November 30, 2013

Shirt - A Basic Definition

I thought it might be fun to document a shirt using a dictionary from the time-period. This morning I pulled up the Google Books copy of A New General English Dictionary[1] from 1771.

First, the basics:
SHIRT (S.) a garment commonly worn by men next
[to] their skin, and generally made of linen.
Seems straight-forward enough. Just to dig a bit, I also looked up "garment" and "linen".

GA'RMENT (S.) any sort of cloathing or covering of
the body.
LI'NEN (S.) sometimes means cloth in whole pieces made
of flax or hemp, and sometimes shirts, shifts, sheets, table-
cloths, etc. made of such cloth.
And finally cloth:
CLOTH (S.) the matter or substance whereof garments are
made, which is sometimes composed of woollen, line, silk, etc.
Fair enough. In 1771, a shirt was a covering of the body, worn by men next to their skin, made of flax or hemp matter. So far so good. The shirt that I'm making was cut from linen cloth, will cover my body, and be worn next to my skin.

So what about the parts of the shirt?  The pattern I'm following has sleeves, gussets, a body, buttons, etc.

[SLEE]VE (S.) that part of a garment that [cont]ains the arm.

GU'SSET (S.) a piece of cloth much broader at one end than
the other, that is sown into other pieces to widen it, as women
do their shifts, seaman their sails, etc. ...

CO'LLAR (S.) ... also the narrow cape of a coat, the upper
part or band of a shirt, made fit to go about a person's neck;...
WRI'ST-BAND (S.) the broad fillet at the bottom of a shirt
sleeve, etc. wherein all the plaits are sewn or inserted, etc.
and which buttons round the wrist, etc.
Button didn't appear on its own as an entry, however I did find a description of what we would call cuff-links:

STUD (S.) ... sometimes 1 small button with two flat heads and
a neck between, used to button the wristbands or collars, etc.
of mens shirts; ...

The closest description of the torso of a shirt was found under "Body", which also contains an awesome definition of the physical body of a person:

BO'DY (S.) ... In Geometry, it is any thing
that has the dimensions of length, breadth,
and thickness, and particularly the tetrahedron,
consisting of four triangles...
With all the pieces and parts documented, I looked at the process:

SEW (V.) to stitch or join cloth, etc. together with a needle,
an awl, etc. ...
STITCH (S.) a single operation of the needle, awl, etc. ...
STITCH (V.) to sew or fasten things together with a needle
awl, etc.
THREAD (S.) small twine of flax, wool, or silk, spun or twisted
together, for the use of sewing things together.
THREA'D or THRE'DDLE (V.) to put thread, silk, worsted, etc.
into a needle.
Last, I took a look at the definitions of the tools needed:

NEE'DLE (S.) a small instrument used in sewing; and according
to the application, it is different denominated; as, a stitchig-needle,
a flocking-needle, a packing-needle, etc. ...
SCI'SSORS or SI'ZZARS (S.) an instrument used for
many purposes, but especially to cut cloth, etc. made
of steel or hardened iron consisting of two sides or
cheeks made very sharp, and fastened with a rivet to
move upon.

 While I'm using the modern versions of these tools, they haven't changed much over the years, with the exception of how they were produced.  At a later date, I may make a more detail post about needles, in particular.

[1] Dyche, Thomas, and William Pardon, ed. A New General English Dictionary Peculiarly Calculated for the Use and Improvement of Such as are Unaquainted With the Learned Languages. London: 1771. (accessed November 30, 2013).

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