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.
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.
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.
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 picture below 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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 placket can then be attached to the cuff.
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.
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!
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!
Sources and Relevant Links
The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – an Event on the Facebook page
Image Source: “The Macdonald Children” 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