How to Lengthen a Shift for a Growing Child,
an Easy and Documented 18th C. Hack
NOTE: Click on any photo to see a larger image.
Periodically, a frustrated reenactor mother asks me what to do about a child who has outgrown their shift only in the length. Surely there must be a documented easy way to lengthen it?
Well, there is. It's in Garsault's L'Art de la Lingere, 1771, p. 20. He describes how to lengthen a shift 6" for an adolescent girl, but you can also use the same strategy to lengthen a shift 4", or any length you like, for a smaller child. It's brilliant.
Here is my version of his directions, translated and adapted into a set of instructions you should be able to follow.
You may want to lengthen a shift if you have a half-grown adolescent girl on whom the shift is too short. By adding a piece 6" deep and the width of her shift at the top, you can lengthen her shift 6" without it showing.
Remove the sleeves with their underarm gussets.
Cut the shoulder straps free, straight across and on grain, at a level even with the bottom of the CF neck opening,
but leave them attached in back.
Take a piece of linen 6" high (or 4" for a smaller child) and wide enough that it matches the width of the shift at the location of the cut that you made when you cut the shoulder straps free.
Sew it to the shift body at this location in a neat, small, flatfell seam.
Sew the cut edge of the shoulder straps to this new piece with neat and narrow flatfell seams.
Cut a shallow curve in the middle for the CB neck.
What you have just done swaps the back for the front and makes the shift 6" (or 4") longer.
The shift is now longer.
What had been the back of the shift becomes the front, the shoulder straps are now seamed at the new back, and the piece you added is at the upper back.
The side gores are six inches (or 4") lower.
Reattach the sleeves, hem the new parts of the neck edge, and you are done.