Alas and Alack, I Take It Back

Alas and Alack
A cotton chemise, unlike either the French or English styles below. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing… American, 1853.

Wouldn’t you know it? Maybe there’s a Murphy’s Law of blogging. Just after proclaiming in my last post that there were no noteworthy distinctions in French and English chemises, I came across the illustrations you see below.

The only difference mentioned in the accompanying text is that the English style is for “skinny persons.” There may be more clues in the cutting directions, but with no knowledge of French, I’ll have to let that pass. The book was published in 1847, and is surprisingly primitive, at least compared to the detailed and beautifully illustrated French magazines of the same period.

However, I still can’t determine that English-made shifts were of one particular pattern, and the French used another. It seems more likely that a lady cut her shift and its gores according to the size of her fabric – and herself! But in the interest of Truth in Blogging, I submit the following:

Chemise Francaise
Chemise Francaise. Of course it looks more complicated – they have a reputation to uphold.
Chemise Anglaise
Chemise Anglaise. No nonsense, for skinny persons.

6 thoughts on “Alas and Alack, I Take It Back

  1. These styles go back on two of the three different cuts described in de Garsault’s 1771 “L’art de la Lingerie”; compare with B and C on plate 2 in .

    He describes B as French, and A and C as English styles. B has a rectangular body and two triangular gores that are cut separately, with their center line on straight grain. A and C have gores cut in one with the body, with the cut-offs patched on to fill in the missing parts. IIRC, style C used less fabric through clever cutting and a narrower body, so he recommended it for skinny women.

    So, at least French women had the option of choosing between different styles, but the English probably did too. Some of the 16th/17th century shifts in Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion 4” are in the French cut, others in the English (style A), and there’s also a gathered (South European?) type that went out of fashion eventually.

    You have a very nice blog!


  2. I’m glad I could help! BTW, I’d love to know the title of the French 1847 sewing book (or a link, if it’s online), because de Garsault’s work is the only French sewing book I knew of, and it would be interesting to compare them. (Unfortunately I don’t know French, but a few years back I sat down with Google Translate to figure out what the book says about shifts.)



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