The Story of the Chemise
September 22nd, 2010
The word chemise is a French word derived from Latin which simply means “shirt”. The English called the chemise a frock, which today is still often used to describe a simple dress. The garment that we recognize as a chemise today traces its origin back to the European Middle Ages. Then, the chemise was quite a simple garment like a shirt that was loose fitting, with wide sleeves to allow for free arm movement. These were typically made of simple linen and cut from a single piece of fabric into triangles and rectangles in such a way as to minimize waste during construction..
The chemise of the Middle Ages was worn by men and women alike as an undershirt to protect the body from chafing against outerwear and protect the outerwear from perspiration. The chemise was the barrier garment and was routinely washed whereas most outer garments of the time were washed infrequently. Women routinely wore a chemise under dresses and corsets right up into the beginning of the 20th century until modern foundation garments
came into being. Today, men and women’s t-shirts are a fairly direct descendant of the Middle Age chemise.
The modern chemise
Today, a chemise is universally regarded as a type of women’s undergarment or lingerie. A modern chemise resembles the garment from the Middle Ages in form but is more delicate, made of fine fabrics such as silk, rayon and cotton and often has decorative lace trim. It is sleeveless, loose fitting but fitted at the waist, often with thin straps, and usually emphasizes sexuality to varying degrees. It has become lingerie.
Chemise, Nightgown, Babydoll and Negligee
What’s the difference?
We’re often asked what the difference between these garments is. Most of us grow up with very little exposure to clothing design, sewing and terminology. Manufacturers and retailers don’t make it easy either and often use the terms interchangeably.
is a very general term for a sleepwear dress that may be almost any length.
is very similar to a chemise and the two terms, as we said, are often mixed up. A babydoll often looks the same as a chemise on top but hangs straight off the shoulders and is not fitted at the hips. The babydoll style mimics a young girl’s nightgown.
is also very similar. The word and the garment originates from the French and means “neglected”. Since its inception in the mid 18th century it has always been considered nightwear for the bedroom. At the time, negligees were made to mimic simplified versions of contemporary gowns. The negligee style is traditionally defined by flowy sheer, translucent fabrics. As times changed, so too did the negligee to reflect the time periods in which they were worn. During the 20th century, as hemlines rose, the negligee became shorter and shorter so that today, babydoll lingerie may be considered a negligee.
is a modern undergarment made of smooth, fine fabrics such as rayon and silk and have a more utilitarian use. Of course most women are intimately acquainted with this modern foundation garment
. Close fitting, they act as a barrier between the skin and dress to protect the latter from perspiration and the skin from chafing, and to provide coverage under translucent garments that are not lined. A full slip has shoulder straps and runs all the way down to accommodate whatever dress length. A half slip runs from the waist down to the bottom of the skirt.
© Kuhmillion 2010