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MAP
01-15-2012, 10:19 PM
I've been googling this, and I can't get a clear answer.

What I need is an undershirt for a woman in a 17th century-ish fantasy novel, but she could be wearing a male undergarment if that works. She wears pants so it can't be long like a dress.

From my googling, it seems that shift, chemise, and smock are used interchangably, but all the pictures I see shifts are long dresses. Males wore chemises which look like undershirts, so I'm guessing my girl can wear a chemise, but if I call it a chemise, will people be picturing a long dress?

I'm not sure what a smock is? Would a smock work better?

Can anyone help me out? :)

Drachen Jager
01-15-2012, 10:42 PM
For smock I picture the thing that kids wear when fingerpainting.

Chemise is a vague word to me, I know it's a sort of shirt-thing but I can't really picture it.

Shift I understand is an archaic undershirt immediately. That's the one I'd choose, I'm pretty sure I've read books where it's used as a man's undergarment, but I couldn't tell you where.

This is one of the first images that come up when I google-image search "Shift undergarment"

http://www.irishmaid.net/cat/images/FL000040-1.jpg

That's what you're looking for right?

alleycat
01-15-2012, 10:44 PM
A shirtwaist?

Siri Kirpal
01-15-2012, 10:49 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a chemise is a woman's loose undershirt. I think it's the word you want.

A shift is a slip, so it's longer than you're thinking of.

A smock is typically an overshirt worn by artists to protect their clothes from paint, but it can also be a loose shirt with smocking--stitches that make the fabric puff up a bit.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ULTRAGOTHA
01-15-2012, 11:24 PM
You could call it a shirt.

But chemise is a word used for both men's and women's undergarments. According to my OED it was formerly called a shift or a smock. That's probably the source of your (and the interweb's) confusion, as the terms were interchangeable, and have changed, over the centuries.

Rhonda2
01-15-2012, 11:27 PM
Try Cuttysark. The 18th C ship of that name featured a masthead mascot cut in the shape of a cuttysark.

Orianna2000
01-16-2012, 12:50 AM
For something set prior to the 19th century, what you're looking for is called a shift.

A woman's basic undergarment remained the same for many centuries, though it started out ankle-length in the medieval times and got shorter as the years progressed. During the period you're talking about, it would be about knee-length, perhaps a little shorter. It had various names in different languages, but in English it was called a shift until the 1800s and then it became known as a chemise, even though it's still the same basic garment.

A smock was a man's loose outer shirt, something a farmer might wear in the fields, so that's definitely not what you want. If you call it a chemise, people will know what you're talking about, but those in the know will berate you for using the term incorrectly. It was called a shift during that time period, so that's your best bet.

(Historical costuming is my hobby, so if you need more information on anything, please feel free to PM me.)

Snick
01-16-2012, 02:08 AM
I think that Orianna is right. Gp woth shift. Chemise is French for shirt, but the meaning was altered when English borrowed the word.

MAP
01-16-2012, 02:48 AM
Thanks everyone for responding. This helps a lot. :)

shaldna
01-16-2012, 02:29 PM
From my googling, it seems that shift, chemise, and smock are used interchangably, but all the pictures I see shifts are long dresses.

Not sure about the 17th century, but in modern terms:

A chemise is underwear, a sort of longish vest, usually made from satin, silk or lace.

A shift is a dress, usually a little loose fitting, usually sleeveless.

A smock is loose fitting, usually with no defined waist, they can have long or short sleeves and can be worn as over or underclothes, but usually over.



Males wore chemises which look like undershirts, so I'm guessing my girl can wear a chemise, but if I call it a chemise, will people be picturing a long dress?

No, I'll be picturing her in some racy underwear.