The Poulet Gauche Poster Girl -- Diagrams and Tips



Chemise or shift:

White or off-white linen. Simple squarish  neck, moderate width sleeves. The neck is fairly wide and does not show under the other clothing. The sleeves are usually rolled up to the elbow for work. You may want to leave the sleeve open at the bottom in order to be able to roll it up. The opening can be closed with a hook and eye or a tie (poked through the fabric between the threads with an awl, without breaking any threads -- see men's shirts). Underarm gussets are necessary to have sufficient freedom of movement.

Underdress or Kirtle:

Colored linen; red, pink, or plum being especially popular. This is a square-necked, sleeveless underdress that is probably pretty shapeless. It goes over the chemise and under the bodice. It may not be full-length.


Wool, sometimes linen. Earth colors, reds, russet, yellow, brown, dark green, dark blue, grey, charcoal, are all good colors. This bodice is unboned. It has rings sewn along the front edges, and a ribbon laced through them to fasten. The lacing is done with a single length of ribbon, tied at one end, and laced from opposite ring to ring to the other end (rather than our usual method of lacing shoes, where a lace is doubled and laced from each side simultaneously). The side seams are not usually directly under the arm, but a set a little to the back, like a princess seam.

The bodice should be lined (with linen) and interlined as well (wool is a soft and stretchy fabric). It is good idea to put twill tape between bodice and lining along the edges where the rings will be sewn, to provide some sturdiness. The amount of gap in front is quite variable, easily adjusted as women gained and lost weight (often because of annual pregnancies).


White or off-white linen. There are two styles of partlet. On the left, is a partlet open all the way down the front. There are two ties, one on each side of the back. The ties are brought around and tied in front, with the two front pieces tucked under the tie. On the right is a partlet that has only a placket in front. It has ties at both front and back corners, which are tied together under the arms. The first style is probably easier for a woman to put on by herself.

The collar varies in width, being quite narrow in the 1550s and '60s, and fairly wide by 1600. The collar is gathered to the neck band like a ruffle, it is not pleated. The "figure 8" look that is seen on ruffs in pictures is achieved by dipping the partlet in starch and setting the collar with a hot poking stick -- a device that resembles a curling iron. It probably wilted quite a bit after a few days of wearing.


Wool, sometimes linen. Often matches the bodice. There is often more than one of these, the underneath ones being of brighter and finer fabric. The petticoat is cut in four A-shaped panels and pleated to a waistband. The most proper method is cartridge pleating. This gives a woman's hips the correct and desirable shape for the time period. It is a good idea to give the waistband sufficient overlap so that it can be adjusted over time.

The above is the most efficient way to cut such a petticoat on 54"-60" wide wool with no nap. Measurement A is from waist to above the ankle, plus seam and hem allowance. Working women did not trail their skirts on the ground, and they can even be as high as mid-calf. Measurement B is at least three times the waist measurement divided by 8. Sew the matching selvedge edges together first, using these pieced-together "A" panels for the two back panels, and the folded "A" panels for the two front panels.

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-c. t. iannuzzo