You’re standing under the two foot square of shade under the tree, fanning yourself as fast as possible. The cool air you crave is elusive….
Twirling around and around, you laugh and collide with fellow dancers on the packed floor….
If you do any sort of costume events in warm weather or in a ballroom, you know how hot you get in your dress. Then the inevitable occurs – damp sweat marks start to form under your arms, spreading over the sleeve and bodice.
Don’t let this happen to you! Take up your shields!
Have you ever ruined a bodice with sweat stains? Areas that just couldn’t come clean?
The best (and period correct) solution is to put in dress shields. These half-moon, oval shaped pieces made of two or more layers help absorb perspiration and keep your dress dry. Well… they at least are a HUGE help in keeping your bodice as dry as possible.
Although I wear dress shields in nearly all my costumes, I “glow” profusely and end up with damp underarms anyway. This is ok as I assume I’m probably not the only one who’s warm and if I remember to keep my arms down for photos.
But I wouldn’t dress up without them. Even when I KNOW my armpits will rebel against my proper Victorian nature. Even with doubling up on the shields it still is no good. (Perhaps you have better luck…)
My favorite dress shield supplier Greenberg & Hammer went out of business in 2010. But lately I’ve had good luck with the basic Dritz ones I can pick up in my favorite chain fabric store.
Generally modern, pre-made dress shields are made from an ultra-absorbent or wicking fabric. I used to have a pair that had a plastic type of inside that worked really well – that is until I forgot to remove them and they got run through the dry cleaner.
(Note to self: remove dress shields before taking to the cleaners!)
If you don’t want to spend the few dollars for pre-made ones, do what our ancestors did – make your own!
- Use a couple layers of strong muslin with a thin cotton flannel in-between. The flannel is more absorbent. You could even use birdseye diaper cloth in the middle.
- Trace your bodice armhole seamline from a couple inches toward the back of the side seam and about 3″ (or more) towards the front. You can adjust this depending on how your bodice fits. My shields are always tilted more towards the front for better protection.
- Draw a half-oval shape 3″ to 4″ or more deep and add seam allowance to the armhole edge.
- You’ll want to cut 4 half ovals (= one shield). Two ovals will be together on the bodice and the other two layers inside the sleeve. Seam them together at the armhole line. Finish the seam and raw edges with pinking, zig-zag or serging.
To wear, I recommend using tiny safety pins at the seam corners and at least one at the bottom of each oval. You’ll want to put the shield seam along the bodice armhole seam with one oval lying flat on the bodice and the other half tucked down into the sleeve.
Pin the edges down by only picking up the underlining of the bodice. If you have sheer sleeves with no underlining or lining, pick up a tiny amount of the fabric. If you have bodice seam allowances nearby, pin to them.
Even with good dress shield protection I will always do a quick cool water rinse of the underarm area after wearing to remove the chemicals of my deodorant and to dilute the perspiration on the garment. (I even do this (very carefully) with my silks and haven’t had too many issues.)
So Remember to Arm Yourselves Maidens! And please share this article (aka Tweet, Like & Email) with other damsels who need protection.