Historical Sew Fortnightly

HSM ’15 Challenge #1: Foundations

Regency dresses thedreamstress.com

I usually try to write Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly inspiration posts wells in advance of the challenge, but I’m running quite late this year, so am writing this post only a few days before the challenge is over.

Challenge #1 for the Historical Sew Monthly 2015 was Foundations.  I deliberately left the challenge quite vague: “make something that is the foundation of an outfit (however you interpret that)”

So what is a foundation?  According to dictionary.com:

[foun-dey-shuh n]

the basis or groundwork of anything:

Lots of scope there!

Interestingly, being able to write this post most of the way through the challenge, with a whole folder full of entries on FB, it turns out that most people have chosen a much more specific  meaning:

foundation garment

an undergarment, as a girdle or corset, worn by women to support or give shape to the contours of the body.

Only you’ve extended that meaning to include any undergarment.  Fascinating.  One HSM-er mentioned that she thought foundations were anything that created structure – rather like the  Shape and Support challenge from last year

Of course, undergarments are often also the foundation of a historical garment in the sense cited above: the basis of the outfit.  Get your undergarments right, and it’s much easier to get the outside right.  Get your undergarments wrong, and it’s almost impossible to get your outers  right.

You could extend that concept, and the idea of foundations, even further.  I like to say that correct fabric choice is the foundation of successful sewing.  Get it wrong, and you just can’t get the garment right.

There are many other ways you could interpret foundations.  By making an item that was the basis for a whole wardrobe, depending on what you paired it with.  Or by making shoes, which are a nice twist on the idea of building foundations.  Or socks – there is an old saying about being able to do anything as long as you have a good pair of socks.  Or a skirt from an era when you had a different evening and day bodice – the skirt becomes the foundation piece for a whole wardrobe.  All these ways to think about foundations!  All interesting and valid

Tomorrow, I’m going to show you how I interpreted it – which is yet another way.

For now, here is a hint:

Regency dresses thedreamstress.com


  1. Your teaser of a photo is lovely!
    I, like many of the others, chose to do an undergarment for this challenge – though less of a ‘sturdy foundation’ and more of ‘closest to the skin’. https://dawnsdressdiary.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/ufo-turned-italian-chemise-stop-gap/ – a camicia for the rest of my 1480s Florence costume. Unfortunately the fabric I really wanted to make this out of didn’t arrive in time, so I ended up taking apart an unfinished project (UFO) and re-making it into a suitable, albeit probably temporary, solution.

  2. Lynette says

    Thank you for post in the hint! I think I am on the correct track now!

  3. I’m still working on my regency stays, they are the foundation for my wardrobe for this period as I’m starting from the beginning and have nothing already made. I know the dress needs this to fit properly and although I’ll also need other undergarments I can make do for a wee bit.

  4. I interpreted the challenge as a foundation garment, one that goes under an outer garment, but I’m broadening my horizons with 1920s lingerie. I’m finishing an envelope chemise and may even get a step-in chemise finished by the challenge deadline, too. So, not a silhouette-molding type of foundation. Right now, they both look like very luxurious pillow shams because of the rectangular pattern shapes. Oh well.

  5. You know Leimomi, one of my very favourite things about the themes you choose is that they are so open to interpretation and they can be done in so many different ways. They work for every concievable time period too.

    I look forward to seeing your foundational entry!

  6. This is my first ever Historical Sew challenge too! I finished in January (Jan 19th) but haven’t figured out where to post this link until now!

    A great accessory can be the inspiration or foundation that an entire outfit is based upon, so I planned a set of great accessories for January’s challenge (Napoleonic bees) , but ended up derailed a bit in to an Unplanned foundation accessory, sewing the foundation (a muff) of a planned Regency black silk mourning outfit:

  7. I took the safe route for this challenge and just made a new bustle. It’s interesting though how many different types of “foundations” there are when you start thinking about it. I wanted to make a chemise first, but then wasn’t sure if it would fit the challenge – apparently it would have, seeing how many people made chemises 🙂 that’s happening quite a lot to me, that I have an idea for a challenge and then don’t follow it because I’m worried it wouldn’t fit. I guess I should try to be more confident, as long as I can explain why I interpreted the challenge like this it should be fine, right? 🙂

    • Yep, as long as you can explain it! Though it had better be SOME explanation if you submit a red dress for the blue challenge 😉

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