November 30, 2013

Clothing Eli

Wow.  It’s been over a year.  Life got ahead of me, and this project was put on hold while my wife and I added a third daughter to our family.  Now that daughter is toddling around on her own two feet, I’m starting to find time to work on hobbies again.

Another project that I’ve been working on is an Italian Bauta costume.  I need a shirt for that outfit.  Conveniently, I can use the same style shirt for Eli Davis, Bookbinder.  I started to construct the shirt the other night using a sewing machine.  Yesterday I re-read this blog and was reminded of my goal to attempt using period techniques whenever possible.  Fortunately I had only sewn one seam by machine.  I’ve decided to make the rest of the shirt by hand.
In addition to using period techniques, another of my goals is to document this persona and his possessions as fully as possible, targeting the year 1776 in New England.
Documenting a shirt from the time period has been fairly easy, thanks to the previous works of numerous scholars and reenactors.  The instructions I’m following are from the website La Couturière Parisienne which shows a typical men’s shirt from the era.  The two books referenced by that page, L'art du tailleur (The Art of The Tailor) and  L'art de la linger (The Art of The Laundress) can both be found on the French National Library’sGallica website.
Another great page describing and documenting men’s shirts is this post from Two Nerdy History Girls.  They show detail that I was not able to see in places such as the links from the 18thCentury Men’s Shirts page at the 18th Century Notebook site.  Searching Pinterest for “18th century shirt” also turned up numerous photos from museum collections, all documented to the time period.
Finally, reaching out to the 18th Century Life Yahoo group led to some great tips on sewing, another pattern, some instructions on sewing buttons like those pictured on the Two Nerdy History Girls site, and a video on how to construct button holes.
One interesting thing that I did find, or rather didn’t find, while researching shirts was that, in the estate inventory of a bookbinder who died in 1799, no clothing was listed.  The inventory was taken a year or so after his death.  I wonder if the clothing had been given to others, or perhaps even sent to be made into paper for books?
In addition to researching, I’ve been slowing working on the shirt.  I’m finding that I actually enjoy hand-sewing, even if my stitching isn’t straight.  I like that I can sit on the couch in front of the TV or computer, while the kids run crazily around the room, and still make some progress.  There’s no need to drag out a machine, set it up, shoo the kids away from it, and so on.  All I need to do to work is to pick up the fabric, needle and thread.  Easy as easy can be.
I'll follow up with photos when the shirt reaches completion.

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