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Archive for the ‘18th Century’ Category

A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

I have made 18th century and Regency shirts before, for my husband and sons, but for a while I have wanted to make one entirely by hand. When my husband said that his current shirt was too short in length, I took the opportunity to make a new one.

One thing I have noticed as I sew more historical garments is that, whilst sewing with a sewing machine is lovely to do, sometimes you can discover new things by hand sewing those garments that were hand sewn during the era that they were worn.

In particular, men’s shirts, with their triangular and square gussets and the centre frill at the front opening, can be a bit tricky to sew with modern sewing machine methods. I found it much easier to flat fell those gusset seams while hand sewing than I did when I machine sewed them. In addition, roll hemming the front neckline and attaching the (already gathered and hemmed) frill with a whipstitch was a lot easier than figuring out what to do with those gathered raw edges on the inside.

Pattern

I relied heavily on the 1769 instructions of Garsault, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne. These instructions contain a very useful “translation” for all of those terms and measurements given in the original version that are not easily adaptable to modern understandings.

I also used the pattern for shirts given in Elizabeth Friendship’s book, Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume. She had some great tips on how to calculate the sizes of different panel pieces relative to the body measurements, and also things like the placement of sleeves.

I used white linen fabric, that was 150cm wide (selvedge to selvedge).

Construction Steps

Step One: Cut out the body of the shirt. I used a 240 cm (length) of material and cut it to be 80 cm wide. I folded the fabric half widthways (the fold-line being where the shoulders would be) and shifted the fold so it was slightly longer (1-2 inches) at the back. Then I cut a slit along the fold (for the neck) and a slit down the centre front (for the opening).

The shirt has been slit along the top fold (from pin-to-pin, which you can see at the top), and the centre front has been slit and a rolled hem done to the raw edges. (The pins at the side of the shirt indicate where the sleeves will come down to.)

The centre front slit was hemmed using a rolled hem.

Step Two: Cut out the sleeves. I had material left over from the shirt body (70 cm wide and 240 cm long). I cut the sleeves to be 70 cm x 60 cm. (Sleeves are 60 cm long and can be 70 or 80 cm wide.)

The bottom edge of the sleeves (70 cm edge) was gathered with stroke stitches. For some great instructions on stroke gathers, see Sharon Burnston’s article.

The top edge of the sleeve has two rows of running stitch, sewn parallel to the raw edge. This will be pulled up to gather the edge into stroke gathers.

Once the running stitches are completed, they are pulled up to form tiny pleats. I pressed each pleat with the back of my fingernails so they sat nicely, and then sewed them with a whipstitch to the cuffs of the garment. The other end of the cuff is then folded over the raw gathered edges and whipstitched in the same way to the other side of the stroke gathers.

The edge of the cuff is folded over and then whipstitched to the stroke gathers.

In the same way, the top edge of the sleeves (other 70 cm edge) was gathered and then attached to the shoulders of the garment. (The other side of the stroke gathers will be whipstitched to the shoulder binder later on.)

Both ends of the sleeve have been gathered and attached to the cuff and shoulders.

Step Three: The gusset is then sewn in place. I fold my square gusset into a triangle and iron it. Then I place it next to the sleeve so that the two open sides face the sleeve and the body of the garment. (This helps me not to get confused!) Once all the seams are sewn, they are flat-felled.

The gusset is sewn in and the side seam sewn. The seams are then flat-felled.

The shoulder binder is a strip of material that is a few inches wide. The raw edges of the binder are folded under and then it is sewn along the seam line at the head of the sleeve. It is positioned to cover the raw edge on the shoulder and reaches down to the point of the gusset. (When stitching the section of the sleeve with stroke gathers, a small whipstitch is used, in the same way the cuffs were completed.)

The shoulder binder is pinned ready to whipstitch to the other side of the stroke gathers.

Step Four: Along the neckline, the triangular gussets are sewn in. The neckline edge is then gathered with stroke gathers, as before (although these gathers are much looser than those in the sleeves). The collar is then sewn on in the same manner as the cuffs were.

Step Five: The frill for the front opening on the shirt was a straight strip of fabric, hemmed on one long edge (and the two short edges) with a rolled hem. The remaining raw edge was gathered with a rolled-whipstitch-gather and then whipstitched to the finished edge of the front slit.

These are the instructions that I wrote on how to do a rolled whipped gather. Others do it slightly differently, but the end result is the same. If your material is not “gathering” enough, make your stitches further apart.

The front frill has been gathered and is now being whipstitched to the rolled hem of the front slit.

The frill is shown attached to the centre front edge.

Once the frill is attached, it was common to sew a heart-shaped reinforcing patch at the bottom of the centre front slit. This prevents the slit tearing. I folded the raw edges under on a small piece of material and tacked it below the slit.

Step Six: The bottom edge of the shirt was hemmed, and then dorset buttons sewn on the cuffs and neck.

And then the finished product is ready to wear!

