Introduction | Design Options | Making Your Shift
The shift is the first layer you put on. It's also known as a smock and (particularly for men) a shirt, and you may see those terms online. It's a garment reminiscent of an old-fashioned night-shirt and is worn next to the skin to protect your outerclothes from sweat. In the sixteenth century people slept in their shifts and, on the manor, plenty of us do so too. They're particularly useful for 3am runs to the loos, as they keep you fully decent. They're also good if you have a small tent. Trying to lace a bodice whilst crouching is a nightmare so it's useful to be able to put your shift on and do the rest of your dressing outside the tent.
I'd suggest making your shift first of all. It's relatively straightforward, unlined, and any mistakes are likely to be hidden under other garments. So it's a great place to start sewing. Women's shifts and men's shirts are very similar, by the way, so these instructions will work for both. I've made notes for men in italics to guide them where there are differences.
Shifts should be made (ideally) of linen. Kentwell accepts cotton, but this is not so comfortable, long-wearing or authentic-looking as linen. There is no evidence that shifts were dyed so yours should be white, off-white or, at the bottom of the social spectrum, natural linen. One shift can be made out of three metres, but two can be made out of five. I'd recommend two: you'll be wearing this against your skin in hot weather and washing facilities on the manor are pretty minimal. A clean shift half-way through your time can be a God-send, plus there's always the option of giving your stinky one to the washer-women to horrify the visiting childer with.
Onto designing your shift.