Icelandic costume - 19th century Peasant Shirt
There seems to be a consensus among those who know how to make the dress that there is only one right way to make it today (although admittedly some choices are allowed) even if there were numerous variations in the olden days. Since I am much taller than women used to be, there is no way for me to buy an older dress, I have to make it new. But I do not agree completely with the proportions of the dress as it is made today. Being almost a foot taller than my forbearers, I do not think that enough attention has been paid to proportion as women have gotten taller. There are things that are always made the same length in centimeters, no matter who it is being made for. Additionally so many things have changed in the course of the years and the practicality of modern life must in some way influence the way we make traditional national dresses.
For example, I think the waist is too high. In the olden days women would sometimes have the waist very high in order to have room for a pregnant belly under the skirt. After all they were pregnant most of the time for years and years. This is not an issue today. I also think that the very bulky skirt should be slightly altered in the way it is sewn, to make is less bulky without radically changing the way it looks. I would just look a bit slimmer. And I think the corset would be improved if it was slightly lower, longer and fabric that goes under the skirt should also be longer in my opinion. I have seen that variation in an old costume in the National museum and I think it looks much better.
In my opinion there needs to be a clear goal in the preservation of the national dress. Naturally it is important to preserve the overall look, but even more important is the preservation of the traditional handiwork. Even if it was most common to make the dress out of wool, including the underware, no one would really want to do that today with central heating everywhere. So if lighter materials are allowed and synthetic dyes (something which I'm not too crazy about) why are we stuck with making the patterns so unbecoming that the younger women do not want to wear the dress?
If one takes a sewing course, the seamstress takes measurements and makes the pattern and cuts the fabric. No patterns are handed out, so that means it is difficult to make another one and also that there is very little room for individual preferences.
I couldn't find a fine linen thread in stores here and was quite shocked to be offered polyester thread to sew my precious shirt. I ended up importing thread from Denmark. Since the seller didn't accept credit cards, the transfer was kind of expensive for the small amount that the thread cost, so I ordered some fabric also. It was a small quantity of printed cotton in two 18th century patterns and a lovely linen, a bit heavier than that which I used for the shirt and I thought I would use it for a petticoat.
The shirt pattern is a very simple one, basic peasant shirt that is common throughout Europe. All the pieces are rectangles, the largest is the main piece which is both front and back with a hole cut out for the neck opening. The shirt is slightly longer in the back, about 5 cm (2"), with slits at the sides.
I was measured by a seamstress who then cut the pattern. I was adamant that she would cut the shirt patterns large. I am quite tall, 5'10" and get really annoyed with small clothing. I prefer roomy clothes and quite frankly I wanted to control the pattern to some extent and I wouldn't be able to adjust it to my liking unless I had large pieces to work with. She obliged me and I got to make it the way I wanted. I am very pleased with the result.
More detailed sewing instructions to follow.