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Posts Tagged ‘Boys Regency costumes’

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 painting by

“A Running Boy” (1802), a painting by Jens Juel (located in State Art Museum, Denmark).

The best thing about having a number of children is that it gives you a lot of scope for sewing new costumes for them! At least, that is ONE of the best things.

My 7 year-old boy was the last one of my children to need a costume for the Melbourne Regency Picnic. Since I have posted my previous constructions steps for shirts, breeches, waistcoats and jackets, I decided not to detail it all again here as there were substantial similarities in their construction. Instead I have posted a finished picture of each garment instead.

One of the images I used in my inspiration was a painting by Jens Juel, called “A Running Boy” (1802). He is wearing long trousers with a tie above the ankle, and his jacket is double-breasted and appears to have quite short coat tails. He is wearing a striped waistcoat with wide lapels, which also appears to be double-breasted. His shirt has a fold down collar with a fine ruffle at the centre front opening, and the cuffs do not have ruffles. He is not wearing a cravat, and is holding a hat in his hand.

Shirt

This shirt was made in a similar manner to the MY Mr Knightley shirt, but the ruffle was hand sewn, with a rolled hem and a whipped stitch gathering (as I did with the Skeleton Suit shirt). It is made of white cotton broadcloth.

The shirt, with a ruffle

The shirt, with a hand hemmed and gathered ruffle.

Fall-Front Trousers

Judging from how many paintings I have found, long Regency trousers were becoming quite popular during the first decade of the 1800’s, with both men and boys sporting them for casual wear.

I made these is a similar way to the Skeleton Suit pants I recently finished. These pants were longer and done up with a tie around the leg, just above the ankle, as is evident in the painting above. They were made from brown homespun quilting cotton and have faux metal buttons.

The front, with a fall-front and ties above the ankle. His hand is in the pocket.

The front, with a fall-front and ties above the ankle. His hand is in the pocket.

The back view

The back view, without the common V-shaped gusset in the centre back. Boys clothes did not appear to always have this.

Waistcoat

This waistcoat was constructed in a similar way to the Midshipman waistcoat I have made, with a stand-up collar. This particular waistcoat had wide turn-back lapels as well, with two welt pockets and double-breasted at the front. It is made from a curtain remnant I found at a second-hand shop, and has self-covered buttons. The lining is cream cotton broadcloth.

The front view, double-breasted with two welt pockets.

The front view, double-breasted with two welt pockets.

The back view, with a tie to bring in the fullness.

The back view, with a tie to bring in the fullness.

Tailcoat

This jacket is an earlier style of Regency tailcoat, with the curved cutaway at the front and the wide fold-down collar. It was made in a similar way to the Midshipman tailcoat I had made before, however this one is unlined and does not have any pockets. Pockets might be a later addition, as I find they are always useful!

It is made from a green wool-blend cloth, with large self-covered buttons. The fabric hardly frays at all, so the seams have all been left un-neatened.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

We are now all set for the Regency Picnic, and I look forward to sharing some photos with you!

The costume in action!

The costume in action!

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s shirt

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s pants

The Making of a Midshipman: Waistcoat

The Making of a Midshipman: Cutaway Tailcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

The Melbourne Regency Picnic is being held on Sunday 6th March in Elsternwick, Melbourne (Victoria, Australia).

Image Source: through Flickr. The original is held at the State Art Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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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Midshipman Robert Deans (1790-1867), oil painting by the British School, 19th century

Midshipman Robert Deans (1790-1867), oil painting by the British School – 1807

In this series of posts, I have been making the elements of a midshipman uniform employed in the British Navy during the years 1795 to 1812. In this post, I have been working on a cutaway tailcoat that was worn by midshipman during this period.

The midshipman tailcoat transitioned from before the 1790’s, when the front buttoned edge formed a large curve from the collar-bone, in to the sternum (where it would be fastened with often only two buttons), and then falling out past the waist and around to the back of the knees.

In contrast to this, the cutaway coat had a straight button-up front, where all of the buttons were functional, but at the belly there was a horizontal edge out to the pelvic bone, then beginning a curve down to behind the knees.

(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Portrait of a Midshipman – 1810 (c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Note that the double-breasted nature of the coat is incorrect.

The coat of a midshipman also had a high stand-up collar, with the white patch (with a button) of a midshipman rank. There were three decorative buttons on the cuffs, three decorative buttons underneath the corners of the flap pocket, a button to hold each of the two back pleats, and functional buttons down the centre front.

The above painting of Midshipman Deans (1807) is the clearest picture of the coat that I can find, as midshipmen portraits often only included the face and torso.

