my latest hand sewing project was a shirt dress made the way men’s shirts were made around the 1800s. i wanted to use the same construction with a modern fabric to make an everyday wearable garment.
the original plan was to make this shirt dress from linen, but as i didn’t have a fitting weight of vintage linen at home, instead of buying new fabric, i searched for something else instead. i found a set of vintage cotton bed linens, most likely weaved in austria, that looked like it could work and i could imagine myself wearing it.
what intrigued me about the shirt construction is that these shirts are made entirely out of square pieces of fabric. this means that there are no or almost no off-cuts, so no fabric waste is left. nowadays we would call this zero waste, but not so long ago, fabric was so valuable and expensive, people would natrually construct their clothes in a way to not waste any of the fabric. this was no fashion trend or anything, it was just sensible.
the way these shirts were made also meant they would adapt their fit quite easily for differently shaped bodies. they were not exactly one size, but a body was definitely allowed to change its shape and the garment would still fit.
and they were incredibly sturdy, so a shirt could take a lot of wear and still be intact or mendable. the parts that take the most strain are strengthened in various ways.
all in all, a very clever and sensible approach to making clothing, even though today’s fashion industry wants us to believe differently.
i shared most of the steps of how to make a shirt like this over at instagram in a highlight: -> regency shirt
oh, and a bee came to visit when we were taking photos:
it’s a really comfortable piece to wear, either with jeans or leggins/tights, or once it’s warmer simply as dress. i might make another one at some point, now that i have an idea about the general construction. also, if anyone has questions and wants to make their own, i’m always happy to answer questions and support to the best of my abilities.
the whole piece is entirely hand stitched.
all photos by @orcoyoyo