I ended up ordering the Daffodown Dilly Wrap Around Stays from Spencer's Merchantile. I was a little uncertain about ordering over the phone from a Canadian company, but it went very smoothly (toll-free!) and the woman I spoke with was very nice and had great things to say about the pattern. It is winging its way to my door as I write, but in the meantime...
I decided to get working on my "tucker" -- it is also sometimes called a "habit shirt" or later, a "chemisette". I chose the mushroom pleated treble frilled tucker from Arnold's Patterns of Fashion I. I spent most of last night trying to make myself a pleating board out of cardboard and heavy foil, but only succeeded in making a large mess. I may try again when I get to the pleating, but I will attempt to use scored posterboard instead.
I purchased half a yard of fine white voile for the body of the tucker (the original was Cambric/Batiste). I liked the sheerness of the fabric; the batiste was a little too opaque for my taste, and the cotton lawn available at my LFS had a weave that was too open (nearly a gauze); the voile was somewhere in between the two period options. For the pleated frills, I chose white cotton ordandy. It is very sheer and very stiff (even after washing) and very expensive. Unfortunately, I had to buy over 2 yards of the stuff (pleated frills are 90" long! Ugh!) at $14.00/yd. Ouch. In retrospect, I should have bought it online, but I needed some retail therapy and instant gratification this week, so I suppose I can live with myself.
I will use the fine linen thread left over from my shift, and I plan to hand sew the tucker. I admit it was a little silly to hand sew a shift, as it will never be seen, but the tucker is right around my face and made of such fine materials I feel that it MUST be hand sewn! I think the shift gave me really excellent practice for several stitches, and I feel much more confident about tackling the tucker.
I enlarged Arnold's pattern and quickly saw that I was going to have trouble with the shoulders. The length of the front shoulder is several inches longer than the length of the back shoulder, and Arnold only makes a small (rather unhelpful) notation that one is to "make small tucks" to fit the front to the back, but never indicates where to place them. After a quickie google search, I found that I was not the only person to notice this, and the person whose livejournal I came across discovered that Nancy Bradfield has illustrated the same garment in Costume in Detail (page 91). Bradfield's illustration shows that the tucks are small and spaced evenly across the front of the chest (not hidden in the shoulder where I was originally trying to put them, in order to keep the front of the tucker perfectly flat as it appears in Arnold). I counted five tucks across the front of Bradfield's illustration, and found that spacing them about 1.5cm apart worked like magic. I think the tucker was never intended to lie perfectly flat, and the small tucks look very neat. I also experimented with three larger pleats across the front, but felt that the smaller tucks were more attractive and better behaved. I also noticed that the back neck lies quite high and close on me, but I think I will leave it alone as it will probably help the frills to stand better.
I hate making mock ups! It feels ridiculous to mock up something as basic as this, but I don't want to ruin my pricey fabric, and I want to make sure I have the kinks worked out with the neckband and the shoulder tucks. Photos to come!