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Apr 12, 2016

Just Don't Call It a Onesie: Making My Own "Calchemise"



If you follow me on Instagram, today's post won't come as a surprise.

Even if you don't follow me on Instagram, you may have already guessed from last week's post that I was intrigued by the idea of the "calchemise."  Intrigued, yes, even though I know it's a bit of a solution-looking-for-a-problem type garment.  I mean, is keeping your shirt tucked in your pants such a challenge that you need to have your shirt attached to your underwear?  Are you that lazy that you need to be able to slip off your long pants at a moment's notice to reveal a chic summer jumpsuit, rather than just carry a change of clothes in your man-bag -- a pair of shorts, perhaps?

All that said, I wanted to try it out for myself, so I did what any of you would have done: I found a favorite shirt pattern (Butterick 4575) and a favorite undershorts pattern (McCalls 3438) and I combined them.  Naturally there was a good amount of tweaking involved.  The length has to be just right since once you have this garment on, you can't adjust the height of your underwear.  Too long and the extra fabric pools over your pants (if you're wearing pants that is), too short and....can you say wedgie?

More muslin shots:



Wasn't this the summer uniform on "Lost in Space"?

There also had to be some shaping in back to create a more tailored look; there's no back center seam.



The other issue to resolve was whether or not to create a bottom opening so that, in the event I needed to void my colon (there, I said it), I could do so without having to take everything off.  So I experimented.  I found an image of the original "calchemise" snap opening (below) and improvised my own versions.



First I tried buttons.



But it seemed like too much work to button them all up after using the toilet.  I then found small gripper snaps in my stash which I was going to try, when an Instagram follower suggested snap tape, which was entirely new to me.  The tape would also help to reinforce the edges.





But the result (seen above in my first non-muslin version) was...I don't know...inelegant and a little heavy.

Ultimately I decided to remove the snap tape and sew up that bottom seam just as I would a pair of boxers.  A lot of garments don't allow easy access to all of one's orifices and maybe that's a good thing.  I am especially fortunate that I tend to make only one seated visit to the bathroom per day, usually immediately after my morning coffee, and then I am done.  (TMI?)  On those rare occasions when I am 1) wearing this outfit and 2) feel the urge, I will do what jumpsuit fans have been doing for decades: disrobe.  It's not like I have to slip out of a Batman costume!

Anyway, I am making good progress on my final version, for which I have invented the perfect English name, to be released when I reveal the finished project, and no, it's not shundies (aka shirt + undies), though the name was in the running until I (thankfully) read what it means colloquially -- horrors.

The shirt has a beautiful collar with contrast inside collar and, eventually, mother-of-pearl buttons top to bottom.

Would you believe I made this with my Janome Hello Kitty?  I did.

I recognize that the "calchemise" is, here in the decidedly less-romantic, more practical-minded USA, a polarizing garment.  Much like the jumpsuit, you either love it or hate it.  I hope to change a few minds (from hate to love and not the other way around).

Have a great day, everybody!

32 comments:

  1. I am a woman who has lived through several style moments where the bodysuit and romper have had their day in the sun (and the subsequent night in the dumpster).

    What is life but the experience of lessons learned? And who am I to disagree?

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  2. I also want to remember the '70's bodysuit. I suppose that is why I always think the trousers are missing when I see this calchemise. It looks like the perfect way to keep your shirt tucked in when wearing tight hip hugger jeans. LOL

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  3. If keeping ones shirt tucked in is a genuine issue, why not make a shirt whose tail has buttonholes at the level of the waistband (or general vicinity) and pants whose waistband (or general vicinity) has buttons? Or snaps?

    This is one of those times where I honestly don't get it but I'm interested in how it will look, how you'll wear it, and any logistical issues, i.e. whether it's worth it. A good experiment!

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    1. When I was a child I had a blouse/skirt combination that was buttoned together so the blouse stayed nicely tucked in.

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    2. Perfect! Sounds like a good, comfortable solution. The calchemise (in the French pictures above) looks too much like underwear, yet I don't mind the look of one-piece surfing/swimming body suits so I guess it's a fabric, color, fit, and function thing and not the (very) general idea.

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  4. I think you were smart to remove the buttons and snaps. I can't imagine that they would be comfortable on a ht and sweaty day.

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  5. While I'm not inclined towards romping with some rompers in my wardrobe, I can certainly admire them from afar. I've seen some stylish jumpers and rompers being made through the blogosphere, and I look forward to seeing the finished result of your yet-to-be-named project. I think it will be a stylish and comfy summer addition!

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  6. I considered myself firmly in the hate column till I saw the last picture, the guy on right with the red jacket throw over his shoulder looks pretty good....

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  7. Instead of the buttons and snaps, why not try a good old-fashioned zipper?? - OUCH!! ;)

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  8. You are really funny!!! And even if I'm laughing, your guy rompers do look cute.

