Posts Tagged ‘Norah Waugh’

A cage crinoline, with metal and cane supports, held together with cotton tape, c. 1865, from LACMA.

One of the costumes that has been on my list for the past year has been a mid-19th century ball gown. I have an “Alice in Wonderland” Ball coming up, and – since Lewis Carroll published this novel in the year 1865 – it seemed a perfect event to make it for.

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, the skirts had been gradually increasing in size with the use of multiple petticoats, often stiffened with horsehair or cording. When the crinoline was patented in 1856, it reduced the necessity for many layers of heavy petticoats, as the hoop did everything that petticoats could not! It also allowed the dress to increase in size much more easily, as all that was needed was a wider hoop.

By the mid-1860s the hoop began to change shape from the conical fashion of the 1850s to an elliptical shape, where the skirts began to stand out more at the back of the dress. Towards the end of the 1860s the skirts began to be draped to the back to accentuate the rump, in preparation for the first bustle period that came in the early 1870s.

Not all the powers of ridicule, nor the remonstrances of affection have been able to beat down that inflated absurdity, called Crinoline! It is a living institution, which nothing seemingly can crush or compress.

“The Despotism of Dress” (1862),

quoted in Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh

Whether the rebukes were in the name of “ridicule” or “affection”, I can see why women kept wearing crinolines! They are so much fun!


I used a pattern from Truly Victorian, which was their 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline (TV 103). There was also a useful pattern in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, that provided extra information.

I really wanted to make a red crinoline, but in the end (in the name of saving costs) I dug into my stash and found some pink supplies that I could use. I used pink poly-cotton material, with polyester bias binding for the horizontal channels and pink polyester twill tape for the vertical supports and the waistband. I used white flat steel for the boning.


I have not detailed all the construction steps here, as the Truly Victorian pattern has great instructions. Instead I have given a brief overview.

Step 1: Sewing the bag together.

The bag is sewn up, ready to be folded lengthwise in half.

Step 2: The bag folded in half, with four horizontal boning channels sewn.

The boning channels are sewn in the bag, leaving a gap for the boning to be inserted.

Step 3: The half moon piece is sewn and then quilted.

The half moon shape is sewn and machine quilted for strength.

Then the vertical supports are attached with the waistband.

The vertical supports have been sewn to the crescent and the waistband attached as well.

Step 4: The two centre front vertical supports are sewn to the waistband so that they can slide along it.

The vertical supports at the front are attached to the waistband with a loop so it can move along.

The vertical supports should all be marked as to where the horizontal boning channels will intersect. Once all the vertical supports are attached to the waist and attached at the bag, then the boning can be cut and inserted into the channels. Once again, the boning channels need to be marked as to where they will intersect with the vertical supports. The TV pattern instructions go into great step-by-step detail as to measurements for this part.

Step 5: Inserting the boning and attaching the boning channels.

The boning channels are being attached with pins at the moment.

Step 6: In order to support the back of the bustle, I stuffed a crescent pillow with wadding and sat it underneath the quilted half moon piece on the crinoline. This was suggested in Jean Hunnisett’s pattern and it made a huge difference in the stability of the hoop.

This crescent shaped pillow is stuffed HARD with wadding and then sewn to the waistband very sturdily.

Step 7: Try it on, and – once you are happy with how it sits – the boning channels can be handsewn to the vertical supports.

I am really pleased with how it turned out!

All finished! The hoop is not as balanced on my dummy as it is on me, which reinforces the need for a fitting before the final fixing of the horizontal and vertical supports.

My next post will involve making the petticoat. – coming soon!

Related Posts

A Victorian Bustle

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A cage crinoline, c. 1865, from Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

TV 103 – 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline, by Truly Victorian Sewing Patterns

Period Costumes for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress, 1800-1909, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon



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It has been awhile since my last post, largely because I have spent the last two months working on a new Victorian wardrobe for myself. I have had plans to make an early 1870’s gown and undergarments for a long time and I have finally begun!

info (Source below).

1880’s corset in herringbone woven cotton, trimmed with dark red cotton embroidery and machine embroidered edging. (Source below.)

One of the most important aspects of this new wardrobe was designing and making a corset from this era, as it is needed to provide the correct shape for the outer clothes. I finally decided on a 1880 style of corset that I could use fairly safely for the 1870’s.


