Drafting a Semi-Fitted Chemise from a Princess Line Pattern

full front view of the Kohler chemise

What? Why would you ever possibly want to do that, missa? This is a good question, and the answer is basically, “Because you can.” That, in an of itself, is cool enough for me. I can take the pattern of my little dolly body, or the pattern I cloned off a dolly, or even a fitted princess line sloper of a human, and make a chemise. (Also, I have drafted approximately 55,237,648,119 smocks and chemises and shirts in my life, and I’m just lookin’ for ways to keep it exciting…) This isn’t unlike draping on a stand, because we’re going to make a pattern by eyeballing fit against a human form. It’s just that my human form, in this case, is in the form of flat pieces instead of a three-dimensional stand. But those pieces convey all the same critical information the stand does, and they don’t cost near as much as a decent dress form.

So, you’ll need a princess seam pattern, obviously. You can use a doll clone, like I’m using. If you have a Vicksie or a Lizzle or some other doll with a princess seamed body, you can make a copy of the pieces, cut off the seam allowance, and follow along. If you happen to have a princess seam sloper that fits well, use that.  (Look into the Moulage if you’re super-serious about sewing custom clothing for yourself…)  If not, this demo might still help you with the general zen of pattern drafting, and where straight lines have to be treated as arcs and all that fun stuff.

Shall we?

sketch from Kohler
I want to make a nice, loose chemise for under this charming 11th century number.
Kohler's under-tunic diagram
Here is Kohler's diagram, and the pattern I want to create. It would be ease enough to do with math, but I'm feeling creative...
pattern pieces
Print a copy of your pattern, and cut out the body pieces, skirt or leg pieces, and the arm.
lining up pattern pieces to start the draft.
I'm using the Center Front and Leg piece to give me the length of my chemise pattern. I lined the Center and Side Fronts up to give me my shoulder and armscye. I'm tracing pieces as I go, so you can see what I'm doing.
pivoting the side front at the bust.
If you pivot the Side Front against the Center front at the fullness of the bust, you'll notice that the level of the armscye and waist both move as you do.
arc drawn to indicate the line of the waist
In fact, if we mark the waist with the Side Front in several positions, we see an arc. This is important.
marking armscye and waist
At this point, we have our armscye laid out (orange). We want to connect the armscye and the waist. I'm marking a point just past the pivoted Side Front - this will give me some ease in the pattern, but it won't be quite such a tent.

How do I know there will be some ease in the finished pattern? Well, I’m outside the edge of the pivoted Side Front, and there’s also ease brought in by the negative area between the Side and Center fronts. That’s a fair amount of ease.

Next… The Bottom Half

6 Comments

  1. Just out of curiosity, would it make sense for ease of movement to add a gusset under the arms? I know it’s not in the pattern diagram, but I weave and like to raise my arms …

    1. Hi, Eowyn – If the sleeve head is gathered, and the fit across the chest isn’t snug, you’ll have room to raise your arms just fine. You might run into problems if you have a really snug belt or bodice that prevents your chemise from moving. At that point, yes, by all means, add a gusset for movement. Happy sewing!

  2. Second question; in the original princess seam block we made with the velcro, I definitely needed darts. (Big tracts of land.) Do I just use the pattern without sewing in the gusset? (This seems wrong to me.) I’m trying to figure out how to adapt the dart …

    1. Eowyn – do you know how to close a dart? You’ll want to close the side-bust dart. This will open a new dart at the bust point, which we can translate into ease (which I hate in a princess line, but it will work fine for this draft).

      If not, it’s super-simps. Trace out your side front block on paper. Mark notches (match points) 2″ up from, and 2″ down from, the bust point on both your center front and side front pieces. Mark a line from the end of your existing side-bust dart to your bust point. Cut on that line from the bust point to, but not through, the tip of the dart. You want a little bitty-bit of paper holding the pieces together. Now bring the existing side-bust dart legs together and secure them in the shut position. This has opened a new dart on the other side of the piece. Conned the dart legs with a smooth curve.

      If you were sewing this as a princess line, you’d use your notches to help you match the fullness of the ease back into the center front princess piece.

      Note: depending on the hugeness of the tracks of land in question, you might want those notches to be more than 2″ away from the bust point. If the new dart opens out with more than a 1″ uptake (space between the legs), you will need to go larger. I wish I could give you a definitive guideline, but I really don’t have a set of rules in my head on this one. :{

  3. Hmmm. No; I don’t think I know how to close a dart but I think your explanation makes sense. Basically you’re switching the seam that forces the change in geometric plane from the side to the front.

    Would it work if I took the front block, taped the dart “shut”, creating a 3 dimensional sheet of paper, and then cut a line up from the bottom towards the pointy bit until it lay flattish? And then fill in the triangle for the vertical dart, of course.

    And after that I can work as before; the extra fullness underneath the tracts of land is really not a problem in a kirtle, I think. (The tracts sit on a generous bellyfull so …)

    (Side note: I have next to no sewing experience. I’ve made viking rectangle construction tunics and disliked them because I couldn’t get the arms to fit right (large tracts of land implies back width is less than 1/3rd of circumference, rather than being closer to half.) On the other hand, I am a mathematician, for what it’s worth …)

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