Hornblower had Pellew’s order as acting-lieutenant for two months now. Tomorrow he would take his examination. If he should pass the admiral would confirm the order the next day, and Hornblower would be a lieutenant with two months’ seniority already. But if he should fail! That would mean he had been found unfit for lieutenant’s rank. He would revert to midshipman, the two months’ seniority would be lost, and it would be six months at least before he could try again. Eight months’ seniority was a matter of enormous importance. It would affect all his subsequent career. 

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

I used the 1790's coat pattern in Norah Waugh's "Cut of Men's Clothes" as one of my references.

I used the 1790’s coat pattern in Norah Waugh’s “Cut of Men’s Clothes” as one of my references, particularly regarding pocket placement, sleeve shape, and the back pleating.

Pattern

In deciding what sort of pattern to use, I spent a bit of time researching coats from the 1790-1800 time frame. I looked particularly at the construction details in the 3-pointed-flap-pockets and the arrangement of the pleats. I found examples in the books Costume Close-up, by Linda Baumargarten and The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh, and I also looked at as many paintings of midshipmen as I could find. (The downside with the paintings was that they rarely showed a full shot of the coat.)

Once I had determined where I wanted the seams and how high around the neck to have the collar, I laid the lining on my son’s body and “draped”, cutting a large allowance for seams (in case of mistakes!). Once the lining was pinned and adjusted to fit, I used these pieces to cut out the outer material.

This coat was made from navy woollen fabric (I think it was a wool/poly blend, actually). It was lined with ivory cotton broadcloth, and the buttons were a metal gold colour with a fouled anchor imprint on them.

Construction

For more step-by-step detail on making a tailcoat, you can refer to my similar post, MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Tailcoat. Several elements of this midshipman’s coat were done differently to my previous tailcoat, in particular the collar, the back pleats, and the pockets. Unfortunately my progress pictures were lost when I misplaced my camera’s SD card, so I am not able to include as much detail as I had planned to. Hopefully when I find them I can add them later!

Step One: The centre back seam, side seams and shoulder seams were sewn, for both the outer material and the lining.

Step Two: The sleeves were sewn together and attached to the coat. The sleeve lining was handsewn in to cover the raw edges of the sleeve seam, which had been pressed towards the sleeve.

Step Three: The pockets were made similar to a welt pocket (except without the outer welt). I made a slash through the outer fabric (not the lining) and then sewed one pocket-sized piece of broadcloth to the upper edge of the slash and one to the lower edge. These were turned to the inside, where the sides and bottom edges of the pocket pieces were sewn together. A three-cornered flap was then sewn to cover the slash, with three buttons decorating it.

The three-cornered flap pocket

The three-cornered flap pocket

Step Four: Around the tails of the coat and up to the cutaway area at the centre front, the raw edges of the lining and outer fabric were turned to the inside and handsewn with a topstitch. This was also done with the raw edges of the seams to be pleated in the tails. Once the raw edges of these seams had been sewn in, I made the pleats, pressed them, and hand sewed the seams together with a whipstitch. This seemed to help them sit flatter, but the wool does need a good deal of pressing to get it to pleat properly! Buttons were sewn at the top of the pleats to help hold them in place.

Step Five: The collar was lined with ivory cotton broadcloth and sewn to the neckline of the coat. I used a very similar pattern as I used for the collar of the waistcoat.

The midshipman patches were made using some white cotton broadcloth. Two layers were sewn together and then turned right-side-out. Buttonhole stitching was done across the centre of the patch and a small button sewn to the end of the patch. Then it was handsewn in place on the collar.

The midshipman badge on the collar.

The midshipman badge on the collar.

Step Six: The raw edges were turned in at the centre front and then handsewn with a topstitch through all thicknesses. The buttonholes were handsewn and buttons attached.

The buttonholes are handsewn with buttonhole stitch.

The buttonholes are handsewn with buttonhole stitch.

Step Six: The cuffs were made with only one layer of wool, just to make it a bit thinner. They were attached to the end of the sleeve and then turned up. Three gold-coloured metal buttons were sewn through all thicknesses to keep the cuff in place. Apparently as young lads’ arms grew longer, these buttons could be removed and the cuff pulled down to lengthen the sleeve, and then the buttons were reapplied.

The cuffs, with the non-functional buttons sewn on through the sleeve to hold the cuff in place.

The cuffs, with the non-functional buttons sewn on through the sleeve to hold the cuff in place.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

I am very happy with the way the coat turned out. It does seem to attract a bit of dust and fluff, and could have done with a little brush before the photos!

It also probably should have been made a little bigger, as I think this little midshipman will grow out of it quite quickly. The other thing to note is that the collar on the waistcoat should have come up closer to the base of the neck, as it doesn’t quite sit properly with the coat collar.

