Sunday, May 15, 2016

Project Complete: Supportive Chemise


A linen supportive skin-layer garment.


For the sake of simplicity, I'm referring to this garment as a "chemise", but please note that it's very unlikely that the standard early 15th century chemise was this fitted/supportive. I talked about this back in my original post for this project.

Schachzabelbuch - phil.fol.2, 1467
One of the closest images I have come across to what I made is seen above in the German image from 1467. Hanging in the back of the shop is a fitted, sleeveless garment with lacing up the side. [EDIT: Miriam corrected me in the comments that these garments are actually fur linings.] It's pretty funny to consider that the artist seemed to believe that a woman's boobs were integrated into her chemise, but this may not be all that far off, if the 3-dimensional shaping I've been able to create (in very rudimentary form) was better understood during this time. While the perfect round mounds are probably not reality, boob pockets could have been possible at the hands of an expert tailor with a century of practice to back him up.


The majority of this project was the new pattern, which I blogged along the way. During the process of making this, I ended up adjusting the front center over the undersbust support point to be straight all the way up. This helped with a uniboob problem I was still experiencing as I wore the basted pattern around the house. So, for those keeping track at home, this means that all the shaping comes from the curves at the sides, which are eased into a non-curved line on the back. This garment does not (and pretty much cannot) lay flat.

The construction of the garment is completely regular and straight-forward sort of stuff. I didn't want to wait to be able to purchase heavier linen, so I took a look at what I had, and observed the stress I'd put on the pattern material. I felt like the linen could handle it. To help, I used flat-felled seams everywhere, which distribute the pulling force on the cloth through the entire seam allowance, rather than letting the construction seam do all the work. I machine sewed the pieces together, then hand sewed all the finishing with silk.

In order to get into and out of the chemise, I needed to have a laced section. During the patterning process, I shifted that to the side. Because the fabric is under so much tension, my mock-up lacing in the front created unseemly bands across my boob flesh. Which I didn't care for at all. So to the side it went. I decided that I wanted to limit the amount of give the garment has from being laced, so the laced opening is only about 5" right at the smallest section.

I used waxed linen for the eyelets. The lace is a 4-strand finger-loop braid using DMC cotton floss. I might switch this out down the road for white linen, but it's not that important to me at this point.


I really like this new chemise, and I'm very happy with the support and fit. The linen is still a bit on the rough side, so it is a little itchy against my skin, but that should stop over time as the fibers break in and soften. I do have to admit that the photos are photoshopped, per the request of my husband who was concerned about the non-opaqueness of this material. I make it a habit to not edit my actual self or my garments in my photos as a rule, so I hope you will excuse this exception for the sake of modesty.

I like the clean look with the lacing on the side, but I suspect that my choice to move it to where I can't reach it as easily is probably a bad one, long-term. Securing it is an issue, and if I want to be sure that I don't go sliding downward by the end of an event, I can't afford to skip a good tight knot. On the next one, I will move the lace to the front. I did notice in these pictures that as I moved around, the lacing opened a bit and I got a weird subtle droop on that side, so I think I'll need to really take my time to make sure that's very well tightened and secured. I don't think the droop is a deal-breaker though, since the next layer will act differently and may do a good job of concealing any slippage.

I feel very well supported, and there isn't a great deal of bounce or movement as I walk. I do pop up a little out of the top in certain positions, but I think that's true for most any supportive garment with such a large neckline at my bust size. I opted for a high back to ensure the right kind of support, and to limit mid-back pain from the underbust band carrying more weight than it needs to. Moving forward, all my dresses will follow suit so that the chemise doesn't show.

I'm very excited to start building a new wardrobe off of the shape this chemise gives me, and I definitely think it was worth all the effort!

To see more photos of me being all out in nature in my skivvies, you can check out the Flickr album or see them over on Facebook.


  1. Yay!! Nice work. Good cheesecake pictures (or should that be tarte of cheese?)

  2. Looks really great! You fitted it perfectly.

  3. Well done. Best of all, having succeeded you'll be able to make yourself another one with much less trouble.

  4. Cute photos, the last one is my favorite, so coquette. My husband would have wanted the photo shopping done also.

    That is an absolutely incredible garment, it fits perfectly, and is a remarkable job of engineering. You totally banished the monoboob! I am so impressed.

    The painting with the tailors is interesting, the lady in the blue even has a hint of a bust on her left side (though the perspective is a bit wonky) with her right side definitely poking out, not what I think of when I think of Medieval paintings.


  5. Your supportive chemise looks excellent.

    I have to add, though, that the manuscript image doesn't show supportive chemises. I actually got the chance to talk to Beatrix Nutz about that image at a conference (*fangirl moment*) and she pointed out that the text below it translates from the medieval German as something along the lines of "the furrier's workshop". The man is actually making fur linings for gowns. You can see that, too, in the image - the project he is working on has a textured, fur-like interior; the woman entering the workshop is carrying fur over her arm; and, in the rest of the image, hatters (making hats from felt) and a saddler are shown (other fur/leather-related trades). The full image is on f. 203r of the manuscript you linked.

    1. Thank you for that information. Now that you've pointed it out, I do indeed see the fur interiors. I have added an edit to the post.