Smocks are a utilitarian garment worn by women for many centuries. During the 16th and 17th century they functioned as chemise, night dress, and blouse. They were often made from linen both for its sweat wicking and hard wearing properties. They were long to help protect your clothing from your body, but also worked as shirts under your stays or dress.
At some point in the planning process I decided to sew all of this smock by hand. Will I regret this? Probably. The sewing machine won’t be available for another 200 to 250 years. I haven’t decided if I am going to hand sew all of the cosplay. I’m especially side-eying the stays and those rows and rows of boning channels. Those might get the machine treatment.
In ‘The Tudor Tailor’ the smock pattern has a closely fitted neck and chest area, which is lovely and one day I’ll make one like that. For this smock I had visions of one with a gathered neck and collar like the one I found in Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns (which can be found here: Smock – Victoria and Albert Museum website ) This was more the style I was after but far too fancy for our witch.
Note: I love that Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns include the bobbin lace prickings to replicate this smock completely, and one day I shall!
Drafting the Smock
Now to get started with the actual smock. The original pattern is 90 cm wide, which was the width of the fabric they had. We don’t know how big the original person was but I decided that I wanted mine a bit bigger. So I made each of my panels 120 cm wide. This math was based on the men’s shirt in ‘The Tudor Tailor’, where the shirt was 90 cm wide for a 96 cm chest. I have a 125 cm chest so I went with 120 cm. The rest of the smock will be drafted from this base measurement conversion, or to fit the body depending on the need.
Making the Smock
Now we start thread pulling. I hate thread pulling but it’s very very important. We thread pull to give us nice straight cutting lines which is very important when working with a pattern that is all rectangles. I needed a few breaks because I get all antsy and wiggly having to slowly do this. But once it’s done I have my front and back pieces.
Now when it comes to the shoulder seams, the original has 15cm seams but my shoulder length is 20 cm. I know it’s going to be a slightly dropped sleeve, but I don’t want it going too low or you won’t have much movement.
I went with 22 cm which gives 2 cm for the neck and sleeve seam allowance and 20 cm for my shoulder seam. For the shoulder seam itself I decided to use running back stitch. This is where you do about a needle’s worth of running stitches then a back stitch, and repeat.
Note: I use milliner needles which are very long, so I replace “needle’s worth” with 2 cm and this works well.
After both seams were sewn I folded over the seam allowance and felled this down. This closed off all the raw edges nicely and tidily, and helped add some strength to the seam. You can see the finished result above from the inside.
Now we needed a neck slit down the centre front. This allows me to pull the smock over my head once the neckband is sewn in place. The original had a 20 cm neck slit and that seemed sufficient so I stuck with that.
I used the ever so scientific method of folding the smock in half so that the outer edges were touching and clipped the very middle point which was now on the fold. I took extra care to only clip the front piece. After that I used a set square and squared down from that clip 20 cm with a grey chalk pencil marking the end point. Now I just needed to cut down this line.
For this edge I used a rolled hem which gets very fine toward the end of our slit. I like to work down to the end point, tie off, then start again at the top of the other side and work down again. This leaves a nice tidy hem that doesn’t distort the fabric.
Now, that bottom point is a major weak point; if it is too swiftly tugged off or snagged on something it could cause a split straight down the front of my smock. To avoid this, about 1 cm above the end point we add a bar tack. I like this to be really sturdy so I work three chain stitch bars back and forth then buttonhole or blanket stitch over them, creating a nice neat bar tack.
That’s where I’ll finish for today. Next instalment will be tackling the neck band, the neck band ruffle and getting the neck band fit into the massive neck hole.
Thank you for taking the time to read about this cosplay, and my fun researching a whole new time period.
Have you explored a new area or concept in your own style? I’d love to hear all about it, and maybe I can even help you bring this concept into production. Tell me in the comments below.