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Drafting an Elizabethan Square Necked Chemise – No Math Required!

beginning underarm gusset
Rather than a shaped armscye, this pattern relies on a square gusset under the arm to add ease for movement. The gusset should be about as tall as the distance between the bottom of the sleeve and the waist.

I’m simplifying this slightly. In reality, the gusset of the original piece doesn’t go quite to the waist. However, a 1″x1″ gusset is plenty tricky enough to sew, and I’m ot sure I’m up for anything smaller. Also, in the original piece, the gusset is set slightly into the top of the side gore. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. Normally, gussets and gores may get close, or even touch, but they seldom take their relationship further than that. I’m sort of eliminating that from this draft – it’s goofy, and I suspect that, rather than being a mechanism to add another 2″ to the body measurement, it was simply a case of  “dangit, this gusset is too long! What’s the fastest way to fix it?”

gusset drawn
Completing the gusset: We know it's height, and since it's a square, that gives us all four sides. Draw a square that size.
beginning the side gore
Draw a line the length of your waist-to-ground measurement. Draw a second line, the same length, at an angle to the first.

I’ve eyeballed the angle, rather than doing anything clever with a protractor. Oddly, almost any angle that looks about like this will do unless your hips are significantly larger than your bust or your tummy is significantly prominent. If any of these things are true, you might not be so happy in a semi-fitted smock like this. You might like to try a fuller-bodied chemise with a square neckline instead.


straight bottomed gore
Some of the patterns in Patterns of Fashion 4 show a straight bottom to their gores, like this.
problem with straight gore
I don't really like that. It's easier to sew, by my hem will be off by a good quarter inch.

If it were a quarter inch in human land, that wouldn’t be too tragic. I’d take it. But I’m working in 1/8 scale here, so on a human you’re looking at something around, erm, 2″ or so. It bothers me. Also, you get weird points in your hem where the gore joins in. Blah.

correcting the gore hem
Mark the waist-to-ground length several more times along the bottom of the gore. Connect these dots, and you've got a curved hem. Yay!
finishing the gore.
The finished gore piece.
drawing the cuff
The last piece to draw is the cuff. It's another rectangle. It should be your wrist measurement plus 1 1/2" (for overlap and ease on a human - 1/2" on a doll) long, and 2"-3" wide (for a human - 3/4" to 1" for a doll).
all pieces, with sketch
And there are all the pieces you need to make that cute little smock.

Of course, you’ll need to add a seam allowance before it’s really a pattern. I use 1/2″ for humans and 1/4″ for dolls for most seams. Take a good look at the pattern picture – I’ve marked some lines as being on the fold. Those pieces are actually twice as big as their drawn here, and the edge that’s on the fold doesn’t get a seam allowance! (I could have drawn out the cuff to be cut on the fold too, but then it would have been too small for me to label.)

I haven’t drawn out seam allowances for two reasons. First, my pieces are pretty close together, because I was trying to line up the pieces sort of how they’re sewn together. It’s less random looking that way. Secondly, though, I was thinking about adding embroidery, so I’m going to be tracing these pieces onto a sheet of linen and embroidering them before I cut them. It’s traditional.

Works Cited

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction c.1860 – 1940. 3rd. New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1977.

Arnold, Janet, Levy, Santina M. and Tiramani, Jenny. Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of Linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear, and accessories c.1540 – 1660. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd., 2008.

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One Comment

  1. missa
    missa January 27, 2011

    Oh, I should mention something: you can use this method with a bodice that fits as well, in case you don’t have a conic block. (Obviously, you should skip the step where you cut the block in half!) Since a bodice usually has some compression built in, you’ll want to draw the side of the front panel out a little farther – otherwise, you’ll be asking your chemise to do the work of a bodice, and it will be very difficult to get into!

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