The front view of the finished shirt

The shirt, whilst it is hardly seen beneath all of the other clothing, was great in the end.

I am really pleased with how this shirt turned out. It took about 3 weeks to sew, and I did have to work quite solidly to get it done. However, there is something quite therapeutic about hand-sewing garments. It has become one of my more favourite ways to complete sewing projects.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Shirt and Stock

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

Making a Men’s Shirt – cutting and sewing instructions from 1760, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne.

Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume, by Elizabeth Friendship – buy on Amazon

Stroke Gathers – by Sharon Burnston

How to Sew a Flat-Felled Seam – by Craftsy

How to make Dorset Buttons – by Craftstylish

18th Century Men’s Shirts – a list of online collections and resources, by 18th Century Notebook

A reproduction of a man’s shirt, c. 1780, by Kannik’s Korner

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The next part of my latest 18th century ensemble is the closed-front robe a l’anglaise, with en fourreau pleats at the back.

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

During the 18th century, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown.

Towards the later half of the 18th century, the gown began to be seen with a closed front bodice, even though the skirt could remain open revealing a matching or contrasting petticoat. The front of the gown could be closed with hook and eyes, or by long pins. The skirts could be trained, or pulled up polonaise-style, or left at the same length as the petticoat.

A robe a l'anglaise with an en fourreau back, c. 1770-1780, from Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

A robe a l’anglaise with an en fourreau back, shown over a quilted petticoat, c. 1770-1780, from Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

The pattern I wanted to do for this dress was another of Janet Arnold’s patterns, in Patterns of Fashion 1. It has a closed front bodice, with an open skirt. The back is cut en fourreau, and the skirts are gathered up in a polonaise-style. The gown is shown over a quilted petticoat, whereas mine will be over a matching petticoat.

The pattern is made up of several pieces:

  • Front bodice panel
  • Front bodice lining panel
  • Back (bodice and skirt) panel
  • Back bodice lining panel
  • Sleeves
  • Shoulder band
  • Skirt Front

A few points to note: Janet Arnold’s patterns do not include seam allowances; and I always do a mock up of the bodice over the correct stays before I begin. In this case, I did a mock-up of the lining pieces so I had an accurate idea of how it would fit me and could adjust the pattern accordingly.

This gown is made with a printed cotton fabric and lined with white cotton broadcloth. It is entirely hand sewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: The first place to start seemed with the en fourreau pleats in the back panel. I happened upon a great article by The Merry Dressmaker (En Fourreau Back – The Lazy Dressmaker’s Version) and decided that this was a great way to do it.

The back lining piece had a curved centre back seam to allow for fullness at the bottom of the bodice for a false rump, so this seam was sewn first. Then I began pleating the back panel, making sure I had the back lining piece to use as a comparison of finished size.

Most of these types of gowns had 3 pleats on each side of the back bodice. The first pleat was generally pleated into the middle of the back, and the second and third pleats were turned to the sides, however there are some instances where they were all pleated in towards the back. They tended to be curved pleats, which accentuated the slimming look of the waistline. It took me quite a few tries to get the pleating to look right.

The en fourreau pleats have been pinned down to the lining. (You can also see in this picture that the front panel has been pinned to the back panel at the sides as well.)

The en fourreau pleats have been pinned down to the lining.  The first pleats are curved and have been drawn into meet at the centre back. The second and third pleats are straight and have been folded in towards the centre back. (You can also see in this picture that the front bodice panel has been pinned to the back panel at the sides as well.)

Then I laid the back bodice lining piece underneath (wrong sides together) and did a running stitch through all layers to secure the pleats. The pleats are secured down to where the skirts begin, and are then released to allow the fullness into the skirt.

Step 2: The front bodice panel was then sewn to the sides of the back panel. I did this by laying the outer-fabric front panel with the outer-fabric back pleated panel, right sides together. The front lining panel was put with the back lining panel, also right sides together. This created a seam with four layers. Then the seam was pinned and sewn through all thicknesses.

The front panels are pinned to the back panels.

The front panel in the outer-fabric can be seen on the left. The front panel in lining fabric can be seen to the right. The seam (in the middle) is sewn through all thickness, which means the seam allowance is pushed towards the side.

This means that, once the front panels are placed together, the raw seam allowance is already hidden within the lining of the garment.

Step 3: The skirt panels were sewn together, front skirts to back skirt-bodice piece. I left a 10-inch gap in the top of the side seams for a pocket slit.

The skirts are then pleated and sewn (right sides together) to the outer fabric. The skirts do not meet in the front, as there is a large opening for the petticoat to be seen.

Interestingly, Janet Arnold comments that the skirts of her gown were sewn to the lining fabric and then the outer fabric was pulled down, the raw edges folded in, and then caught down to the waist seam (on the outside of the garment) with some stitches.

The skirt is pleated and attached to the bodice.

The skirt is pleated and attached to the bodice. You can see the second row of stitches that holds the pleats in position.

