Civil War Civilian Living History

Interpreting the American Civil War Home Front

New Undies!

Now that I live in the East, I am able to attend more of Carolann Schmitt’s sewing classes. The classes start at 8:00 am and run to 5:00 pm so they are full weekend sessions. She provides us with a notebook with a bibliography and gives an overview lecture. The most recent was a chemise and drawers class.  The weekend was divided up into sections; we first worked on the drawers, not bloomers or knickers, but drawers.img_4635

As always, Carolann had several original on display from her collection.

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Drawers were just coming into popularity by 1860; they were not worn by all women. Older women, especially, who may have grown up and lived their early years without drawers of any kind may not still have worn them past the 1860s. Another important point is the length. Women’s drawers were worn to mid-calf, not to the ankle and were not meant to be seen under dresses. Drawers were generally buttoned in the back.

Our first task was to get our measurements and draft the pattern. It really is fairly straight forward but you may wish to have someone help you. From these measurements we constructed the pattern. Usually I like to use interfacing to trace/draw my patterns as it is sturdy and fairly inexpensive. However, this pattern required me to tape pieces together to get the required width and tape does not stick well to interfacing. The pattern drafting requires math…I hate math, but with little trouble I was able to develop a pattern that fit. And then it was just a matter of stitching them up!

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We took a break from the drawers and started work on the chemise. Again we were able to look at some originals.

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There was also a discussion on whether to tuck or not to tuck. Carolann stated that based on staining she has seen on some originals she believes that some did tuck their drawers into their drawers. This may have been to eliminate some of the bulk under the corset. I personally think it diminishes the point of wearing split drawers, but it is a preference left to the individual.

We drafted our own patterns for the chemise, although Maggie had pre-drafted the yoke pattern for us in three different sizes. This pattern has no gussets so it is fairly easy to put together.

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I didn’t finish my chemise as I want to embellish the yoke first before putting it on. But I did finish my drawers, all but the hem.

I really enjoy Carolann’s classes. She is very knowledgeable on her subjects and having someone there to help you through tricky parts and to help fit is really nice. Plus they are held in Gettysburg, where I always enjoy visiting.

Categories: Civil War, classes, Living History, sewing

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