Lingerie: Feminine and Modest


It is exciting and rewarding to create. The creative sense, dormant within many of us, when once awakened may lead us in many directions: to painting, poetry, music, design, sculpture, or to more practical arts related to homemaking, such as cooking and sewing.

The making of lovely lingerie can be a delightful new experience. Here creativity has few bounds. The new lingerie fabrics are gossamer soft and smooth, gentle to the touch, and pretty to look at. Surprisingly, they are easy to work with. The fabrics can be found in almost every color in the rainbow as well as in many appealing prints. Combining two colors or a print and a plain fabric can be very effective. Elastics, laces, and ribbons are available in many yardage shops.

Nylon tricot is the most common lingerie fabric used because its fibers are elastic and very strong. It comes in various weights —40 denier, which is lovely for gowns, robes, and slips; and 15 denier, or sheer, which is usually used for an overlay, since it is delicate and soft. Both come in a wide width. —90 to 108 inches. Brushed nylon and quilted nylon are also excellent materials for lingerie.

All nylon lingerie fabrics are easy to care for. They wash easily, dry quickly, and require little or no ironing. They are wrinkle resistant and tend to return to their original shape after laundering. They do shrink some, particularly those that are sheer, so you may wish to preshrink the fabric before cutting.

It has not been by chance that women have taken to the idea of making their own, or their daughters’ lingerie, for these items can be expensive. By sewing your own, you can have more variety, spend less, and have a creative experience in the process.

There are many patterns for lingerie in the pattern books. However, if you use a regular pattern, one not designed solely for nylon tricot, remember that there is a 5 5/8-inch seam allowance. Only a 1/4-inch seam is necessary for a zigzag-finished edge in nylon.

Most yardage shops that carry nylon tricot will also have special patterns that are simple to use.

Blouse patterns with square or round necks and interesting sleeves can easily be adapted for use as gown patterns. In most instances, one need add only the desired length for a gown, plus a little lace for femininity. I have seen several lovely gowns made from dress patterns with the darts eliminated and some fullness added. You may have a favorite gown or pajama set of your own that you wish to copy. It is quite simple to draft a pattern from these. One of the joys of home-sewn lingerie is the opportunity for better fit. Watch magazines and newspaper advertisements for ideas for lace and ribbon trims, and use your own imagination to design originals.

As with most creative arts, though one may use a free rein in choosing design, color, and texture, there are basic rules that should be followed for desired results to be achieved. Here are some instructions to help you make your own lovely lingerie.

Nylon tricot is a little difficult to cut. It is slippery and it stretches, so place it on the floor or a large, flat area so it doesn’t have to be moved as you cut. This will eliminate unnecessary stretching. The crosswise grain of nylon tricot is always designated as the “stretch” of the fabric. It is wise to determine immediately the right side. This can be done by cutting the tricot across the grain and stretching it. The edge will always roll or curl to the right side. Mark the pieces as you cut them, because there is a difference between the right and wrong sides. For desired results, always use the right equipment:

1. Sharp pins. Dull, coarse pins may mark the tricot.

2. Sharp scissors. Scissors will dull quickly in cutting nylon. Wipe the scissor blades frequently to remove residue.

3. Fine sewing machine needles. Needles should be changed frequently, and ballpoints are recommended. The instruction book for your machine will suggest proper size.

4. Fine needles for hand sewing. To avoid knots, thread needle directly from spool before thread length is cut.

5. Thread. Use a synthetic thread that will stretch into the fabric with a little give and that is strong and fine. Several kinds are available. Since some machines reject a particular synthetic thread, choose the one best suited to your machine.

Lengthen your machine stitch to 8 to 12 stitches per inch. As the fabric is very soft, start the seam by holding both the top and the bottom threads in your hand in back of the pressure foot as you lower the needle.

Sew slowly. As you sew, stretch the fabric a little on both sides of the needle, but do not pull it. A narrow zigzag stitch used for seams gives the most acceptable look. Some new machines have a regular lingerie seam finish. If you do not have a zigzag stitch, a French seam can be used very nicely. Keep it 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 inch wide.

Another method is to sew two rows of straight stitching close together, stretching as you sew. Trim the seam allowance close to the stitching.

