This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
These are generally made of linen; but calico is also made use of. The degree of fineness must be determined by the occupation and station of the wearer. A long piece of linen will, if cut with care, make several shirts of an ordinary man's size. In cutting, you must take a shirt of the required dimensions, as a pattern ; and, by it, measure the length of several bodies, not cutting any but the last. Then cut off the other bodies; and from the remainder, cut off the sleeves, binders, gussets, etc, measuring by the pattern. Bosom-pieces, falls, collars, etc., must be fitted, and cut by a paper or other pattern, which suits the person for whom the articles are intended.
In making up, the bodies should be doubled, so as to leave the front flap one nail shorter than that behind. Then, marking off the spaces for the length of the flaps and arm holes, sew up the seams. The bosom-slit is five nails, and three nails is the space left for the shoulders. The space for the neck will be nine nails. One breadth of the cloth makes the sleeves, and the length is from nine to ten nails. The collar, and the wristbands, are made to fit the neck and wrists, and the breadths are so various, that no general rule can be given. You make the binders, or linings, about twelve nails in length, and three in breadth; and the sleeve gussets are three; the neck gusset, two; the flap gussets, one; and the bosom gusset, half a nail square. The work, or stitches, introduced into the collar, wristbands, etc, are to be regulated according to the taste of the maker, or the wearer.
Gentlemen's night shirts are made in a similar manner, only they are larger. The cloth recommended to be used, is that kind of linen which is called shirting-width. Where a smaller size is required, a long strip will cut off from the width, which will be found useful for binders, wristbands, etc.
These are made of net, gauze, or lace, and are plain or worked, as suits the taste of the wearer. White veils are generally of lace : mourning ones are made of black crape. The jet-black is to be preferred, as it wears much better than the kind termed blue-black. Colored veils look well with a satin ribbon of the same color, about a nail deep, put on as a hem all round. For white ones, a ribbon of a light color is preferable, as it makes a slight contrast. A crape, or gauze veil, is hemmed round; that at the bottom being something broader than the rest. All veils have strings run in at the top, and riding ones are frequently furnished with a ribbon at the bottom, which enables the wearer to obtain the advantage of a double one, by tying the second string round her bonnet, where she is desirous to screen her eyes from the sun and dust, and at the same time to enjoy the advantage of a cool and refreshing breeze. Demi-veils are short veils, fulled all round the bonnet, but most at the ears, which makes them fall more gracefully. It is advisable to take them up a little at the ears, so as not to leave them the full depth: without this precaution, they are liable to appear unsightly and slovenly.