I am not made of rectangles.

Realization I had yesterday: I am not made of rectangles.

Wait, hear me out. “Rectangular construction conserves fabric” is the best thing I’ve ever heard about this technique. And it is not true.

No, seriously, hear me out. Rectangular construction results in very little waste fabric — meaning the stuff that gets left on the cutting room floor. The “cabbage.” But if there’s extra room in a garment — room you don’t need, that you’d love to cut away to reduce the bulk of bunchy fabric under the arms, or the bulk of the tent-like structure all around your body that hides your figure in a really unflattering way — there is still wasted fabric in your clothes. It’s just not on the cutting room floor. It’s on you.

What I’m saying is that if you cut out a curvy shape that is fitted to your body, you’re using just about the same amount of fabric as if you use a boxy shape that isn’t all that well fitted to your body. Those “useless” cabbages? You can use those, actually. They make really nice buttons, for one thing.

I realized this in the midst of a fit of frustration while trying to make a rectangular-construction camisa. See, as I’ve mentioned before, this camisa is based on the same rectangular-construction pattern that I used for my lavender Viking tunic. At the time when I first cut out the fabric for the camisa and started sewing, my Viking tunic wasn’t something I could try on. But it got that way recently, so I put it on, and was dismayed to find that there were some disturbing vertical wrinkles — really hefty ones, at that — leading from my under-arms up to my shoulders. Wrinkles that shouldn’t be there, because I know my measurements were accurate, and the person who gave me this pattern doesn’t have the same wrinkles when she makes the tunic for herself. Apparently rectangular construction works best on people other than me, or something, because this is the third rectangular constructed piece (the first one I’ve made, but two more were made for me by two other people) that has fit this way, or rather, has not fit this way.

But I do have an undergarment that fits. It is my tightly fitted chemise. Which is… not rectangular at all. It is very, very fitted, and therefore it is very, very curvy, like me. Fits like a glove, in the most literal way possible without actually being a glove. I’m not going to scrap this camisa-in-progress, but I suspect I’ll have to alter it somehow to be actually happy with it. And I’m definitely going to have to scrap this pattern for future garments, because it just doesn’t work for me.

So now I still have two choices, but they are two very different choices. I can either use this fitted camisa pattern from now on, or I can make those huge, floofy styles of later-period chemises, and wear them under rather different garments. Not really sure which I want to do, at this point. I don’t even know if those later-period chemises will fit beneath a Gothic fitted dress. But if they would, they’d be perfect, because don’t they look just gorgeously comfortable?

Please: If you know for sure that one of those big floofy later-period chemises would fit under a Gothic fitted dress, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have a pattern for one that would end up looking like the one I linked above, that would be awesome. And finally, if you know for sure that they were, or were not, worn beneath the Gothic fitted dress, please share that knowledge and your source(s). (Gothic fitted dress = GFD. Covers the types of gowns commonly called cotehardies in the SCA, though the term is somewhat inaccurate; also covers the Moy Bog gown, the Greenland style of gown, and several others. The idea is any gown that’s fitted throughout the upper torso, and flares out at the waist or hip level.)

12 replies on “I am not made of rectangles.”

  1. I don’t know enough to answer your questions, but could you add ease to your fitted camisa pattern and use that?

    1. Hm. Judging by what Beatrice says in her comment, no, but there is a solution apparently. And the best part is, I actually do have a ‘skimming’ GFD pattern based on having it draped and pinned on me when I was actually wearing the really fitted camisa. So! 🙂

  2. A floofy chemise will NOT look right under a GFD. You can wear either a sleeveless shift (essentially a tank-top topped GFC), a slightly more fitted GFD (so that the GFD can skim over your figure rather than hug close to it for support), or simply the GFD as your skin layer.

    An excellent floofy chemise pattern which is very period (based off an extant chemise from the Victoria & Albert museum) can be found on this page: http://realmofvenus.renaissanceitaly.net/library/camiciahowto.htm

    My suspicion is that the one offered in the photo you link is made with “raglan sleeves”, which is not a period cut (though they are comfortable and 10-foot acceptable–I’ve made a few myself over the years). If you would like a pattern for this style, let me know!

    1. Darn, I was afraid of that. Oh, well — I’m cool with the fitted camisa under a skimming GFD, or a sleeveless GFD with floofy sleeves if that was ever done (was that ever done, do you reckon?). Ooh, thanks for that floofy pattern! I’d love to see one with a raglan sleeve, with the understanding that it’d primarily be for a nightie and not for garb. Thank you!

          1. This is the same pattern, but with a few tips and tricks on how to sew it together more easily.

  3. Under my cotehardie (kirtle, GFD, whatever you want to call it) I wear a white linen rectangular construction tunic (pattern here: http://research.fibergeek.com/img/sylvie_chemis.html). The goal with the chemise is to keep my body oils away from the cotehardie fabric so that I can most often wash the chemise and not the dress. The fabric is very light weight white linen and there’s not a lot of bulk. I have never noticed any wrinkles or bunching. Images of me in a kirtle with the rectangular chemise underneath: http://research.fibergeek.com/category/garbclothing/14th-15th-century/waisted-kirtle/cobalt-waisted-kirtle/

    Under my German outfit I wear a foofy long-sleeved, knee-length hemd (pattern here: http://research.fibergeek.com/2010/10/18/hemd-ii/). Again, the goal here is to wash the hemd, not the dress. Images of me in a German dress with hemd underneath: http://research.fibergeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/oct_crown2011.jpg

    Emmie has assembled a pinterest board about the Lengberg (Austrian) bras.
    http://www.pinterest.com/glucklicheeme/sca-lengberg-bra-bra-making-research/ (board contains pictures of people in medieval underwear)
    I remember reading somewhere(?) that someone was using the Lengberg bra patten to make a knee-length chemise. Unfortunately I don’t remember who.. or have a link.

    The only benefit I see to having a fitted chemise is that you could have a less-fitted GFD and yet still have adequate support.

    Since I build my kirtles to BE the supportive layer I’ve never felt the need for a fitted/supportive chemise.


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