I recently started a new project, an 1860s civilian pleated-front shirt, both for myself and for teaching those members on Historical Tailoring Masterclasses. And as always, things started off with drafting a pattern and making a muslin toile for fitting purposes.
Here’s the shirt front pattern, where I’ve determined the number of pleats and their width, and showing also the neck, shoulder, and armscye. 1/2″ seam allowances were added all around.
The pattern is cut along the pleated front lines to make certain areas of layout easier and more accurate.
The first area to work on was the pleated front. The lines are carefully laid out and folded and pressed into the center front placket and the various pleats. The pleats can vary in width from 1″ to 1/4″ or even less, depending on the desired look and your amount of patience.
The pleats are all pinned securely closed, and then the two pleated halves are attached down the middle, being sure that the left overlaps the right if you want the shirt to button correctly!
The pleated front is then attached to the shirt front, gathering the bottom edge as necessary. I simply pinned and closed it all off with a machine stitch here for the toile, but the process is a bit more involved for the actual shirt. For those who have been following my work for a while, you probably know that I hate using pins, opting for basting stitches instead, but for working with this lightweight cotton, I do make a very rare exception.
The back is next gathered into the yoke, giving room for the shoulder blades. Probably could have been a little neater with my pleats but meh, it’s just a toile.
Next, the collar is sewn and turned, pressing carefully. The cuffs are made in a similar manner.
I used a seam turner to help get the crisp corners.
The collar is sewn to the shirt front, right sides together, and the inner collar pinned and turned under at the neck line, where it is then top stitched.
The cuffs are then attached to the sleeves pretty much exactly like the collar to the shirt. I then sewed the sleeves to the shirt. My sleeves will need a bit ease added in the sleevehead, as I took too much off when drafting. Should have measured!
And here’s the completed shirt toile. The shirt fits almost perfectly, it is very roomy and comfortable. The only alteration I need to make is to the sleeves, shortening them another couple of inches and then adding that ease to the sleeve head.
If you’re enjoying this shirt project and would like to try making your own, I go into much more depth in our latest project at Historical Tailoring Masterclasses. You can learn how to draft and fit your shirt, and follow along step-by-step with detailed written instructions and videos as you construct your own.