Sunday, June 15, 2014

A 1920s Envelope Chemise--A Tutorial!

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As I was working on my gala dress, a robe de style with a fitted bodice (I'll link once it's done!), I realized I hadn't really given underthings much thought. Bad me! While it's constructed to not really need underthings, I still wanted something underneath it, of course! To get an idea of what to do, I tried my new cotton teddy on underneath it. It was almost right, just a little high around the neckline, so something similar would work. I thought about doing the same, just in silk, but couldn't find any evidence of the slashed and gathered dart before 1924. My search was admittedly quick--I read through some National Cloak and Suit catalogs I have from 1921-1922 and 1924, and the 1924 had several slashed and gathered, the 1921 and 22 had none. Since my dress is dated 1922, I decided against them.

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I based my envelope chemise on my cotton teddy pattern and the 1920s yoked envelope chemise in Women's Wear of the 1920s. I used my pattern for sizing. I made the yoke the width of the top, and then used the angle of the bottom half for the skirt. I made it about an inch longer. It's made of plain silver blue silk from Pure Silks and vintage lace (marked 1972, which I don't really like to call vintage!) that I bought on eBay ages ago. I browsed chemises/teddys/step-ins/etc. on Etsy for ideas about how it should look.

Envelope Chemise 1

The yoke is just two straight strips of fabric. I wanted tucks on the front, so I cut that strip extra long, sewed the tucks in, and then cut it to size.

Envelope Chemise 2

Then I sewed the sides with flat felled seams.

Envelope Chemise 3

The method for sewing the lace on is based on an original late 1920s bandeau that I own. The lace on that is sewn onto the raw edge of chiffon with a zig zag stitch. You could get a zig zag attachment for sewing machines in the 1920s. It works a little differently than a modern zig zag--the fabric, not the needle moves--but the effect is the same. I pinned the lace to the top and zig zagged. I like the effect of this--it added no bulk and kept it light and airy.

Envelope Chemise 4

Sewing the lace on. I initially folded the edge under and sewed it, but wasn't completely happy with it. I'm not the best machine sewer, and the fold unfolded in some places. And since I accidentally cut it a little big, I ended up redoing it.

When I sewed the lace on the hem, I skipped pinning it and actually found it a little easier!

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The completed yoke with the skirt. The skirt is just sewn with flat felled seams. I cut the skirt after sewing the yoke. That way I was able to cut it to just the right size.

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A closer view of the same. You can see that the top of the skirt matches the bottom of the yoke.

Envelope Chemise 7

I pinned the yoke to the skirt. It's attached the same way, with a zig zag stitch on the raw edge.

Envelope Chemise 8

Since I wanted to put lace on the front of the skirt, I only partially sewed the skirt to the yoke. This way I could be sure I got the lace in the right spot!

Envelope Chemise 9

I pinned the lace from the hem to the top of the skirt.

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The pinned lace. It's lined up between each set of tucks on the yoke.

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I zig zagged the lace to the skirt. I sewed a little further in than the others--when I started, the needle hit one of the spirals on the lace the wrong way and pierced the fabric, creating a little hole and pushed the spiral through to the other side. I felt a little better sewing a little farther in after that!

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The lace from the wrong side. You can see the impression of the lace from ironing--I sprayed it and pressed it, which didn't seem to get along too well with the lace :)

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Now, the scary part--cut the fabric from behind the lace! When I've done this before, I've cut the fabric down the middle and hemmed, but the zig zagging finishes the edge.

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And the fabric cut!

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I then pinned the rest of the skirt to the yoke and sewed it shut.

Envelope Chemise 16

I then took a small rectangle of fabric, pressed the edges under, and pinned it to the center front of the bodice to make a facing for the buttonholes. After sewing this, I trimmed the bottom with lace.

Envelope Chemise 17

I sewed that down, and hemmed a rectangle of fabric to make the crotch flap. The finished size of this flap was about 3 inches by 3 inches.

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I sewed the flap down by hand with a whipstitch, and sewed buttons and buttonholes on. The large seam allowance on the flap is because I cut it extra long to see what size fit best, and then didn't feel like trimming it.

And that's it!


  1. Oh my but that is super cute! I may have to do something like this for myself. Hmmmm....I love how the tucks on the top look. It is so very wonderful! Thank you for the tutorial!

  2. It’s a good sharing! There are many different styles tempting chemise on sale in the store online