Step 4: Once my skirt was sewn on, the bodice lining was pulled down, with raw edges folded under, and stitched down with a slip stitch.

The lining is pinned down ready to sew.

The lining is pinned down ready to sew. You can see the running stitches that secure the en fourreau pleats on the left. On the bottom right, you can see that the skirts stop very short of the centre front.

Step 5: The centre front bodice could be finished by folding the raw edges in and edge stitching. Instead, I folded the outer fabric over the lining and sewed it down with a slip stitch. I then inserted a very thin piece of boning down each side of the centre fronts. Boning in the centre front does not seem to be a common practice, however boning was often inserted in the backs of these bodices. I just thought that a more firm centre front bodice would help me with fastening.

Initially I had wanted the centre front to be fastened edge-to-edge with hooks and eyes, but I changed my mind when I couldn’t get the hooks and eyes to sit properly. I ended up making a bit of overlap on the left centre front piece so that the right edge could be pinned over the top, to match up the stripes more accurately.

The centre front closure, shown closed with two pins.

The centre front closure, shown with right overlapping left, and closed with only two pins. I had used about 6 pins during wear.

Step 6: The sleeves were flat-lined with cotton broadcloth, and the sleeve seams sewn through all thickness. The seam allowances were then folded under and slip stitched down.

The sleeves were then attached to the bodice with a backstitch, ONLY under the arm. For an explanation of how to fit sleeves the 18th century way, American Duchess has done a great tutorial which I found very useful!

There is also a great video on how to pattern sleeves to have greater mobility in garments, particularly in fitted bodices. I found this a great video, as it explains to me why the shape of sleeves look so different in historical garment pattern pieces. I used this technique in this gown, and it greatly increased my arm movement!

Step 7: The sleeve head was then pleated to fit over the shoulder and the shoulder band was stitched on top. Once again, see the American Duchess tutorial for a great explanation of this technique.

The finished sleeve head

The finished sleeve head.

The bottom of the sleeve was hemmed and finished with trim.

Step 8: The back top edge of the bodice in Janet Arnold’s book was finished by turning the raw edges in and edge stitching, however my en fourreau pleats were sewn to the lining and prevented me from doing this. I decided to cover it with a “back-binder” piece, common for gowns of this period. There is a gown in Costume Close-Up (by Linda Baumgarten) that is constructed in this way.

The back-binder piece

The back-binder piece

If you look closely you will see that the back binder piece does not join the shoulder band properly, however by that stage I was happy that it covered the raw edges!

The rest of the raw edges of the bodice (along the neckline and along the front of the waist) were turned in and edge-stitched.

Step 9: Finishing touches! The bottom edge of the gown was hemmed, allowing for a slight train if left down.

The front edges of the gown skirts and the neckline were finished with trim.

The trim around the neckline.

The trim around the neckline.

Four tapes were sewn to the inside of the gown skirts; two on the bottom of the back bodice, and two on the skirts at the back. These can be tied together to create a polonaise effect over the false rump.

The tapes sewn to the inside of the skirts, and tied up to form a polonaise.

The tapes sewn to the inside of the skirts, and tied up to form a polonaise.

Here are some of the finished pictures from the Jane Austen Festival Australia, 2016. This outfit was worn on the Georgian Day of the Festival.

The Front

The front view; I ended up wearing my pockets over the top of the petticoat, but under the gown. This meant that they could be easily reached through the front of the gown, instead of through the pocket slits.

The side view

The side view

The back view. The fichu is a little crooked!

The back view. When the polonaise is down, the skirt trains slightly on the ground. And sorry, but the fichu is annoyingly crooked!

The gown is shown here with my pair of embroidered lawn ruffles, my embroidered muslin fichu and my embroidered pockets (sitting over the petticoat but hiding under the gown). I am very pleased with the outfit overall!

Related Posts

Does My Bum Look Big in This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

Making a Robe a l’Anglaise: Matching Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

En Fourreau Back – The Lazy Dressmaker’s Version, by The Merry Dressmaker

Setting 18th Century Sleeves the 18th Century Way – by American Duchess

How to modify sleeves for better arm mobility – video by Threads Magazine

Costume Close-up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790, by Linda Baumgarten- on Amazon

Classic Georgian Hairstyle – by Locks of Elegance

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A robe a l'anglaise, with a matching petticoat, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with a closed front and a matching petticoat, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum.

This year I have had a long list of costumes planned to make, but a Robe a l’Anglaise was not one of them. However, I quickly changed my mind when a friend decided to make one and it became convenient and easy to work on the project together!

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

A gown cut en fourreau, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with the back cut en fourreau, c. 1776, from The MET Museum.

The Anglaise saw many different variations through the 18th century: open and closed bodices; long and elbow-length sleeves; worn polonaise style; etc… During this time, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown. Towards the end of the gown’s popularity, the bodice was cut separately to the skirts and attached with a waist seam.

