Outlander Claire Fraser Part 1: Chemise

I’ve been attending the Carolina Renaissance Festival for the last 10 years, ever since I moved into the area where I could easily attend without a long drive or overnight stay. Ever since my first attendance, I’ve always wanted to go in costume. But I’ve never had an appropriate costume. Sure I could wear any of my previous cosplays to Halloween weekend. But Ren Fest is in a field and they open rain or shine (except on extremely stormy weather); muddy fields and cosplays that aren’t washer friendly don’t really mix. Also, I didn’t want to restrict myself to Halloween weekend to wear costumes.

Then I fell – literally fell – into the Outlander fandom. The truth is I’ve always wanted to make historical costumes. Early period costumes have always been fascinating to me. I absolutely fell in love with the costumes Caitorina Balfe wears as Claire Fraser and wanted to make one. Which one would I start with though? In my early research I found out very quickly that finding appropriate tartan patterns was going to be expensive, so I opted for a “simpler” outfit I could easily find wool and linen in appropriate colors. I decided on her “hunt” outfit since I liked the colors and the knitted capelet. Also Claire rewears the bodice many times, and wears the same (or similar) woolen brown overskirt in other outfits.

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Even though Outlander is historical fantasy, I wanted a costume that was somewhat period accurate. That meant having all the pieces: chemise, bum roll, corset, petticoat, bodice, pockets, stomacher, and overskirt. So many layers, but I was willing to do it. Knowing that the fit of the bodice and overskirt was largely dependent on the underlayers, I decided it was best to work from the inside out. Thus, step 1: chemise.

Originally I made a chemise out of white muslim and Simplicity pattern 2777 with some modifications. When I was nearly done, I realized that this was going to be too much fabric underneath all the other layers. I could use this chemise for some other, less layer inducing project but not this one. Back to the drawing board.

I ended up remaking the chemise in a much lighter cotton gauze. Since this was going to be the layer underneath everything else, it was going to be subjected to the least amount of scrutiny. So instead of using a period appropriate pattern, I ended up modifying Simplicity 1317 instead, to both get a good fit and cut down on bulk. I added 3.5 inches to the front and back middle folds, increasing the overall width to roughly 47 inches. Since 1317 is a shirt, the hem was lengthen by an extra 17 inches.

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The seams are French seamed; this seemed the best way to go since sergers didn’t exist in the 1700s. I could have used my serger – no one will see the chemise – but I wanted to try to be as accurate as I could. The hems are all finished by hand using a whip stitch.

t purchased enough cotton gauze to make two chemises since this was the layer closest to my skin and was likely to get the “funkiest.” One chemise had an improvised V-slash neck added to the front and the other had eyelets. The V-slash one is not very neat; it puckers at the bottom V edge. But considering it will be hidden beneath everything else and is the spare chemise, I’m not overly concerned.

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Now that the chemise is done, next step: corset. Or bum roll. Probably the bum roll since it’s easiest and I already have a pattern and materials.