When I made my first Regency dress, I wasn’t sure if I’d be sticking with the period for costuming so I didn’t bother making the necessary underpinnings. As a result, my outfit was nice but didn’t have the little details that make an outfit look really right. Now that I’ve really gotten into the sewing, however, I need to build the outfit from the inside out.
I have a mostly irrational fear of making structured/tailored garments, so I found an Etsy seller (Beth is awesome!) to make me a set of short stays– they turned out quite well, and I saved a little money by agreeing to hand-sew the thread eyelets myself. In the process, I learned how to do buttonhole stitch, so that was an added bonus!
But of course, once I had the stays I needed a shift to wear underneath them– not only to keep them clean, but also to keep things… er… contained up top. I picked up 3 yards of bleached fine muslin at the fabric store (not as nice as my sheer cotton voile, but much cheaper and probably sturdier), and got to work.
I used the measurements from this tutorial to cut out my fabric, but made my shift sleeveless rather than bothering with the whole “make sleeves and insert gussets” thing. I figured that sleeves wouldn’t really matter for an undergarment, and I really didn’t want to puzzle out the gusset thing. Besides, this way there would be no danger of the shift sleeves bunching up under the sleeves of my dress if they happened to be on the tight side.
Anyway, I had enough fabric (and it was cheap enough) that I didn’t bother to sew in gores– I just cut my shift pieces in trapezoids to begin with. Although my preshrunk fabric was only 42″ wide I decided to use the width of the fabric for the length of my shift– it hits just below the knee on me (I’m 5’6″), which is plenty long enough for my purposes.
I used the size C measurements, with a 10″ wide and 6.5″ deep neckline, which turned out just perfect for the neckline of my stays and of my most recent dress. To cut out the neckline I just cut a sheet of paper to half of the correct size, placed it on the center fold, and cut around it.
I machine-stitched and flat-felled all of the connecting seams, sewed a narrow rolled hem along the armholes and bottom hem, and then got to work on the neckline. I needed to make a casing for a drawstring, and it needed to be as narrow as possible to keep buckling and wrinkling to a minimum around the curves. I ran a zigzag stitch over the raw edges to keep them from fraying, including a notch I cut at center front about 3/8″ deep. Once I turned the 3/8″ hem and stitched it down, the notch made an opening through which I could pull the cotton twine drawstring.
Easiest sewing project ever! It took under an hour, start to finish!
Apologies for the wrinkles, I forgot to take a picture before I wore it the first time, and I haven’t had time to get out the ironing board since then.
2 thoughts on “Regency Muslin Shift”
Ugh, I really enjoy making gowns and all, but the shift is the one thing i haven’t done yet. Maybe this post will motivate me? 🙂 Like you, I bought my short stays on Etsy because I just didn’t want to open that can of worms. I’ve been contemplating buying a shift that way too, but now I might just have to try it myself.
Shifts really are easy, especially if you’re not bothering to make sleeves. Totally worth making yourself, I promise!