Another transition in this gown was with the front. Gowns that had been worn open to reveal a stomacher earlier in the century, began to be worn closed, either pinned or closed with hooks and eyes. The skirts could also be closed in front (called a “round gown”), or be worn open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

For this particular costume, I decided that I wanted a petticoat to match the gown, and with a pinked flounce. It also needed to have pocket slits so that I could wear my new pockets!

The petticoat

The petticoat, c. 1775-1785, in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

In looking for a suitable pattern for a petticoat, I went with one in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. It is dated 1775-1785 and is part of a matching petticoat/gown set. It is a very basic skirt pattern, made up of a large rectangle of material (pieced where necessary).

The FINISHED WIDTH of the front panel of my petticoat (not allowing for seam allowances) was 62 inches wide (and then made as long as I needed it for my height). The back panel was exactly the same as the front.

This gown is made of a cotton printed material, and is completely handsewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: After you have cut out the large rectangles that make up the skirt, sew the side seams together. I had to piece several pieces of material together to get the required width, but I made sure I had two side seams to make allowing for the pocket slits easier. The top 10 inches of the petticoat side seams were left open for the pocket slits. All seams are either on the selvedge or flat-felled.

Step 2: Pleat the top of the front panel onto a waistband. My pleats start from the centre front and go out to the sides. Pleat the back panel in the same manner with a second waistband. Often petticoats of this era could also be attached to a length of twill tape as a waistband.

Step 3: After finishing the waistband, attach ties to the ends of both the back and front waistbands. I made an eyelet through each end of each waistband and then tied a length of cotton tape to it.

The two halves of the waistband, with ties on each end.

The two halves of the waistband (back and front), with ties on each end.

Step 4: Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. I inserted some cord into the hem to help it stand out better.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

Step 5: Using pinking shears, pink the flounce with a scallop at the top and a zigzag at the bottom. Attach the flounce. My flounce is 9 inches deep, and twice the length of the bottom of the petticoat. It is box-pleated to fit the petticoat, and it should only just overhang the hem.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

Step 6: Add any trim. My trim is just a piece of plain gimp-like braid with a ribbon threaded through it at intervals.

The trim; a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The trim: a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The finished pictures!

The front, shown over my hip roll.

The front, shown over my hip roll. The front half is tied around the waist first, and the back half is tied around the waist second.

The side view. Because the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see the pocket slits in the side.

The side view. As the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see that it doesn’t quite fit the dummy. There is normally a bit of an overlap between the front half and the back half. The pocket slits can be seen in the side.

I was quite pleased with the end result, though I do think I need another plain petticoat underneath (over the hip roll) to help with the skirt’s body.

Look out for the next post in this series, the closed-front gown to match. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Does my Bum Look Big In This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

An 18th Century Robe a l’anglaise – a very early and non-historical attempt!

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Dress? – about a quilted petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1776, from The MET Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

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The bum-bailiff

“The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted, or the convenience of Fashion” (1786)

In preparation to make a 1770 robe a l’anglaise, I decided that I need to have a bum enhancer of some kind. I have made myself a padded bum before, to wear with my caraco jacket and petticoat, but I really wanted to try a hip roll that curved all the way around my hips.

Padded clothes certainly can have their advantages! The caricature entitled “The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted”, depicts a lady so desperate to escape an unwanted pursuer that she is able to wiggle out of her self-supporting garments and take flight. The accompanying text puts the situation into verse admirably:

Suky like Syrinx changes shape,
Her vain pursuer to escape;
Ye Snapps; of Pans hard fate beware
Who thought his arms embrac’ed the fair
But found an empty Bum-case there.

So an empty Bum-case is what I need!

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

I found Demode’s post on “Bums, Rumps and Culs” very helpful, especially as she had tried out a number of different types of “bums” to catalogue their effects to the fashionable shape. After researching a little more, I decided that a hip roll or bum roll would be the best for my gown.

Patterning and Construction

Since I was not going to use a commercial pattern, I had to figure out exactly how to make it.

Firstly, I measured around the back of my hips, from my left front “hip point” to my right front “hip point”. (For want of a better term, by “hip point” I mean the part of your pelvis that sticks out at your side front, just across from your navel. It is often where your fingers sit when you put your hands on your hips.)

Once I had this measurement, this became the inner measurement of my bum roll. I laid the tape measure out on a piece of calico, trying to mimic the natural shape of the hips (that is, not a circle but a sort of oval). If you measure the space between your “hip points”, then you will know how much of a gap to have in the front of your “oval tape-measurey pattern”.

After I was happy with how my inner measurement sat on the calico, I used a pencil to draw the sewing line. Then I began to sketch the outer edge of the bum roll. I used the diagram of the “cork-cutter from Paris” to help in getting the shape fairly right, with a larger portion over the hips and a skinnier portion around the back. Then I cut it out, adding a fairly generous seam allowance, in case of mistakes.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces; two layers of calico.