Why not begin your sewing of lingerie by making a half-slip? They are simple and easy to make. Use a purchased pattern or make your own pattern from a favorite half-slip. Make sure the stretch goes around and that the slip is at least two inches wider than your hip measurement. Measure the length desired, taking into consideration the width of the lace to be used.

Place the slip flat, with the right side up. Cut the lace long enough to cross the bottom of the slip. Lay the lace over the tricot, wrong side of lace to right side of slip. Allow a little ease in the lace, but do not stretch it. Stitch the lace to the tricot and trim as close as possible to the seam.

Sew the side seam with a narrow zigzag or French seam, making sure the lace matches.

Add the elastic (1/2-inch width is best). To determine the length, use the waist measurement less 3 or 4 inches. Sew it into a circle, overlapping the ends 1/4 inch. Divide the elastic and the slip top into fourths. Place a pin in each fourth. Pin the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric so the decorated edge is down.

After pinning the four points, divide again (into eighths) and pin. Sew down the middle of the elastic, stretching the elastic between the pins as you sew. Trim the tricot 1/4 inch from the stitching. Now, turn the elastic to the right side with the decorative edge to the top. Stretch and topstitch. To cover the seam where the elastic joins, use some 1/2-inch satin ribbon. Fold it over the seam, tucking in the ends, and sew. Ordinary elastic can be used if lingerie elastic is not available.

Gowns, peignoirs, and coats are truly a delight to design and make. Simple tricot gowns are lovely and long-wearing. Lace trimming may be added if desired. (Use a soft lace, one that isn’t scratchy or stiff.) If you choose to use the sheer as an overlay, make it several inches fuller than the tricot underpart.

Gather each section separately, then join at the yoke. The sheer material and tricot are also sewn separately at the side seams. If you wish short sleeves, try cutting the sleeve first of the sheer; then cover it with a wide lace or layers of 1-inch lace, each row overlapping the next. Sew the edge of the lace to the sheer and trim the sheer as close as possible to the stitching on the underside.

Elbow-length sleeves are lovely made from tricot overlaid with sheer. A lace band may be added to the sheer. Hem tricot with a narrow rolled hem. Long sleeves are particularly pretty made from a double thickness of sheer. Make the top layer 2 or 3 inches longer than the under layer. Gather them together at the bottom; make a cuff of lace or bind the hem with a self-fabric. This gives a permanently puffed look.

Square necks may be made from lace. A simple round neck is lovely made with a binding of self-fabric.

For a simple neck binding, cut a piece of nylon sheer across grain 2 to 2 1/4 inches wide and long enough to go around the neck opening. Make a circle by sewing the ends together. Fold it double, lengthwise, with the wrong sides together. Place it on the right side of the neck opening, making sure all edges are even. Pin intermittently. Sew 1/4 inch from the edge. The folded portion must be kept even. Do not cut away the excess fabric. This serves as a base for the binding. Turn the binding to the wrong side. Baste from the front side, covering the original seam on the wrong side, then stitch in the “ditch,” which places the stitch just below the trim.

When using a sheer overlay on a gown, the lace is usually added to the sheer layer. The tricot under layer may be hemmed with a machine hemmer or turned under with ribbon.

Peignoirs or coats may also be made in several ways: (1) using tricot with a sheer overlay and following the same instructions as for the gown; (2) a double sheer, using two layers of sheer with equal fullness; (3) a single layer of sheer with extra fullness; (4) tricot cut in simple lines, using satin for the trim.

In making a matching set (see illustration), you may wish to make the gown of tricot with short lace sleeves and the peignoir of tricot and sheer with double sheer long sleeves. Lace adds a lovely feminine touch.

An evening slip may be constructed by the usual method (see illustration). Lace 1 inch wide may be applied in two layers at the bottom and up one side. Lace rosettes are made by joining in a circle 7 inches of lace with a small zigzag stitch, drawing the center together with a needle and thread and securing it well. A nylon ribbon bow may be attached.

Ideas for making lovely lingerie are endless. This will open up a new and fascinating area of sewing at a fraction of the cost of ready-made articles, and no longer will you need to search for just the right gown that is feminine and modest.

[photos] Barbara Brown Watson, model

Sister Watson, a member of the general board of the Relief Society, was a regular contributor to the Relief Society Magazine. The mother of four children, she previously served as a stake Relief Society president and a stake YWMIA president. She lives in Parley’s Sixth Ward, Salt Lake City.