I used the pattern drafting tutorial at Foundations Revealed to drafted my own pattern based on my measurements. This tutorial is perfectly suited to creating Victorian style corsets.

A late 1880's corset. From Norah Waugh's "Corsets and Crinolines".

A late 1880’s corset, from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines”.

Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines” 1880’s corset pattern provided a guide to panel shapes and placement. There were 5 panel pieces on each side: Front, Side Front, Side, Side Back and Back.

I used two layers of white coutil, with the boning sandwiched between the layers. I added a floating lining of white cotton lawn. I used a combination of spiral steel boning and flat steel boning, with the flat steel being used on either side of the eyelets, behind the split busk pieces at the centre front, and directly next to the busk pieces. I used a straight busk, rather than the spoonbill busk in “Corsets and Crinolines”.

These are my pattern pieces, without seam allowances included,

These are my pattern pieces, without seam allowances included. The front was cut twice with a seam allowance on all edges, and then once with the centre front on the fold. All other pieces were cut 4 times with seam allowances added.

When cutting out the pieces, it is a very good idea to number each panel, mark the waistline, and mark the upper/top edge on each piece.


For the construction of this corset, I closely followed the instructions by Sidney Eileen on making a basic two-layer corset. For that reason I won’t detail all the specifics of what I did, but instead give you a general overview.

Step One: I began by sewing the busk in place. (How to insert a busk – by Sidney Eileen).

Step Two: Making sure I matched the waistline marks, I sewed all the panels together. The coutil lining layer was also attached at this stage. The end result is that you have two halves of a corset, that can be joined by the busk pieces.

The only seams not sewn are the side front seams.

The seams being sewn. The lining is attached to the outer layer on the centre back seams (far left and far right). The side front seams are the next ones to be sewn in this picture.

Step Three: I attached some 1 inch herringbone tape for the waist tape. (How to add waist tape to a corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

The waist tape is being attached to each seam allowance so that no stitching is seen on the outside.

The waist tape is being attached to each seam allowance so that no stitching is seen on the outside.

Step Four: The boning channels were sewn, and I also added some herringbone tape along the centre back edges (in between the layers), to act as a support for the grommets. The bones were also inserted here.

The boning channels have been sewn in.

The boning channels have been sewn in.

Step Five: I corded the front panels, as was often seen in this era. Having tried on the corset beforehand, I now realise that this cording was not just decorative, but provided extra support to the fabric as it holds the bust in place.

1880 corset cording

In order to cord the very tightly woven coutil, I used a large needle and an awl (and two grippy silicone thimbles) to pull the cotton cording through the channels. The cording channels were all handsewn.

Step Six: Next I set the grommets (Size 0) with a grommet setter, and laced the corset using the standard Victorian style of lacing. (How to lace a corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

Grommets and lacing completed

Grommets and lacing completed, the back view of the finished product.

Step Seven: I did some featherstitch embroidery on the boning channels at the sides, and did corset flossing to hold the bones in place. (How to Floss a Corset – by Sidney Eileen.)

The corset flossing detail

The corset flossing detail

Step Eight: The floating lining was pinned in place, with the raw edges at centre front and centre back turned under and handsewn down. The binding was sewn on the outside through all thicknesses and then turned to the inside to be handsewn down.

The lining is pinned down and the binding attached, ready to handsew down.

The lining is pinned down and the binding attached and turned to the inside, ready to handsew down.

The very last thing I did was to handsew some lace, threaded with ribbon, around the top edge of the corset. Very Victorian!

Here are the finished pictures! I can comfortably lace the corset down to 28 inches at the waist, and I have used this measurement for making the rest of my Victorian wardrobe.

The front view

The front view

1880 corset side

The side view

My next garment in my list to make will be my Victorian chemise.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to Draft a Corset – Regency Corset

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction

A Victorian Bustle

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Augusta Auctions.

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Draft Your Own Corset Pattern – by Foundations Revealed

Corset Making Tutorials – by Sidney Eileen

Cording Tutorial

Feather stitch embroidery – by Rocksea & Sarah

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Stays (1770-1790)

English Stays (1770-1790), made from red silk damask, Victoria and Albert Museum.