Then I simply sewed both layers together, leaving a hole for adding some cushion stuffing. Once it was stuffed, I hand sewed the hole closed and sewed some lengths of cotton tape to the front “hip point corners” so that it could be tied on.

The front view

The front view

You can see the cotton tapes tied at the centre front. I actually think – now! – that it probably reaches too far around to the front, just beyond my hip point instead of on it.

The back view

The back view

A bum roll like this is supposed to sit on your “high hip” line, not your waistline. In some of the pictures, mine looks like it is sitting a smidgen high, but that can always be adjusted when a gown goes on top.

The side view

The side view

Since I whipped it together in an hour, I was pretty happy with how it turn out. Hopefully, once its under a dress, it will give the necessary “oomph” to my bottom!

Stay tuned for my robe a l’anglaise; first part up, the matching petticoat.

Related Posts

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: The bum-bailiff outwitted (1786), by Isaac Cruikshank, at The British Museum

Late 18th Century Skirt Supports: Bums, Rumps and Culs, by Demode

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The Macdonald Children

Ranald Macdonald, Robert Macdonald and Donald Macdonald, “The Macdonald Children”, by Henry Raeburn (1756-1823).

As the Regency Picnic, held in Melbourne in March, drew closer, the last item of clothing to make for my skeleton suit ensemble was a jacket.

Skeleton suits became increasingly popular during the 1780’s and 1790’s, and they continued to be used until the 1840’s. The jacket was generally long-sleeved (though there are examples of ones with short sleeves) and was buttoned to the matching long pants. The jacket collar varied from a short, stand-up collar, to one with fold-down lapels, and sometimes even no collar. The suit set occasionally included a matching waistcoat that could likewise be buttoned to the pants.

Skeleton suit From

Skeleton suit of brown satin, worn by Danish King Frederik 7th as a boy, c. 1800. From the Danish National Museum. (Patterned and available online)

In the previous posts in this series I have made a little boy’s shirt, and a little boy’s pants to go with the jacket detailed here.

Pattern

I used a pattern online, which was taken from an existing skeleton suit in the Danish National Museum. It does need to be scaled up and then – because it is about an 8-year-old size – I had to adjust it significantly so it fitted a small child. Seam allowances need to be added as well.

I took a raft of measurements and used these to roughly alter the pattern. It is a great idea to do a mock up in cheap fabric, just to make sure you have a workable pattern, before doing the real thing.

Measurements to take:

  • Chest circumference
  • Waist circumference
  • Neck circumference
  • Nape of neck to bottom of jacket
  • Length of shoulder (from side of neck to end of shoulder)
  • Arm length and bicep circumference

The jacket was made from burgundy cotton broadcloth, with wooden buttons.

Construction Steps

As this pattern comes with minimal instructions, I have decided to detail my steps here.

Step One: After scaling up the pattern and adding seam allowances, I cut out the pieces. In the picture below, the collar piece, facings and cuffs are not shown.

The pattern pieces; from left to right - the front, the back, the undersleeve, the oversleeve.

The pattern pieces; from left to right – the front, the back, the undersleeve, the uppersleeve. Sleeves in this era were generally made from two pieces, like suit sleeves are cut these days.

Step Two: The centre back seam was sewn first, and then the side seams were sewn. The shoulder seams were sewn next. A fitting at this stage helped with the necessary adjustments!

Step Three: The sleeves were sewn together by putting one undersleeve on one upper sleeve right sides together. This means that each sleeve has two seams. Then the sleeves were set into the armhole.

The centre back and side seams have been sewn, and the sleeves are pinned ready to sew.

The centre back and side seams have been sewn, and the sleeves are pinned ready to sew.

The picture below has the sleeves sewn in.

The jacket has

The jacket has the sleeves sewn in.

Step Four: I decided to do a very small, upstanding collar, as was done in the original. The collar piece is folded lengthwise (right sides together) and the two ends are sewn. One of the long edges should be folded up so it can be used later to cover the raw edges.

The collar is folded over (right sides together) and the two ends are sewn. Once edge is folded up so it can be used later to cover the raw edges.

The collar piece, one end sewn and one being pinned to sew, with one of the long sides pinned up.

The collar can then be sewn to the neckline of the jacket. (For tips on how to sew a collar, see Making, Attaching and Finishing a Collar)

Step Five: Facings then need to be sewn (right sides together) to the front of each side of the jacket. Make sure the collar is left in the same position as it was when you sewed it in the previous step, with the seam allowances pointing upwards.

The facing is sewn, right sides together, to the front of the jacket.

The facing is pinned, right sides together, to the front of the jacket. The collar has been left sitting down against the garment, with the seam allowances up.

The facing can then be turned to the inside of the jacket. At this point the raw edges of the collar can be tucked up inside the collar and hand sewn down.

The facing is folded to the inside. There is a small join on the upper corner of the lapel, as I had to piece the material.

The facing is folded to the inside. There is a small join on the upper corner of the lapel, as I had to piece the material. You can see the small, stand-up collar at the top left.

