Man’s linen shirt, late 18th century

Although very little of the man’s shirt would show, it is a wonder of fine workmanship. Shirts were the man’s basic undergarment and would have protected the outergarments from the body’s oils. While the outer silk garments would not have been washed, the linen shirt would have undergone many washings, so it had to be sturdy. The shirt is reinforced in areas that would take the most wear. Across the shoulders and at the top of the side slit, additional pieces of linen have been appliqued to the reverse of the fabric.

Every edge of the fabric is expertly finished, particularly the tiny rolled hem along the bottom and the edge of the ruffle. To show just how beautiful the finish is the piece is displayed inside out. The gathering along ruffle and at the back of the neck is perfectly even. To achieve such exactitude, the gathering stitches must have been carefully counted to ensure the same number of threads was drawn into each pleat.

  1. Man’s linen shirt
    American or European, late 18th century
    Linen
    Courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, L2015.1.2

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2 thoughts on “Man’s linen shirt, late 18th century

  1. “The gathering along ruffle and at the back of the neck is perfectly even. To achieve such exactitude, the gathering stitches must have been carefully counted to ensure the same number of threads was drawn into each pleat.”
    This is a specific technique, called stroke-gathers. It was widely used in the 18th century to gather fullness, such as in the sleeves of shifts and shirts.
    http://www.sharonburnston.com/shifts_strokegathers.html

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  2. Finished clothing and textiles were the most stolen item in this time period. Indentured slaves, servants, would steal away in the night, wearing nothing but stolen garments they’d taken from their employer. “WANTED” posters would give more detail to the garment description than the person in these cases. I spend hours per day, every day, reading anecdotal histories of the times. Fascinating actually and garment history is one of my non-serious hobbies 🙂 I am surprised I had not found this page earlier – it is a treasure. Thank you for showing the inner section of the clothing and not just the outer showier parts! Also, which I may comment later, you do have a white cotton “dress” I sincerely state it is a night-dress. The same style, shape, etc can be seen worn by women as what we call pajamas today, in illustrations from that time period. Books that may show similar night-dresses might be in “The Girl’s Own Paper” or periodicals where short stories are published. Thank you for your page and pictures!

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