A mid-class smock, suitable for an English woman in the mid 16th century.
I made this one as a skills exchange with my friend Honore, who knitted an Elizabethan hat for my husband (I don’t knit). It is almost entirely made using my sewing machine – including the decoration.
Honore requested a smock with a simple square neckline, cuffs with simple ruffles and machine-fagotted seams – the same approach I had used to make some Elizabethan shirts.
The cut was based on two smocks smocks detailed in Patterns of Fashion 3 (Arnold 2008): the c.1560-80 smock from Manchester City Galleries, and the c.1575-85 smock from Coughton Court. (I can’t find Creative Commons versions of these images, but the links will show the examples).
I cut the pieces from lightweight linen and machined a fine hem on all pieces to be joined, using a narrow roll-foot and off-white thread (shows less against the linen).
The neck on the Manchester example was a simple rectangular opening with rounded corers. It had no facing – the edge was fine-hemmed and embroidered (Arnold notes that there may have been some metallic lace, now removed). The corners are an obvious weak spot, and the extant example shows a small linen patch in one corner.
I ran a few samples to confirm that a machine-embroidered edge would be strong enough.
I turned and based a fine hem around the neck, before embroidering the the edge in black Gutermann silk thread. Once the neck was finished, I connected the pieces together with the black silk, using a fagotting machine stitch (open insertion stitch) to mimic 16th century examples. It worked really well!
I hemmed the cuff ruffles using the roll-foot and another machine stitch to mimic 2-sided blanket stitch – hem and decorate in one process! I made up the cuffs, including a heavier layer of linen as stiffening.
I finished the sleeves by adding the ruffled cuffs, pick-stitching (by hand) near the seams to keep all the layers in place. I found a couple of small mother-of-pearl buttons in my stash, and worked a buttonhole loop in waxed linen thread to close them.
Although I love embroidery and hand sewing, the machine-construction approach is certainly a very efficient way to produce a good-looking, hard-wearing garment. Especially if time is short…
The simple neckline will be strong enough, but I think a bound neckline would look more substantial – perhaps a better approach if I make another like this.