Step Six: The cuffs are cut and sewn together. I just patterned these off the bottom part of the sleeve, adding a little extra for a seam allowance.

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

Then they can be sewn to the arm of the jacket. Make sure the cuffs are sewn with the right side to the sleeves wrong side, as this will mean they are turned to the outside and will hide the raw edge.

The cuff is sewn to the sleeve.

The cuff is pinned (right side cuff to wrong side sleeve), to the sleeve, ready to sew.

The cuff is turned to the outside of the sleeve, and the upper raw edge of the cuff is tucked under. This raw edge will be hand sewn down. A slit is then made through all layers.

A slit is made through all layers.

A slit is made through all layers. The upper edge of the cuff is turned under and pinned, ready to handsew down.

The placket for the buttonholes is sewn. It is sewn in a very similar way to the collar, structurally speaking. This will provide an overlapping flap so that the cuff can be buttoned closed.

The button placket

The button placket sewn, shown wrong side out.

The placket can then be attached to the cuff.

The raw edges are folded in and hand sewn down. The placket is on the right, and the raw edges will be tucked under and hand sewn down.

The placket is sewn on (the “flap” shown on the right). The raw edges of the placket can be hidden inside the placket and hand sewn down. The raw edges on the opposite side to the placket were just folded to the inside and hand sewn down.

The buttons and buttonholes can then be added; I used three on each cuff.

Step Seven: The buttonholes can be sewn and buttons attached on the front; I did a double-breasted front.

The buttons and buttonholes sewn.

The buttons and buttonholes sewn. The jacket has also been levelled and hemmed.

Finally, the bottom of the jacket can be levelled and hemmed.

And to end, here is a picture of the finished outfit at the picnic!

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

To make this ensemble more versatile for wear during the summer months in Melbourne, I am considering making a waistcoat that could be worn without the jacket. It was quite hot at our picnic, and my children quickly stripped off jackets, waistcoats and cravats, which left them looking much like Mr Darcy before his famed swim in the lake!

Related Posts

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s pants

The Making of a Midshipman: Cutaway Tailcoat

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Tailcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – an Event on the Facebook page

Image Source: “The Macdonald Children” by Henry Raeburn

Gallery of Works by Henry Raeburn

Image Source: A skeleton suit – from the Danish National Museum

Skeleton suit pattern – from Regency Society of America forum boards (This particular page has two patterns, one for a girl’s dress and one for a boy’s skeleton suit. Just scroll down for the skeleton suit pattern.)

Making, Attaching and Finishing a Collar – by Sew Mama Sew

Costume for a Regency Child – by The Oregon Regency Society

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A skelelton suit From Victoria and Albert Museum.

A skelelton suit made from nankeen, c. 1800. From Victoria and Albert Museum.

My family and I are heading off to a Regency Picnic held in Melbourne in March, so I am madly doing costumes for some of my children who don’t have anything to wear as yet. My two-year-old boy is one of these, and I decided to make him a Regency skeleton suit.

Skeleton suits became increasingly popular during the 1780’s and 1790’s, and they continued to be used until the 1840’s. The suit most often comprised a long-sleeved jacket, with matching long pants (with a fall-front) that could be buttoned together to form a type of romper suit. Sometimes the jacket could be short-sleeved, and the jacket collar varies from a short, stand-up collar, to one with fold-down lapels, and sometimes even no collar.

The suit set occasionally included a matching waistcoat that could likewise be buttoned to the pants. The pants were sometimes more similar to short breeches (reaching only to the knee), but most often were to the ankle. They also could have a button placket at the bottom of the pant leg to aid in dressing. Buttons were often self-covered to match the suit, but could also be metal.

Skeleton suit From

Skeleton suit of brown satin, worn by Danish King Frederik 7th as a boy, c. 1800. From the Danish National Museum. (Patterned and available online)

Underneath this suit the child generally wore a boy’s shirt, which was a version of the man’s shirt popular in the 18th century. In the previous post in this series I made a little boy’s shirt, and in this post I will share my progress in making the boy’s pants.

Pattern

I used a pattern online, which was taken from an existing skeleton suit in the Danish National Museum. It does need to be scaled up and then – because it is about an 8-year-old size – I had to adjust it significantly so it fitted a small child. Seam allowances need to be added as well.

I took a raft of measurements and used these to roughly alter the pattern. It is a great idea to do a mock up in cheap fabric, just to make sure you have a workable pattern, before doing the real thing.

Measurements to take:

  • Waist circumference (a high waist, that is)
  • Hip circumference
  • Crotch to ankle length
  • Crotch to waist length
  • Various measurements around the leg (to check that the pant legs are wide enough)

The pants were made from burgundy cotton broadcloth, with wooden buttons.

Construction Steps

As this pattern comes with minimal instructions, I have decided to detail my steps here.

