The third item of clothing for my Mr Knightley is a waistcoat.
Regency waistcoats were often the most colourful and patterned item in the entire man’s ensemble. They could be made from silk or sometimes cotton, and were often lined with linen. Sometimes they were embroidered, as they had been in the 18th century, or else they could have patterns woven into the material. Waistcoats were worn with an upright collar and were cut straight across the bottom, with usually two inches of it showing underneath the bottom edge of the tailcoat. They always had self-covered buttons, and could be either double-breasted or single-breasted, with or without a lapel.
I have used a pattern adapted from an 1850’s waistcoat pattern in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes. The pattern was very similar to Regency ones, and only needed minor adjustments to fit the era.
My waistcoat is made from curtain brocade, and lined with cotton broadcloth.
Body Measurements to take
- Chest circumference
- Waist circumference
- Width of back across shoulder blades
- Shoulder length (from neckline to top of arm)
- Length of garment (shoulder to bottom of garment)
- Front – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
- Back – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
- Collar – cut 2 on fold (outer and facing) of fabric
Once I had drafted the pattern pieces onto paper and measured my husband, I did a toile out of calico. Based on this fitting I made some adjustments to the original pattern, which can be seen in the photo below. I lengthened it slightly and straightened the bottom of the waistcoat. I had to make the armholes a bit deeper underneath the arms and the neckline a bit lower all the way around. Because the neckline was adjusted, I also had to make the collar a little longer. I also added an inch in each side seam.
Step One: In order for the lapel to be reversed, the front lining piece is made up of half lining fabric and half outer fabric. Allow enough for a seam allowance to join the two when cutting them out, and then sew them together.
Step Two: Taking the markings from the pattern piece, sew the front lapel section to the front piece using a dart. Repeat for the lining pieces.
Step Three: Sew the centre back seam. Repeat for the lining. It was common in the Regency to have the back of a waistcoat made and lined in the same material, and in this case I have used the cotton broadcloth as the lining and the outer.
Step Four: Sew the shoulder seams. Repeat for the lining.
Step Five: Lay the lining and outer pieces down on top of each other, right sides together. Sew around the arm holes. Sew from the top of the front lapel down to the bottom of garment and across the bottom to the side seam. Turn the right way.
This creates a nice finish for the armholes.
Step Six: Sew the side seams of both the lining and the outer at once, repeating for the other side. The pinned seams should form a circle to sew around.
Step Seven: With right sides together, pin the collar facing and outer together on three sides, turning up the facing on one of the long sides. Sew and then turn the right way.
In hindsight, this collar piece should have had the ends cut on more of an angle, which I did not realise at the time. I made this adjustment when I made a Regency waistcoat for a midshipman uniform.
Step Eight: Sew the un-turned edge of the collar to the neckline. Turn the collar facing to the inside, folding under the raw edge, and hand stitch along the inside of the neckline.
At this stage I put small (invisible?) hand stitches all around the edge of the hem, lapel and collar to keep the edge defined and flat, as the brocade would not stay properly flat with just ironing.
Step Nine: I decided to do a pair of welt pockets on each side, using the instructions from Slightly Obsessed. It can be less fiddly (and probably recommended) to do these first, but one of the benefits of doing it later is that you are able to make sure they are even, as the garment is basically finished.
Step Ten: Finishing off! Using some small strips of lining material, make some ties for the back. Sew the buttonholes and cover and attach the buttons. Hem the bottom edge of the back with a hand stitch or machine topstitch.
Here are the finished pictures, and I am really pleased with how it turned out!
Next in my Regency man’s wardrobe is a tailcoat. A bit of a challenge for me!
You can read all my posts in order at My Regency Journey, under MY Mr Knightley.
Sources and Relevant Links
Kannik’s Korner: Regency waistcoat pattern for sale online
How to make welt pockets – From Slightly Obsessed, specifically for a Regency waistcoat.