    Summer

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  9. I can see the point as a design exercise but you really wouldn't leave the house wearing that, would you?

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  10. Oh please do leave the house in that! Male fashion so need a bit of variety & I'm sure if any city can take it it would be NYC! It looks rather retro to my not so historically accurate eyes, so not so shocking. Love that Hello Kitty eas your partner in crime! As outwear the lack of crotch opening probably looks better. But as a sufferer of women who take too long in public toilets I'm not a fan of garments that require total disrobing in the stalls. But it probably isn't going to take off enough to cause similar problems for the gents.

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  11. So you're a morning man too!

    In grade school I was a 4 o'clocker, ever vigilant and proud to never have used a stall at school.

    I was also "toilet color" averse in my youth, which made one vacation to Michigan a long withholding period (a sick pink in an A-frame cabin - it mattered at the time).

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  12. It's one of those things that takes a bit of getting used to. I don't know how well wearing them as rompers would go over in the heartland, but anything goes in NYC. I made my one and only jumpsuit in the early 70's. Designer Vogue and it was cute, but it had to be taken off to use the facilities and so totally was not worth it! As underwear like most women I've worn my share of spanx and I'm not sure why you'd want to make your clothing life difficult. But, each to his own and you'll have to decide if it's worth wearing them.

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  13. I eagerly await the results of this sartorial experiment! I love jumpsuits on me despite bathroom logistics and on 16-month old Taco. So maybe it's time for men to get in on the act? Although, part of me can't help but think of that old timey "Play golf free while having your suit pressed" photo.

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  14. love the carefully worded explanation of practical matters!

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  15. Your post really made me giggle. Good thing you Googled "shundies" before committing :-) I can see a more practical aspect to the calchemise beyond shirt tucking, and that is laundry. One less garnet to fold and one less drawer taken over with underwear. Also, in case you start to rethink the snap tape, please listen to the voice of experience and do NOT go for the "convenience" of snaps at your crotch. I remember those with horror from so many body suits I had as a kid. They're messy, uncomfortable (imagine that snap tape pushed up in all your man parts all day long!), frustrating (because what if you get the snaps misaligned and don't know it until you walk away, or what if they suddenly come unsnapped - BOING - while you're mid conversation, or what if people hear you cursing in the stall of a men's room as you attempt to contort your body enough to get the dang things snapped when you're in a hurry - and yes, these things all DO happen with crotch snaps)... you'll do your best to avoid ever using them even if you have them. Good call on the seam.

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  16. It's interesting how a male integrated-waist garment starts to invoke similar fitting issues to what women deal with all.the.time. Your last photo: those two guys have extremely different builds, but in the usual male uniform of slacks + shirt, it'd be much less obvious, since the waist break between garments offers a fit adjustment opportunity. I'm wondering what other how-to-think-like-a-girl challenges this project will hold... right - have you got long hanging space in your closet? Legs tan 'enough'? Sock height/shoe vamp line proportionate to hemline + leg shape?

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    1. ...fit adjustment opportunity...and since more of their bodies are exposed than usual, there's more shapes to work with (aka, attempt to put into some pleasing proportion)...

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  17. The only men I would like to see wearing this, is the men who wear their pants down so far that you can see most of their underwear. If only it would catch on with them!

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  18. Breast pocket? Sleeve hem trim?
    Frank Fotheringham

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  19. I think those snap tapes are best kept for the terry towelling onesies we put on babies!

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  20. I think those snap tapes are best kept for the terry towelling onesies we put on babies!

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  21. As long as you've gone this far, how about men's skirts and dresses? Why not?? So easy to access everything. I once did production sewing for a small design house that featured many jumpsuits (for women). Fortunately all of them had very roomy bottoms, so all of us at the shop simply used one leg section to pull up and out of the way, and moved our panties to the side (or not if no panties) to do our business. No one took off the whole top. So... why not so for men? Must the leg sections be so tight? (looking at the picture of the 2 guys and both have wedgies). But, why not the skirt-shirt? Also this same designer loved loved loved snap tape - a notion I will hate till the end of my days - difficult to sew and totally frustrating to use.

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  22. Still no, no, a thousand times NO!

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  23. If the intent is just shirt tail neatness while wearing pants... then just go crotchless... ala jock strap! Solves the toileting problem too.

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  24. I think it's a horror, but if anyone can pull it off, you can! I'm sure someone has suggested "boxer shirt" by now...

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  25. Looks too much like long johns that Buddy Ebsen would wear in an old western movie. However, in different less underweary fabric I think it could be pulled off. Jacket and a belt would look great too. Hate buttons, but that is my phobia.

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  26. I think this would look good (or, better?) with a contrast fabric for the "shorts" section - from afar, it would look less like Edwardian modesty bathers and more like two separate items. And did you guys ot have the 'bodysuit' fashion of the early to mid nineties? Many a girl group, and definitely Kylie Minogue and sister Danni, rocked that look. And they definitely used the popper tape...

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