Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Does anyone know the answer to this?

Perhaps all you bright people can answer something for me? Were smocks or chemises ever made out of silk? I see them made fairly often by various re-enactors and they do look lovely. And I have, from time to time, came across a mention if it in costume books- that they were made either by linen or by silk. I have never, however, seen a source for this statement. Have you? Are there any sources that say this? The only one I’ve seen says linen, the richer the person, the finer the fabric.

So, is this just something re-enactors do because it looks nice, or because they have a hard time finding very fine linen? Or is there any source out there that lists silk for underwear? And if you have, for what time-period?

5 comments:

Lauren said...

I have no idea. My guess would be that silk would have been impractical for a chemise. When the main goal of the chemise is to wick moisture away from the skin and protect your stays and gowns. Just a thought.

Pauline said...

All my research (largely focused on the early 19th century) indicates the use of cotton, linen, cambric for chemises. In very cold climates, flannel for winter chemises and petticoats. The only deviation I can find is during the Directoire and Consulate in France when chemise gowns were made of silk and nothing was worn beneath them. That was really only in France and only for the period between 1795 and approximately 1802. Stockings are consistently made of silk throughout the century.

My sources on this are "The Mode in Costume" by R. Turner Wilcox and "English Women's Costume in the 19th Century" by C. Willet Cunnington (which actually addresses French and American fashion to some degree).

American Duchess said...

I am not claiming to know, but common sense and a little research tells me that linen is probably the more likely for all classes, since the base layer, the shirts and chemises and smocks, were what got soiled, rather than the gowns, and what were washed regularly. Silk couldn't be washed of course, so if there were silk chemises and undergarments, maybe they were for the very very very rich? Also, could silk shirts have been work over linen smocks and bodies, which would have protected the shirt as well as all other layers on top of it? Paintings/portraits suggest silk for shirts, but very very fine linen, depending on the weave, could also have a sheen to it...right?

Abby said...

I remember reading somewhere that silk was not used for shifts/chemises etc due to the impracticality of the fabric. Linen was the fabric of choice due to it's great ability to be bleached and washed often and maintain it's strength, and it's abilities to help keep the wearer comfortable in different climates. It's just a shame that it's difficult to find the quality linen that would have been used for really fine underclothes today....I remember at the Royal Armouries in Stockholm they had some of the old bloody shirts from one of the kings (the one who died in battle and has the stuffed horse) and all of his shirts were beautiful beautiful linen, even if they were blood stained. :)

I think the silk undergarments thing is something that was conceptualized during the 20th and 21st century because it's hard to think that someone so wealthy as a king would wear linen as opposed to silk, even though silk would have not been the best fabric. It's an idealization of generations past. :)

Isis' Wardrobe said...

I agree with you- silk isn't exactly practical, even if it's pretty. I wish it was easier to find good quality fine linnen.

Gustaf II Adolf, Abby. :-) I visited just the other day and Janne and I exclaimed over just those shirts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...