My last pair of 18th century stays took about 13 years to finish, and by the time they were finished they didn’t fit me, so I have decided to make another pair.

I finally decided on a half-boned style, and used this pair of red silk damask stays (from Victoria and Albert Museum) as a starting point.

Stays of this era were designed to conform the body to an inverted cone shape, with a round bosom and a much smaller waist. They were also quite elongated, to draw the body upwards, and therefore came up high under the arms. The armholes were placed further back in the garment and, along with the shoulder straps, were designed to force the shoulders backwards to create the desirable “small back” posture.

My dear Louisa, you will laugh when I tell you, that poor Winifred, who was reduced to be my gentlewoman’s gentlewoman, broke two laces in endeavouring to draw my new French stays close. You know I am naturally small at bottom but now you might literally span me. You never saw such a doll. Then, they [the stays] are so intolerably wide across the breast, that my arms are absolutely sore with them; and my sides so pinched! – But it is the ‘ton’; and pride feels no pain. It is with these sentiments the ladies of the present age heal their wounds; to be admired, is a sufficient balsam.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778)

I really like this style of stays, with the round, broad oval neckline and the way the bones are wrapped diagonally around the body. It looks very flattering for the 18th century figure!

This project fits well with the Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #12, hosted by Dreamstress.


The pattern I have used is based on the 1780’s pattern from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh. This one is very similar to the one pictured above – in fact it may be the same one, despite the minor styling differences apparent in the printed pattern.

A pattern for 1780's stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

A pattern for 1780’s stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

Beginning with my measurements and a piece of paper, I drafted my pattern up, using the Corsets and Crinolines pattern as a guide to panel shape and grainline. I used eight panels: 2 x centre back, 2 x side back, 2 x side, 2 x front.

The panel pieces all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

The panel pieces are all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

Four layers of material were used in this pair of stays. The outer layer was a cream/pale yellow cotton damask. The two interlining layers were a white cotton duck. The inner lining was a white cotton lawn. I used 6mm plastic boning with a tiny bit of 12mm plastic boning in the centre front. The embroidery was done with plain cotton sewing thread.

Construction Steps

In order to construct these I referred mainly to How to Make an 18th Century Corset but I have also detailed my progress below.

Step One: Draft the pattern up on paper, using your measurements. Do a toile to fit it to your body, marking any alterations on your pattern. Cut out the pattern pieces.

Step Two: Sew the panels together. I pressed the seams to alternate sides (rather than pressing each seam open) in order to alleviate stress on the seams.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at a later stage.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at Step Seven.

I found it easier to piece together the back, side back and sides first and then do the fronts separately until I was ready to put in the boning. This is because the front panel has boning that goes in different directions, rather than just up and down.

Step Three: Sew boning channels and then add boning.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn together. Some of the boning channels are sewn. I am beginning to applique the ribbon on the seams here as well.

Step Four: Apply ribbon to the seams. I used nylon ribbon, as it was thin and of a similar thickness to silk ribbon. The boning should be inserted into the channels before you apply the ribbon, or else you may sew the channel shut by accident! I used a simple running stitch to applique the ribbon on, as this appears to be what was used on the extant pictured above.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

Step Five: Add embroidery or other embellishments. Whilst a great deal of embellishment was not frequently used for stays unless the front was to be seen as a stomacher, some smaller amounts of embroidery (usually straight or curved lines) was occasionally used. I generally embroider my stays because I enjoy doing it and I think it looks pretty!

The central splays of boning is slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The central splays of boning are slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps, as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The detail of the central embroidered flower.

The detail of the central embroidered flower, using mainly backstitch and running stitch.

Step Six: Hand sew eyelets and add lacing.

Step Seven: Attach shoulder straps. I did this as one of the last things, as I wanted to be able to try it on first so that I could fit the shoulder straps properly.

Step Seven: Piece together the lining panels and lay the lining layer to the inside of the stays. You can do this step earlier so that the eyelets go through the lining fabric, but I folded under the raw edges of the lining and handsewed them just inside of the eyelets. (You can see this on the finished pictures below.)

Step Eight: Cut the tabs after fitting it to your body. Cutting the tabs later in the process saves them from fraying everywhere or getting damaged in the construction process. I used a buttonhole/blanket stitch over the raw edge of the stays, and then added the binding.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side before folding the rest over and handsewing it down on the inside.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side of the stays before folding it over and handsewing it down on the inside. You can see the blanket stitch visible on the raw edge.

