15th Century Smock or Shift

Women’s 15th century Smock or Shift 


From The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant by Sarah Thursfield

This is your underwear, it is always made of bleached white linen.

It should have long sleeves, under-arm gussets, a scoop neck and be between lower calf and ankle in length. The sleeves need to fit under the fitted sleeves of the gowns worn over it. There are no drawstrings on the garment at all nor any gathering anywhere. You want a smooth fitted finish at the neckline, bust and shoulders to prevent bunching up that can become uncomfortable. The scoop neck should be low enough to not stick out much past the necklines of the gowns worn over it (a peek of your smock in the neckline of your gown is fine but ideally it should not stick out at all).

A possibility to consider while making your shift is to leave the neckline unfinished and cut deliberately too high until after your laced front kirtle gown is completed. Then you may use the neckline of that gown to mark your shift neckline exactly (while wearing the gown over it). The shift may or may not (your choice) be cut with gores inserted in the side seams from the hip to hem. You can machine sew your shift and finish all visible areas (neckline, hems & wrists) by hand.

shift_04shift_05 shift_02

shift_03a shift_01*Please consult page 72 of The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  by Sarah Thursfield for instructions on how to make your smock/shift, ask Lara for a pattern to borrow or you can often adjust many basic 18th century shift patterns to work for ours by raising the neckline and lengthening the sleeves and hem.  
You may also buy your smock/shift and alter it as needed, however, sometimes the alterations required to make it fit well are extensive. It all depends on how close your specific body is to their standard cut. You will need to remove and replace all visible machine stitching with hand stitching on all purchased garments.
Here are a few places that sell them: