ultimate aim is to recreate the outfit, although perhaps with a lighter-coloured blouse. However, I have nothing in the way of Edwardian wardrobe yet, so I’ve had to start right from the very beginning, with a chemise. And as the chemise is simple, I could hand-stitch it while staring at the screen, trying to think of words to write.

Chemise neckline detail

What the item is: 1908 chemise, the foundation garment for an eventual recreation of an outfit my Great-grandmother was photographed in in 1908.

The Challenge: HSM 8  – Heritage and Heirlooms

Fabric: Cotton voile from my stash

Pattern: Adapted from the Wearing History Camisole/Corset Cover pattern. My grandmother was not wealthy, so I made the chemise with a simple eyelet lace and ribbon decoration. Note: If I ever make another one, I’ll make the shoulders narrower.

Year: c. 1908.

Notions: White cotton thread, white cotton eyelet lace from my stash, narrow polyester ribbon – because it was impossible to get silk ribbon in my small town, and I didn’t have time or $$ to buy online. The lace on the hem is wider than the lace on the neckline and armholes, although similar in design. I was not able to get any cotton eyelet lace in town, but fortunately had just enough in my (small) lace stash.

How historically accurate is it? About 90%. The fabric, thread and lace are all correct for the period; only the ribbon isn’t. It’s entirely hand-stitched; yes, sewing machines were available then and my great-grandmother might have had one, but she would have hand-stitched many items of clothing for herself and her thirteen children.

Hours to complete: I didn’t count.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: $1 for 6m of polyester ribbon; about $10 for pattern; everything else from stash.

1908 Chemise 20150911HSM8ChemiseHem

 Chemise, shown full length Neck and armhole detail

This entry was posted in Edwardian, Historical Sew Monthly 2015, Underthings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to HSM8: Heritage and Heirlooms – 1908 Chemise

  1. Lina says:

    A pretty chemise! I’ve also just recently sewn an Edwardian lace chemise: http://www.sewhistorically.com/edwardian-lace-chemise/

    What an interesting life your great grandmother had. Is the photograph taken in 1908? The dress and hairstyle looks rather like the 1880s to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *