Friday, February 10, 2017

Regency Fichus (Actually Chemisettes)

Good afternoon, Miss Dashwoods, Bennets, Proudfeet: whoever may be reading.

After finishing the work on the first tail coat, my next object was to figure out how to make a fichu that would stay well for stage. What is a fichu? Kindly observe the next two pictures.

Do you notice the thin white material tucked into the neckline of each dress? That is a fichu. If any more experienced costumers are paying attention to this, correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I understand, a fichu is a triangular piece of fabric worn as above, whereas a chemisette is more similar to a dicky. See the next two pictures.

Sometimes they have a sort of shirt collar appearance, like Lydia's on the top left, or they may have a large ruff. 
Personally, I prefer the look of the fichu, but unfortunately, the few times I have worn one (that is, used a triangular lace shawl I had), it was extremely fussy. It tended to "ride up" and could only be adjusted in private. Obviously, not very practical for stage.

I found this image of a chemisette about a week ago, and decided to see if I couldn't cut something in that general shape, then mess around with the collar to get it to look more like a fichu.
This is what I did.

Jane, you'll notice, is wearing a fichu, but on the outside, as was also done.
About 2/3 of a yard of white cotton
Straight pins
Cloth measuring tape


Measure from your shoulder to just below the bust (I did about ten inches). Double this number, and add an inch. This is the length measurement.
Measure a shirt from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. Add three inches to that.  This is the width measurement.

Starting from a corner of the fabric, mark 21 inches in one way, then nineteen inches the other way (these are my measurements).

Cut out this rectangle.
On the short end of the rectangle, start at the midpoint and cut straight up as far as your original measurement (for me, ten inches.)

Now measure the circumference of your neck. Divide this by 2π.  From the top of your cut, make a circle by marking the measurement around it. (See the picture.)

Cut out this circle. If you want, stop at this point and hem the raw edges. To make your chemisette have more of a fichu look, proceed.

Cut out two rough triangles as seen above. I put it on a messed around with it a bit do be sure it was comfortable and looked right.


Random note, most of the good examples are from Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Pride and Prejudice (1995). These two movies are (to my knowledge, which I admit is not extensive) extremely accurate in costumes and hair, for both gentleman and ladies. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for their modern renditions (2005 and 2008, respectively). The inaccuracy of those two is somewhat shudder-worthy, actually. (WHY do the ladies wear their hair down???)

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  2. Hi there! I was researching fichus and came across your post. You are correct in that P and P '95 is mostly is sticky when you start using movies that are accurate for your interpretations. It is this sort of thinking that perpetuates falsehoods, because everyone kind of goes out on a limb based on whether they think a movie is accurate or not. I'm not saying they aren't accurate, but perhaps VERY overused. Chemisettes don't work well for movie aesthetics, but seem to be far more common especially for the overall date range of P and the '95 P and P, they would have been a little old-fashioned, considering they were commonplace during the 1700's. Contrast that to S and S, who were going for more of a late 1700's suits the style more. A fichu can also be cut in a square and folded, I believe, although it lays better without layers.


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