The grand project of an mid-18th century suit for Jarno naturally began from a linen shirt. Though the summer season was well past I was lucky enough to still find thin white linen at the store. It might not be quite fine enough for a true nobleman (albeit impoverished as Baron von Mannheim... but I digress), but would do quite well for a reproduction with a moderate budget.
|Jarno's Mother provided the at least
old fashioned looking cotton lace. The geometric pattern is
perhaps more reminiscent of 17th century, but has a more
masculine air - I fear that even Jarno's sense of humor
might revolt to fluffy florals.
The shirt is cut and put together following the tutorial of La Couturière Parisienne (which is based on Garsault's L'art du Tailleur from 1760's) quite faithfully. I'm greatly indebted to that site. The side-, shoulder- and underarm seams are machine sewn, but flat felled by hand. All the rest I luckily had the patience to hand sew, because it really makes even more difference to the look than I would have believed before. Contrary to my doubts the shirt has also survived a few times in a washing machine without anything giving away.
detailed instructions can be found on the site mentioned
above, but here's still a short despcription of my process
with the shirt. After cutting the body piece I cut the neck
opening and made the shoulder part with the gusset. I
confess I spent some time wondering what on earth I was
supposed to do with the pieces but finally figured it out.
Then I cut the front slit, turned the edges, and reinforced
the end of the slit with a small heart-shaped piece of
fabric, almost burning my fingers while shaping it with
iron. Then I gathered the neckline and attached the collar.
So far so good, but having for once punctually followed the tutorial instead of driving myself crazy by paranoid measuring and estimating by myself, the result was that it didn't fit in the end. The shoulder ended up a bit too short (luckily I could still make it up with a longer sleeve), which is actually not very surprising considering that the original cutting diagram is intended for a slim 18th century French man, not a modern well built Scandinavian guy. Gathering the neckline evenly didn't work either, but made the shoulder pieces fall way too much on the front side, so I decided to forget the accuracy, cut the front of the neckline a few cm lower and gather it more on the back.
When I was at last happy with the neckline I gathered the sleeves into the wristband. I'm happy I decided to go for the hand sewing because the gathering looks just great, even if it's not totally even.
After finishing the wrists I sewed the underarm seams, and
put the sleeves on, placing the gusset on the underarm-part.
At the lower end of the side seams I left slits. I was
feeling a little lazy at this point and decided to leave off
the reinforcing gussets at the ends of the slits, and here I
have to say the tutorial would have been right - one of them
is already a bit torn. There is a reason for them being
I was not quite sure what kind of buttons this kind of shirt was supposed to have. I imagine flat, round thread buttons might be correct, but at the time I din't have time (or perhaps patience) to go hunting for right kind of rings for the base, so I went for a substitute. The wrist buttons are worked on a cotton crocheting thread over wooden beads, a historical method but perhaps a bit old fashioned for this period - I'm really not sure. At least they don't look like plastic! On the collar I wanted to avoid the bulk created by bead-buttons, so I covered flat plastic buttons using a similar technique. Not quite as nice, perhaps, but they are covered by the scarf/tie anyway.
I had taken pride before by knowing how to make hand made buttonholes, but now I learned it's quite another matter to make them in thin, strechy material than in thick wool with stiff iron on-interfacing. Well, the last of them looks almost tolerable.
For the last thing I sewed lace ruffles on the front slit and wrists. They are easily removable following the period method, since laundry methods used to be somewhat more rough, and delicate lace might suffer from it.
In the bedroom scene of "Duchess" I noticed that Dominic Cooper's shirt seemd pretty similar to this one. It does feel a bit freakish to be more thrilled about spotting a gusset than witnessing steamy forbidden love, though.
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