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Drowning In Undergarments

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Hello again everyone!

I know it's been a couple of weeks, but let me tell you, it has been hectic! I started on a new job (still sewing for film), was helping out with a digital craft fair and trying to get the house in some semblance of an order for the holiday season. But enough about life, let's get into more important things!


Today, we're going to start with discussing the various undergarments and structures involved in creating that familiar Rococo silhouette!

A lady of the 18th century would have many underpinnings involved in her dressing routine, and while they varied (most often in shape) from the beginning to the end of the 18th century, I'm going to focus on the pieces that I will be including in my project.

First, the chemise, similar in function to the slip of today, is a loose fitting, knee-length garment made of linen, cotton or flannel. It is the base layer of a ladies ensemble. They can be as simple as the image to the left from the Met collection or they can include ruffles of lace along the collar or sleeve hems or ribbon tied in little bows. I will likely be using the pattern from American Duchess for my chemise.

On top of the chemise, I'll be adding a pair of stays, the predecessor to the corset. Stays create an inverted cone shape, lifting and supporting the bust and narrowing the waist. Stays could be half or fully boned, lace in either the front, back or both and could have tabs at the bottom or none. For my project, I will be making half boned stays with no tabs using the pattern from Redthreaded (seen right), with some modifications.

Next we add the panniers, or pocket hoops, a set of small cages worn on either side of the hips to create a silhouette that is wide from the front or back and narrow from the sides. Panniers could come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the desired silhouette and period. I will be taking the pattern for this piece from one of my favourite books, Period Costuming for Stage and Screen by Jean Hunnisett. I'm hoping to make something as stunning as the set below from Starlight Masquarade.

On top of the panniers, I will be adding a split rump bum pad to give the booty a little extra pop. I will be drafting this pattern using a variety of images as reference. The split in the padding allows for the deep v in the back of the bodice to dip between the padding, while the padding lifts the polonaise for a more robust shape.

Finally, I will be making an under petticoat, not a strictly needed per say, but who doesn't love a little extra fullness to a skirt!

If time permits, I'd really love to to make a pair of 18th century pockets. They can be accessed through the slits in the sides of the petticoats and panniers. Pockets can be plain and very simple or elaborately embroidered. The teal panniers above have the pockets built in!

Lastly, I wanted to share a few pictures of the materials that I will be using to build my underpinnings.

Rose print, brocade coutil from Farthingales for the outer layer of my stays! This will be used with natural coutil with the boning sandwiched between the two and then bound with gold ribbon.

The top white fabric is a sturdy cotton blend with a good weight for my panniers, split rump and under petticoat; the fabric cut for the panniers and under petticoat may be dyed to match the gold stripe fabric in the middle, which will be made into pleats for the hem of the petticoat and around the bottom edge of the panniers. Finally, the white on the bottom is a cotton voile, nice and light weight for the chemise. I still need to pick a white lace for the chemise and pick up some gold ribbon for little bows.

In the next post, I will be sharing with you my final sketch, the fabrics I will be using and some more details on what my plan is for the next couple of months! After that, we'll be diving deep into the building of this costume and I will try to do a dedicated post to each piece as I create them that will be part tutorial and part reflection on why I choose certain techniques and how I can improve the piece the next time I build it.

Thanks for sticking with me this far, and stay tuned for more!

xoxo Amara Ann; VVA

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