The extant stays pictured above have areas where the binding has worn away to reveal the raw edge sewn over with what looks like a blanket stitch. I was interested to try this technique as I wondered if it helped keep a narrower bound edge. It certainly helped with reducing the fraying as the binding is completed!


Outside all finished

Outside all finished

Inside all finished

Inside all finished

And tried on!

Back view

Back view

Front view

Front view

The other HSF items to cover are firstly historical accuracy, which was pretty good. Obviously the stay pattern was made to fit me, rather than an 18th century women that has been wearing stays her whole life, so the pattern is slightly different in shape to extant ones of the period. The fabric I chose was semi-accurate as cotton was in production then, but often linen was used for stay making. Secondly, the number of hours it took to complete are hard to calculate, as many hours were spent pattern drafting and making a toile. I began this project four months ago, but didn’t work on it solidly through that time. I am guessing 50 hours? Maybe more? Thirdly, it was first worn to a Three Musketeers Ball the day after it was completed! And lastly, the total cost was about $60 AUD.

My next post will be on my 18th century chemise made to go underneath.

Related Posts

Stays from the 18th Century – my first pair of 18th century stays

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern – a helpful beginning to drafting a pattern if you have never done it before.

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from Victoria and Albert Museum online collection

The Sylph, by Georgiana Cavendish – read online

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – on Amazon

How to make an 18th Century Corset/Stays – by La Couturiere Parisienne

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A bustle c. 1885 from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

A bustle c. 1885 from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Today I am sharing with you one of my earliest costume pieces I have made; a Victorian bustle.

Bustles were used during the late nineteenth century, first developing from the crinoline during the late 1860’s. By the 1870’s and 80’s they were the height of fashion. The bustle was primarily for increasing fullness at the tail and supporting the weight of the skirts which were draped there. There were many caricatures of the time about the absurdity of the fashion, just as there had been about the wide skirts and the tall wigs of the eighteenth century.

By the late 1890’s the skirts were changing shape yet again, to the more A-line shape of the Edwardian era.

This particular bustle was copied from a picture I had found in Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines.

A Victorian bustle

A Victorian bustle

I used a combination of wire and boning to provide the shape, which was not ideal because the wire cut all the fabric after only a few wears. I plan to replace all the wire with thin solid plastic boning at some stage.

The back of the bustle has a sort of “cage” to strengthen it and allow for adjustment. It is surprising how much weight in the form of a dress it will support.

The 'cage' of the bustle, laced together with ribbon.

The ‘cage’ of the bustle, laced together with ribbon.

A bustle is a fairly easy foundation garment to make without the need for a pattern or instructions. Whilst there are many different sorts of bustles, mine was essentially a tube of material. There is a thinner panel of material that runs from the waist to the ankle and rests against the legs. The second panel is the same length but wider and boned to make it bow out, making the bustle-shape. The two panels are attached at the top with a waistband or tie of some description to hold it around the waist. A ‘cage’ or some frills or even padding can be added if desired in order to increase the proportions of the back.

I am keen to begin expanding my Victorian wardrobe, so stay tuned for more costuming posts as I begin sewing some articles from this particular era.

Related Posts

Panniers: An 18th century reproduction of a Sacque-back dress – another one of my very early costuming efforts.

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

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Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh (1954)

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh (1954)

This week I received a new book in the mail! Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh, was first published in 1954, and has been invaluable to costumers ever since. I have been desperate to get a copy for ages and I finally made the plunge for my birthday!

The book has some photos of extant undergarments, as well as some patterns drawn from extant undergarments. It also contains quite an amount of text describing the fashions of particular historical eras, and the inclusion of historical texts that mention particular aspects of clothing.

As I was perusing it last night in bed, I came across a very interesting quote by a Spanish monk, Fray Fernando de Talavera, in 1477. It concerns the alarming fashions of women of the day, who were seeking to make their bodies altered in appearance by the use of whaleboned bodies and farthingales.

Women's fashions at the end of the 15th century changed from the long, thin style of medieval dress, and began to become bigger around the bottom of the dress. This picture is from 1450.