For my next post in this series, I plan to make a midshipman’s full dress bicorn! But first, a sailor’s tarred hat.

For more details on my costuming posts, visit my page Costumes.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman – the introduction

MY Mr Knightly: Making a Regency Tailcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Midshipman Robert Deans (1807) – at Royal Museums Greenwich

Image Source: A Portrait of a Midshipman (1810) – at BBC: Your Paintings (Painting details online at Royal Museums Greenwich – where it states that the double-breasted jacket is incorrect.)

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

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Sewing a Welt Pocket – by Craftsy

Buttons of the UK’s Royal navy – by Diana’s Buttons

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A British navy waistcoat, after 1812.

A British navy waistcoat, worn by either a captain or commander, (circa. after 1812).

In this series I have been making a midshipman uniform for my 9-year-old son. The period I am focussing on for this uniform is the years between 1795-1812. In this particular post I have been working on a waistcoat.

This dear William would soon be amongst them. There could be no doubt of his obtaining leave of absence immediately, for he was still only a midshipman; and as his parents, from living on the spot, must already have seen him and be seeing him perhaps daily, his direct holidays might with justice be instantly given to his sister, who had been his best correspondent through a period of seven years…

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

One of the difficulties I am facing is that not many extant midshipmen uniforms have survived, so it is a little more difficult to find out the exact regulations for the the time period than merely looking at museum pieces. There are also less pictures (both paintings and cartoons) of midshipmen versus those of higher naval rank. I am also working to a deadline, as my son would like to wear this uniform next month for “Book Week” at his school. This deadline has squashed any desire in me to search for copies of British Navy regulations to peruse!

A Portrait of a Midshipman, by Sir Martin Archer Slee.

A Portrait of a Midshipman, by Sir Martin Archer Shee.

The British navy uniform included a white, woven wool, single-breasted waistcoat for all its officers. This waistcoat featured an upstanding collar, pockets (flap pockets earlier in the period and welt pockets later), and brass buttons. The Royal Museums Greenwich states that the pattern on the buttons indicate the rank and status of the wearer, and Diana’s Buttons have a useful summary of the British naval buttons through the 18th and 19th centuries. The waistcoat could be lined with cotton or silk, backed with cotton, and with the fronts and facings (if they had facings) in wool. Waistcoats of this era also often had tapes (or eyelets and cord) at the back for adjustment.

Pattern

My pattern inspiration initially came from the all the extant waistcoats I could find. None of these are identified as midshipmen waistcoats, and the paintings of midshipman don’t always show the waistcoat clearly, so my general assumption is that they were all similar.

A waistcoat from the uniform of a British naval officer, c. 1807

A waistcoat from the uniform of a British naval surgeon, (circa. 1807).

I looked at The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh, and Costume Close-Up, by Linda Baumgarten for ideas on the shapes of pattern pieces, particularly the collar. Both of these books have examples of waistcoats from the 1790’s.

From this information I draped the lining on my son and cut away! *gasp* This is the first garment that I have actually draped with fabric. Having recently made a vest for an Oliver production may have helped my courage!

The front panels were made from cream wool, and the waistcoat was lined and backed with ivory cotton broadcloth. The buttons have a fouled anchor imprint and are made from gold-coloured metal.

Construction

A modern waistcoat is relatively simple to make, as it generally consists of sewing two side seams and attaching buttons to the front. For this reason I have not gone through every step of the construction process. If you are interesting in seeing each step of a Regency waistcoat, you can refer to my previous post, MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Waistcoat.

What is different in Regency waistcoats is the collar and pockets, as many modern vests do not have these features.

I drafted the collar piece after examining the pattern pieces in Costume Close-up. It seems that many collars were seamed at the centre back. This has the effect of drawing them in closer around the neck. The grainline was often vertical in historical pieces, but in modern wear collars often have the grainline running horizontally.

The pattern for the collar piece. To the left is the centre back and to the right is the centre front. No seam allowances have been added to the pattern.

The pattern for the collar piece. To the left is the centre back and to the right is the centre front. No seam allowances have been added to the pattern.

I put in welt pockets, using a tutorial from Craftsy.

The welt pockets

The welt pockets

The buttonholes were slashed and handsewn with buttonhole stitch, and the buttons sewn on. You can see the edges of the waistcoat have been handsewn through all thicknesses with a running stitch to help keep the wool flat.

