The shifts that are the foundation of this outfit are based on a sort-of extant piece from 14th-century Germany. (Sort-of extant in the sense that it was found, photographed, and described before disappearing during the Second World War.) Based on the proportions, it falls to just above the knee. This was what I came up with:
|Yardstick for scale|
What I had forgotten to take account is that my torso is disproportionately short, so the shoulder straps were too long. The bust support of this garment comes from a belt worn just under the breasts, effectively creating a detached bra band. (Evidence for use of a belt as bust support based on depictions in art of the period, for example this, a section of a fresco from Padua.) In order to corral my assets, I've had to shorten the straps.
(There will be no photos of me in my underwear, I'm afraid. There are limits to what I'm willing to post on the internet!)
Dimensions of pieces (after hemming):
Body panel - top of shoulder to top of kneecap, half of bust
Gores - triangle height from waist to top of kneecap, width two inches narrower than the body panel (This is an arbitrary measurement based on how much linen I had on hand. Feel free to make wider gores if that's what you fancy.)
The sides are seamed above the gores to the red line. Distance from top of shoulder seam to red line on mine is 9 inches, but you'll to fudge it a bit to figure out what fits your bust. It should be roughly at the line of your bra band.
The neckline is a simple scoop as in the original piece, and is identical front and back. It should be lower and wider than the neckline of whatever you're going to wear over it so that the white linen doesn't show.
To make up:
- Adding a hem allowance, cut two rectangles for the body panels.
- Adding a hem allowance, cut two gore rectangles as in the diagram above.
- Make gores:
- Cut gore rectangles and rotate into two isosceles triangles as in the diagram above.
- Use running stitch to seam up the centre of the gores.
- Press the gore seams open and fell them.
- Hem all the way around the gores.
- Put the gores somewhere that you won't lose them. Very Important!
- Make body panels:
- Hem one short edge of each of the body panels.
- Stack the body panels together so the hems are facing each other.
- Cut out the necklines on both panels at the same time.
- Hem the curved edge of both necklines. Make sure you are hemming to the same side as the hems at the bottoms of the panels!
- Hem the tops of the shoulder straps.
- Sew the shoulder straps together.
- Pin up and hem along both long sides. (If you do this after the shoulder straps are sewn together, you'll be able to correct it if the straps aren't quite the same width. You can probably guess how I know that.)
- Assemble the shift:
- Starting from the bottom edge of the body panel, whipstitch one long side of the first gore to the body panel.
- Starting from the top of the side seam (i.e. the red line in the diagram), pin along the side seam and then down along the second long side of the gore. You'll probably need to ease it in a bit, so pin slowly and be prepared to adjust if your fabric is bunching.
- Repeat with the second gore.
- Reinforce the tops of the side seams (optional):
- Cut a small rectangle of scrap linen.
- Fold the edges under.
- Lay the patch over the hemmed inside of the top of the side seam so the raw edges are against the hem and the top of the patch is level with the top of the seam. (See diagram below)
- Whipstitch all the way around the patch to secure it.
- Repeat on the other side seam.