Women’s fashions at the end of the 15th century changed from the long, thin style of medieval dress, and began to become bigger around the bottom of the dress. This picture is a female Parisian in 1450.

There is another dress which is very ugly, for it makes women appear very fat and as wide as tongues. It is true that by nature women should be short, with slender or narrow shoulders, breasts and back, and small heads, and that thier faces should be thin and small … and also that they should be wide and big round the back and belly and hips so that they can have space for the children they conceive and carry for nine months … But although this is true, the aforesaid dress greatly exceeds and more than greatly exceeds, the natural proportions, and instead of making woman beautiful and well-proportioned, makes them ugly, monstrous and deformed until they cease to look like women and look like bells…

And, of course, just in case no one listens to such sage advice, it is always advisable to try and do everything to make such fashions morally wrong.

Finally, such dress is very deceitful and ugly. It is in truth great deceit in a woman who is slender, hipless, and very thin, to give herself hips and a shape with cloth and wool; if carried out in moderation it might be overlooked and at most would be a venial sin. But done in such a way, without moderation and with exaggeration, it is undoubtedly a deception and a lie of great guilt and consequently a great sin…

I always find it fascinating that historically, people seemed to concentrate on how a person looks to determine if they are sinful. I am sure there were many other examples of sin in the world at the time, such as injustice and mistreatment, but they seem to be much less focused on. And the monk concludes:

Thus it is a sin when women who are small of stature wear chopines [see picture] to feign a height they do not possess, especially as Our Lord has willed it that women are usually short of body and smaller than men, since they have to be ruled by them as their superiors, or when they with rags, wool, petticoats or hoops, affect a width which they do not possess. There is no doubt that deception and lies are a mortal sin when carried out in the above evil and sinful manner; thus the padded hips and hoop skirts are very harmful and very wicked garments; with reason they have been forbidden under pain of excommunication.

These chopines are dated to 1550, and were initially designed to enable the wearer to keep out of the mud. However, by 1600 the height of the shoes had risen to 20 inches!

These chopines are dated to 1550, and were initially designed to enable the wearer to keep out of the mud. However, by 1600 the height of the shoes had risen to 20 inches!

I am sure the poor monk has briefly forgotten in what other circumstances deception and lies are a mortal sin, especially when carried out in an evil and sinful manner… Indeed, I can think of many medieval examples!

At every step of history, fashion excesses have been either denounced from the pulpit or ridiculed in the press. And I have always wondered why. I wonder if it might be an indication of how threatening change was to these people we read about in history. And when you think about it, people haven’t changed all that much! Think about how it feels when your boss proposes radical changes in your workplace… We are still all a bit resistant to change.

It makes for very interesting reading!

Related Posts

More extremes in fashion!

The Rococo: The Extremities of Hoops in the 1740’s

The Rococo: The Extremities of Hairstyles in the 1770’s

Sources and Relevant Links

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Picture Source: Of a Lady of Paris, 1450 – from the Costumer’s Manifesto

Chopines – information from The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art

Picture Source: Chopines of Tooled Leather, c. 1600 – with lots of other images of chopines as well.

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Regency Tailcoat, with an M-notch collar

The next item of clothing for my Mr Knightley is a tailcoat.

In the Regency era, tailcoats tended to be made most commonly out of worsted wool (also called superfine), but also linen, and were often unlined. They could be either single or double-breasted.

The shoulder seam reached over the shoulder and sloped into the arm scythe, fitting tightly around the shoulders. Sleeve heads were full, sometimes even puffy, and the sleeve reached past the wrist to the thumb web, usually with cuffs.

Throughout the era the collars were deep and stiffened, usually forming an M-notch with the lapel when turned over. Sometimes the rever on the collar and cuffs were in a plush velvet.

In the early Regency, there was no waist seam to attach the tails, as they were cut in one piece. Coat skirts were narrow and cut away from the front to aid horseback riding. The centre back vent was left open for this reason, and the two side tails were joined.

The Pattern

I have used a pattern of a tailcoat from 1825, drafted from Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes.

It is made from gabardine and is lined with bemsilk, as my husband would die in a wool coat! As noted above, Regency coats would not normally be lined, but this gabardine was going to fray everywhere, so lining seemed the best option.