Step One: I cut out the pattern in a similar way to the breeches I have made before. It is really the shape of the pattern that you want to replicate, regardless of the size of the person. In particular the back panel piece is shaped to give the pants a “splayed leg” appearance, which allows movement for horse-riding. The baggy seat of the pants is part of this.

Step Two: I sewed the two inside leg seams first (the front piece to the back piece), and then I sewed the crotch seam (which is the centre back seam and the centre front seam, joining in the crotch).

The side seams are sewn and the crotch seam is pinned, ready to sew.

The inside leg seams are sewn and the crotch seam is pinned, ready to sew.

Step Three: Before the side leg seams are sewn, it is a good idea to sew the fall front. I did this a bit differently than I have done before. First I laid the front panels together and made a slash through both layers. This made the slashes both even.

The front panel of the pants sits right sides together, and a slash is made for the fall front.

The front panels of the pants sit right sides together, and a slash is made through both layers for the fall front.

Second, I cut a rectangular piece of material about an inch wide and folded (and ironed) 5mm in from each long edge. I sewed this piece (right sides together) to the side of the slash that is closest to the centre front (the one that actually forms the fall front). I used a 5mm seam allowance, tapering to a smaller allowance at the bottom of the slash. The rectangular portion was then folded to the inside to cover the raw edge, similar to the way bias-binding binds raw edges.

The stitching line was hard to see so I have overlaid it with a red line.

This is the inside of the front panel. The slash is parted and folded back and I have marked the stitching line with a red line to make it easier to see.

Third, I cut two pieces to go under the fall; I call them “under-fall-flaps” for want of a better description! These two pieces will be attached to the waistband and to the outer slashed edge. I hemmed the bottom edge of both pieces and also the edges that are closest to the centre front.

These two pieces are places under the fall front.

These two pieces sit under the fall front. Only the bottom edge is hemmed in this photo.

I then sewed these pieces to the other side of the slashed edge, using a seam allowance of 5mm, tapering to a smaller allowance at the bottom. These “under-fall-flap” pieces can then be folded to the inside to sit under the fall. The raw edges do need to be neatened, which I did with a very tight zig zag.

The underpiece is pinned to the other side of the slash, right sides together.

The “under-fall-flap” is pinned, ready to sew, to the other side of the slash, right sides together.

Lastly, I trimmed the bottom of the rectangular piece to form a neat little point. This covers any raw edges at the bottom of the slash, and is top-stitched for reinforcement. I have never done this type of fall front before, but I think it looks really good!

The reinforcing stitching at the bottom of the fall front.

The reinforcing stitching at the bottom of the fall front.

At this point, the outside leg seams can both be sewn. This is also the point that the side pockets can be assembled. This pattern has two pockets (one in each side seam), plus a third welt pocket through the waistband. I did not put any pockets into my pants though.

Step Four: The waistband can be interfaced, especially since it is generally so wide. I sewed the waistband piece and the waistband facing (seen here with the interfacing ironed on) together on three sides, with one long edge of the facing folded up and left unsewn.

The waistband

The waistband sewn, with one edge of the facing folded up. This folded up section is used to hide the raw edges once the waistband is sewn on.

The pants can then be sewn to the waistband. For this part, the fall front is left free (to be buttoned to the waistband later), but the “under-fall-flaps” are sewn to the waistband instead. The centre back portion of the pants is gathered to fit the waistband, thereby providing the baggy seat.

The pants have been sewn to the waistband, and all raw edges have been tucked under the facing and it is pinned, ready to hand sew down.

The pants have been sewn to the waistband, and all raw edges have been tucked under the facing. It is pinned, ready to hand sew down. The fall front can be seen pulled down in the centre.

Step Five: The buttons and buttonholes can be sewn to the front.

The buttons on the fall front.

The buttons on the fall front.

Note: In the pattern, the fall reaches higher than the top of the pants so it can be buttoned on to the waistband. Unfortunately I trimmed it off by mistake, so I had to sew a wide “binder” piece onto the top of the fall to use for buttoning.

Step Six: The button placket on the pant legs was used to help the foot go through tightly fitted pants. These pants weren’t particular tight, but I thought it might be a nice touch to include them. Firstly I cut a rectangular piece of fabric about 2 inches wide and folded it in half. (It needs to be as long as you want your placket to be.) According to the pattern, this placket is actually cut as part of the leg piece but I forgot to include it. The buttons are put on this flap and it is tucked under the other edge to be buttoned up.

The pant legs, shown with a button placket.

The pant legs, shown with a button placket.

The top edge of the placket can be sewn and turned the right way. Once that is done, the long edge of the placket can be sewn to the back side of the leg seam.

The placket sewn on.

The placket sewn on (the longer red line). The top edge of the placket was sewn first and turned the right way (shown by a short red line).

The placket can be then folded to the inside, the raw edges can be tucked under and then it can be sewn down.

The placket has been folded to the inside and pinned down, ready to be sewn.

The placket has been folded to the inside and pinned down, ready to be hand sewn.

