October 4, 2012

1850s Civil War Men's Shirt Pattern

This pattern is from 1852 and was published in a guide meant to teach sewing skills to ladies who might live "humble lives." It teaches the most economical ways to cut out multiple shirts so as not to waste any fabric.
 The book has basic instructions on how to assemble the shirt but only the basics. It does not include the front pleats which were a matter of personal taste.

Like many shirts of the period, this shirt is cut out of mostly rectangles and squares, using gussets instead of sloped shoulder holes to make the shirt comfortable in the underarm. The book suggests using linen fabric and the age-old technique of taking apart a shirt that the man likes and using it as a template for his new shirts.   

I've charted out the pattern but will assume that only seamstresses and tailors with some experience will be attempting it. For one, seam allowance is not included in my chart and you have to pay special attention to the seams that need a little bit of extra to sew without leaving an exposed edge.

Shirts aren't terribly hard once you make one. It is much easier to size when you do have a shirt from the person you'll be sewing for. 

There is a lovely tutorial for sewing a similar shirt (an earlier style but the basics are the same) at MY Mr. Knightley: Making a Shirt 


  1. Thanks so much. I was looking for a pattern like this for my boys. The paper patterns were getting expensive. It's nice how the shape doesn't change, just the sizes of the pieces. Awesome!

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  3. Can you please tell me what "Nl" means in the yardage? It says "1 yard and 1 nl." several times in the chart, but I don't know what that means.

  4. Nl stands for nail. 1 nail = 2.25 inches or 1/16 a yard. :)

  5. Do you have a detailed description pattern on how to do each step for assembling the shirt?


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