Monday, 28 November 2011

Clothes for M'sieur

This is a French farmer's chemise or shirt, dating from around the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, or possibly even up to the '30s - the shirt is a little deceiving as it is in such fine condition. It is made from coarse hemp and is so stiff, you could almost stand it up by itself.

A rare find in this lovely condition - and very popular now for historic re-enactment groups, or as a nightshirt for both men and women - even a great tunic over leggings!

You can see lots more photos in my Ebay listing here.

The collar has been added later of course: it's made of cotton and was probably added by a loving - or long-suffering - wife, fed up with the farmer complaining about how scratchy the shirt was. In fact, I'm told that some wealthy farmers would get their labourers to wear their new shirts in for them, to soften them up a little!

And of course, the farmer's wife would have added her husband's initials, as indeed she would have embroidered a monogramme on all of the family linen and clothing - including her bloomers!

I just love the yoke on this shirt - the gathers were designed to allow for movement and comfort of shape. Also, the shoulders were often reinforced for strength.

And here is the cuff - lovely little white glass buttons, and the gathers which match the shoulder detail. The buttons match the front fastening too, and there is a placket down the front for 'gentlemen's ease' - don't like to think about what this means but definitely for ease of movement at least, and possibly a big belly...

Now, this of course is a much more modern farmer's shirt - made of wool, greatly reduced in quantity of fabric used, much more comfortable I guess. I haven't listed this for sale yet.

And, it's got a rather nice Parisian label, so I would think it's not for a real farmer - just to give the look for a weekend in the country, huntin', shooting and fishing...

Here is another shirt, also made from hemp, but it has been washed so many times, it has lost the original honey/ecru colour and is now white. the more you wash these items, the more they lose the colour and soften up - one way of establishing the age. The fabric is soft and 'floppy' - it could be linen but I think hemp as the fibre is coarser. I haven't listed this shirt either yet.

It was probably a nightshirt due to the fact that each side has a sewn in flap or pleat for ease of walking (and getting into bed) and the neckline is cut lower.

Also, there are no buttons or button holes to put a collar on, so yes, I think it is a nightshirt - probably for summer as I have seen what was worn in winter and believe me, the nightshirts are very heavy. This has a red monogramme too - now bleached to a fetching shade of pink!

The first shirt is already listed on my Ebay site here, the other two not yet, so contact me if you would like more information.

Have a good week everyone!


  1. Hi Carol,
    I love the shirts. I often wear men's shirts as nighties but I think the first one does look a bit scratchy. I will have a ponder about the true nightshirt, it is rather gorgeous! Jane x

  2. Yes - I can understand why a soft cotton collar was added to the first shirt!



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