Body Measurements to take

  • Chest circumference
  • Waist circumference
  • Width of back across shoulder blades
  • Shoulder length (from neckline to top of arm)
  • Length of garment (shoulder to small of back to back of knees)
  • Arm length (from shoulder to thumb web)
  • Arm circumferences (at underarm, elbow, wrist)

It is a good idea to do a toile, and to make it a size bigger than the waistcoat.

Pattern Pieces

  • Front – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining/facing
  • Back – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
  • Sleeve Outside – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
  • Sleeve Inside – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
  • Collar – cut 4 fabric
  • Cuff – cut 4 fabric
  • Pocket flap – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining

Once I had drafted the pattern pieces onto paper and measured my husband, I did a toile out of calico. Based on this fitting I made some adjustments to the original pattern, which can be seen in the photo below.

My pattern pieces, all except the pocket flaps

In order for the coat to fit properly, I had to make the garment wider in the body, the sleeves both wider and longer, and the arm-holes and sleeve-heads larger. I also allowed more over the shoulder area, and I made the tails longer so they reached to the back of the knee. Seam allowances were also added.

Construction Steps

Step One: In order to create a rever for the lapel, the front of the coat is faced with the same cloth to the dotted line seen on the pattern piece. The rest of the front panel is lined. To do this, sew the front facing to the front lining in order to form a full front piece. I had also done a similar thing was done for the waistcoat. (According to Norah Waugh, the front facing of the coat was also padded.)

The lining of the coat front, which is made up of half lining and half facing. You can see my pattern piece underneath which helped me ensure the seam was in the correct place.

Step Two: Sew centre back seam, leaving the vent open. Repeat for lining. Sew side seams, also leaving the pleated sides of the tails open. Repeat for lining.

The centre back and side back seams sewn, to the waistline.

Step Three: Sew shoulder seams, and repeat for lining.

Shoulder seams sewn

Step Four: Sew sleeve seams. The sleeves are made up of two parts and so have two seams, one at the front and one at the back (similar to modern suit jackets). Take care not to sew two sleeves the same, for instance, two left sleeves! Repeat for lining.

Step Five: Attach sleeves to garment, easing in the fullness at the head of the sleeve. Make sure your sleeves point the right direction, as these sleeves curve to the front. You don’t want your sleeves curving to the back! Repeat for lining.

The sleeve attached. I ended up easing the fullness in the sleeve head by running a gathering stitch around it, which made it easier. It is still a tiny bit puffy, which was common in later Regency times.

Step Six: Sew side pleats in the tail. Repeat for lining. Press them to the front.

The side tail pleats sewn

Step Seven: At this point you might like to put in some pockets and the horozontal dart or fish, both of which I forgot to do until my garment was finished! I ended up hand sewing some pocket flaps on, for decorative (rather than functional) purposes. Here are some instructions for welt pockets with a pocket flap, also called coat pockets.

Despite spending hours and hours researching and then more hours deliberating how to construct this garment, I managed to miss that little horizontal fissure in the pattern, which houses the pocket! I ended up leaving the fish dart off, and I hope it doesn’t affect the look of the garment too much.

Step Eight: Lay the outer and lining right sides together, matching seams etc… and sew around the lapels, tails and central vent, leaving collar area open. Clip curves and turn the right way. Press the garment well.

The central back vent, with outer and lining right sides together. These two “flaps” will lay flat and overlap, and will be handsewn to lie flat along the top edge.

I left sewing the bottom edge of the tails until last, when I was sure it would all sit right. You could either turn up and handsew the bottom hem of the tails after it has been turned the right way, or machine sew it before it is turned the right way, like I did.

Step Nine: I have heard that there was no standard way of doing the side-back pleats of tailcoats, and I was a bit stuck as to how to manage it with the lining. I have never seen an extant coat close enough to see how it was done. I eventually decided to have an “inverse” pleat in the lining, which would fit next to the outer pleat. This meant that, from the outside, the coat would have a normal-looking pleat, but the inside would have a “poinky” pleat, where the lining had “lined” the outer pleat. This meant that I could iron and then hem the bottom edge of the pleats better.

The inside of the side-back pleat. I pressed the seam allowance back on itself so that the lining pleat could encase it.

I was a bit worried about the side back pleats “sagging”, that is, the lining sagging down and showing at the bottom of the tails. In order to prevent this, I handsewed a line of stitching in the valley of the seam through all thicknesses.