On the other seam (opposite to the placket), I sewed a little rectangular piece of material. This was to reinforce it so that the buttonholes could be put here.

On the other side to the button placket, is a small piece of material used as reinforcement for the buttonholes.

On the other side to the button placket, is a small piece of material used as reinforcement for the buttonholes.

Then the buttons and buttonholes can both be put on. I put extra buttonholes in the placket so that, when I let down the pants, all I have to do is put more buttons on the bottom.

The button placket complete.

The button placket complete.

Step Seven: The pants can be hemmed at the bottom. Three more buttonholes should be put in the waistband, at the centre back and one on each side, for buttoning to the jacket.

All finished!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Stay tuned for the final post in this series, the jacket.

Related Posts

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Breeches

MY Mr Knightley: Making Breeches

Sources and Relevant Links

The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – an Event on the Facebook page

Image Source: A nankeen skeleton suit – from Victoria and Albert Museum

Image Source: A skeleton suit – from the Danish National Museum

Skeleton suit pattern – from Regency Society of America forum boards (This particular page has two patterns, one for a girl’s dress and one for a boy’s skeleton suit. Just scroll down for the skeleton suit pattern.)

Costume for a Regency Child – by The Oregon Regency Society

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Detail of "The Hulsenbeck Children" painting, by Philipp Otto Runge in 1805-06.

Detail of “The Hulsenbeck Children” painting, by Philipp Otto Runge in 1805-06. One of the children is wearing a short-sleeved skeleton suit, with the frilled collar of the shirt showing.

In less than two months I am attending the 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic, in Melbourne, Australia. I have been busy making costumes for the remaining members of my family who have yet to be so privileged! I desperately needed to think of a costume for my two-year-old boy and I soon decided on making a skeleton suit.

Skeleton suits were first seen as an item of children’s dress during the 1780’s and continued to be used until the 1840’s. They were really a form of the modern romper suit, used particularly for boys. Skeleton suits were often a jacket and pants combination that were buttoned together at the waist. Sometimes the suit included a waistcoat. Underneath the suit, the child often wore a white collared shirt with a ruffle on the collar and cuffs.

A boy's shirt, with a deep square collar edged with a frill, c. 1770s. From Historic New England.

A boy’s shirt, with a deep square collar edged with a frill, c. 1770’s. From Historic New England.

This first post in this series is about making the little shirt to go underneath the skeleton suit. Boy’s shirts during this era seem very similar to men’s shirts, in that they are largely made from rectangles and squares.

The main difference seems to be the deeper, fold-down collar, often trimmed with a frilled edge, that was turned down over the top of the jacket. The front of the shirt had a large opening that was also edged with a frill, as could be the sleeve cuffs.

Pattern

The pattern I used for the shirt was based largely on what I know of 18th century men’s shirts, and so was very similar to the ones I have made before. The only difference was that I made a wider collar and added the frills.

A boy's shirt, American, late 18th century. From the Museum of Fine Arts.

A boy’s shirt, American, c. 1790’s. From the Museum of Fine Arts.

I found the site, “Making a Men’s Shirt” (by Marquise) to be invaluable for detailing some of the historical aspects of construction.

Construction

As the construction steps are very similar to the previous shirts I have made, I will not detail them extensively here.

Collar: I made the collar in the normal way, except that it was a different shape. It was a lot deeper and the front edges (or corners) of the collar I made curved.

The shirt collar, wide and curved. This has been sewn right sides together and turned the right way, with one raw edge turned up.

The shirt collar, wide and curved. This piece has been sewn right sides together and turned the right way, with one raw edge turned up. The unturned edge is sewn to the garment and the turned-up edge is handsewn down on the inside of the shirt.

Frills: Whilst the rest of the shirt was made by machine, I decided to make the frills by hand. I measured the length of the seam where the frill would be sewn and doubled it to get the length of the frill.

I did a rolled hem on one edge of the frill, and then did a whipped stitch gather on the other edge. Once it was gathered to fit, I whip-stitched the gathered edge to the edge of the collar and centre front edge.

The collar frill, gathered with a "whipped-stitch-gather" stitch and attached to the collar with a whipstitch.

The collar frill, gathered with a “whipped-stitch-gather” stitch and then attached to the collar with a whipstitch.

The same type of frill was also attached to the cuffs in the same way. (These techniques were all used in my post A Regency Day Cap.)

The shirt all finished

The shirt all finished

This is how it looks on the little man! Unfortunately the light was not very good, so hopefully there will be better pictures to come.

The Back View

The Back View

The Front View

The Front View

The next post in this series will be on making the pants for the skeleton suit.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Shirt and Stock

Sources and Relevant Links

The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – the Event on the Facebook page

Image Source: “The Hulsenbeck Children” by Phillipp Otto Runge (1805-06).

Image Source: A boy’s shirt, c. 1770’s – Historic New England

Image Source: A boy’s shirt, c. 1790’s – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Historical instructions from 1769 on making an 18th century men’s shirt – by Marquise

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