The buttons and handsewn buttonholes

The buttons and handsewn buttonholes, and the centre front edges sewn with running stitch.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Keep an eye out for my next post in this series, making a midshipman coat.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman – the introduction

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Waistcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen – read online

Image Source: A British Navy waistcoat (circa. after 1812) – at Royal Museums Greenwich

Image Source: A Portrait of a Midshipman, painted by Sir Martin Archer Shee

Image Source: A British Navy waistcoat (circa. after 1807) – at Royal Museums Greenwich

Buttons of the U.K.’s Royal Navy – by Diana’s Buttons

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

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

Sewing a welt pocket – by Craftsy

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My son is constantly nagging me to complete the next item in his “midshipman wardrobe”, so I have been busy. In my previous post, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt and stock. In this post I will be making a pair of breeches.

A midshipman of scant service depended for his authority on board largely on the force of his own personality. He was only a warrant officer himself; when all was said and done a midshipman was not nearly as important to the ship’s economy – and was far more easily replaced – than, say, Washburn, the cooper’s mate over there, who knew all about the making and storage of the ship’s water barrels.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester

Breeches worn by Lord Nelson at Trafalgar (18..)

The Royal Naval breeches (1795 pattern) worn by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 (front view).

The Royal Naval breeches were very similar to all other breeches of this period. The waistband was thick and sat very high (compared to current fashion), and contained a small fob pocket in it. The breeches had a central fall front done up with buttons, and two “fall” pockets at either side also done up with buttons. The centre back waistband contained a triangular gusset with eyelets and a cord that laced up, providing an extra means of adjustment.

The back view of Lord Nelson's breeches, worn in 1805.

The back view of Lord Nelson’s breeches, worn in 1805.

In contrast to the “normal” breeches of this period, Royal Naval breeches were always made of white material, such as woven wool. The breeches reached to the knee, as they all did during that time, and were fastened with four Royal Navy brass buttons, as well as a brass buckle. Navy breeches also seemed to routinely have four extra buttons around the top of the waistband for the use of braces.

Hornblower poked forward his padded leg, pointed his toe, laid his hand on his heart and bowed with all the depth the tightness of his breeches allowed – he had still been growing when he bought them on joining the Indefatigable.

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

In looking for a pattern, I began with the same pattern as I used for making my husband’s breeches, which was Simplicity #4923. I used the same shape of the pattern pieces and drafted them smaller to fit my son. I also wanted these breeches to be tighter in the normal Regency style. The measurements I took from my son were:

Simplicity pattern #4923

Simplicity pattern #4923

  • Waist circumference
  • Underknee circumference
  • Waist-to-underknee length
  • Waist-(centre front)-to-crotch length
  • Crotch-to-knee (inner thigh)

Knowing these measurements helped me change the size of the pattern pieces. I often mark the material by sticking pins vertically into the carpet so that I can stand back and look at the shape of the pattern pieces as I go. It is important that the pieces correspond to the measurements, but it is also important that the pattern pieces retain the same overall shape, as it is the pattern shapes which form the characteristics of any garment. Using pins in this manner makes it easy to change the pieces as I remeasure and compare to the original pattern piece. In hindsight, it might have been good to copy this “pattern” onto a sheet of paper to use again!

The breeches back and front marked with pins and cut out.

The breeches back and front marked with pins and cut out. Once this had been fitted, I did need to take a large wedge out of the centre back seam for it to fit properly.

I used a lemon coloured cotton broadcloth (surely white breeches did not stay white for long!!), with small gold-coloured metal buttons.

I made several changes to the pattern, as I did for my husband’s pair. I added a triangular gusset to the centre back of the waistband, with some eyelets and cord to lace them up.

The back triangular gusset in the centre back, laced with cotton cording.

The back triangular gusset in the centre back, laced with cotton cording. You can see the buttons added for the use of braces.

Instead of using bias binding to hem the bottom under-knee edge, I attached a narrow cuff, leaving some overhang to use with a buckle.

The knee buttons and buckle. The buttons are

The knee buttons and buckle. The buttons are not the navy buttons normally seen during this era, but I had limited gold buttons to choose from!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view, without the lacing done up properly (oops!).

These breeches have turned out quite well, I think. They fit nicely, with enough room for some growing. I would like to make a second pair with ivory cotton broadcloth, as I wonder if the lemon ones might be a bit too yellow. I would also like to try and alter the pattern to include the two side “fall” pockets that are so often found in the originals. At this stage I have not put the small fob pocket in the waistband either.

But for now, I am moving on to the waistcoat!

To read more about The Making of a Midshipman, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman

MY Mr Knightley: Making Breeches

Sources and Relevant Links

Lord Nelson’s breeches – from Royal Museums Greenwich

Mr Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester – buy on Amazon

Simplicity pattern #4923 – for sale on Simplicity.com

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