A 1892 chemise
My projects,  Sewing

Finnish underwear at the turn of the 20th century – part 2: chemise or “paita”

Once again, I was using C. H. Lydecken’s book called Tyttöjen käsitöiden johtamisen ohjeita kansakouluja varten (“Instructions on leading girls’ handicrafts at elementary schools”) from the year 1892. It has this pattern for a chemise or “paita”, which is a garment worn under the corset against the skin.

Drafting the pattern for the chemise

There was an option to make the chemise with or without the yoke and I chose the yoke version as I have already made a chemise without a yoke. As the summer is coming, I decided to leave the chemise sleeveless. This is nothing unusual as many chemises came sleeveless during that time period.

C. H. Lydecken’s book called Tyttöjen käsitöiden johtamisen ohjeita kansakouluja varten: paita.

The miniature pattern was actually my size but I still went through the instructions to understand how the pattern was drafted:

C. H. Lydecken’s book called Tyttöjen käsitöiden johtamisen ohjeita kansakouluja varten: paita, ohjeet 1. aukeama.
C. H. Lydecken’s book called Tyttöjen käsitöiden johtamisen ohjeita kansakouluja varten: paita, 2. aukeama.

The book also instructs to cut the chemise so that the left-over triangular side pieces from the upper part of the chemise could be used to make the sides of the hem. I considered doing this but the width of my fabric was so that I really couldn’t use the fabric sparingly as I couldn’t cut the front and back pieces side by side. So, I ended up cutting the front and back as whole pieces. I know that I will still find plenty of use for the left-over cotton!

It is also suggested that you should cut the front piece in two parts if you are using a yoke and make a placket that reaches below the yoke. However, I tested the fit and I could easily slide into the chemise even when the bottom part was cut as one piece. I thus saved myself the trouble and just made a small opening to the yoke.

Sewing it!

Again I did all the machine sewing with my 1877 Singer 12 (K) hand-crank machine. I lined the yoke with the same white cotton fabric. After doing this, I realised that the yoke was a bit too wide at the shoulders. To fix this, I took in from the shoulders for about 1 cm or so.

I made French seams to join the back and front hem parts and then gathered the hem with a long stitch length. I then sandwiched the hem between the yoke and the lining and sewed the hem to the yoke. To make a neat finish, I then slip stitched the lining on top of the yoke seam.

To add a bit extra prettiness, I attached a gathered scallop trim to the hem. I then covered the seam with a strip of bias tape that I made out of the same fabric. I also gathered and hand-sewed a strip of cotton lace just above the gathers at the bust.

To finish, I made two buttonholes by hand and attached the two buttons.

The finished chemise

Here is the finished chemise. It is simple but as it gets covered with several layers of clothing, it doesn’t need to be fancy. The shoulders are still a bit wide and if I’ll use the pattern again, I will take it in more.

The finished chemise, front view.

Here is the chemise from the back:

The chemise from the baci.

And from the side:

A side view of the chemise.

It has a lot of volume! I think that this pattern would also make a nice little summer nightie!

This was a nice little project and suited perfectly for my antique sewing machine. The last part of the underwear series shows the petticoat that I made with a 1902 Finnish pattern.

Thank you for reading and see you soon! Happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • PamelaR

    Love your chemise.
    It is possible that in 1907, the shoulders would be wider than we are used to now.
    I have a reference book that describes the chemise “they are mostly worn low and sleeveless” This is quoted from The Lady’s Realm, 1903.

    • kk

      It might be, although I must correct you in that this pattern is from 1892. But I noticed that the centre front bunches up when I add a corset and it just looks wrong to me. Perhaps the sleeves would have affected the fit and kept the neckline from bunching up?

      • Alyssa

        The shoulder’s may be wide to accommodate being worn with an evening gown with a more open neckline. The chemise could be pushed away from the neck and pinned to the dress to be hidden from view. Or, it is just that it is a generic pattern and doesn’t quite match your body proportions. 🙂

      • kk

        Yeah. I do have narrow shoulders. And maybe I measured myself wrong. Luckily it doesn’t matter too much. I will just make the next one smaller.

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