Hand sewing the pleat seam

Step Ten: Norah Waugh mentions that the collar was “heavily stiffened”. I stiffened two collar pieces with interfacing. Then I sewed the collar pieces together and repeated for the collar facing.

The collar outer and lining, stiffened.

Sew the collar and the facing together, making sure to turn up the bottom edge of the outer collar piece, for later handsewing. I drew a sewing line in tailors chalk so I could get the M-notch right.

A sewing line

Clip the curves and trim the corners. I found it a good idea to have the interfacing stop short of the collar points, as it seemed to make it easier to turn the right way.

Corners trimmed, and interfacing trimmed. The bottom edge in the photo has not been sewn, as this is the edge that will attach to the neck of the garment. The line of stitching there is to attach the interfacing to the collar piece.

You can then turn the collar the right way, and press it well. Attach the collar to the neck of the garment. Then turn over the raw edge on the inside and hand sew it to the neck. For more detail on sewing a collar, look at my instructions on sewing a Regency waistcoat, as attaching a collar is pretty much the same no matter what sort of collar it is.

Step Eleven: Cuffs were sometimes left off in favour of longer sleeves. Otherwise cuffs could be attached, with either a slit and buttons or a false button. Sometimes cuffs were also folded up, similar to how they were in the 18th century, as mine are going to be. In order to do this, I sewed the cuffs along three edges (leaving the edge open that will be attached to the sleeve).

Two cuffs, one sewn and clipped, and one pinned. I forgot to turn up one edge to make it easier for handsewing later!

Attach them to the sleeve, making sure to catch the lining in as well.

Cuff pinned to the sleeve, with the edge of the cuff facing turned up that I forgot to do in the step before!

Then turn the cuff facing over and hand sew to the sleeve.

Cuff pinned, ready to handsew. There is a little overlap, which will allow me to sew a cuff button on it at the end.

Step Twelve: Sew button holes and attach buttons. I had a total of 10 buttons up the front, 2 on the back tail pleats, and 1 on each cuff.

And here are the final photos!

The front

The back

Hopefully, the next garment for my Mr Knightley will be soon on its way. It will be a pair of breeches.

To read of these posts in order, go to My Regency Journey and look under MY Mr Knightley.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Waistcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy through Amazon. There is a pdf version online as well.

Making a Toile – Burdastyle. Primarily for women, but the principles can be applied to men’s clothing.

Making a Coat Pocket – Burdastyle. A modern coat pocket which can be adjusted to the Regency era.

An Introduction to Gentleman’s Clothing of the Regency

Country Wives Regency Tailcoat pattern – buy through Amazon

An extant Regency lined tailcoat, with a waist seam (c. 1820) – From All the Pretty Dresses

To Cut a Regency Coat – by Suzi Clarke. In this article, the author describes three Regency coats that she was able to closely examine in a museum.

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JJ Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey (2007)

The third item of clothing for my Mr Knightley is a waistcoat.

Regency waistcoats were often the most colourful and patterned item in the entire man’s ensemble. They could be made from silk or sometimes cotton, and were often lined with linen. Sometimes they were embroidered, as they had been in the 18th century, or else they could have patterns woven into the material. Waistcoats were worn with an upright collar and were cut straight across the bottom, with usually two inches of it showing underneath the bottom edge of the tailcoat. They always had self-covered buttons, and could be either double-breasted or single-breasted, with or without a lapel.

The Pattern

I have used a pattern adapted from an 1850’s waistcoat pattern in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes. The pattern was very similar to Regency ones, and only needed minor adjustments to fit the era.

My waistcoat is made from curtain brocade, and lined with cotton broadcloth.

Body Measurements to take

  • Chest circumference
  • Waist circumference
  • Width of back across shoulder blades
  • Shoulder length (from neckline to top of arm)
  • Length of garment (shoulder to bottom of garment)

Pattern Pieces

  • Front – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
  • Back – cut 2 fabric, cut 2 lining
  • Collar – cut 2 on fold (outer and facing) of fabric

Once I had drafted the pattern pieces onto paper and measured my husband, I did a toile out of calico. Based on this fitting I made some adjustments to the original pattern, which can be seen in the photo below. I lengthened it slightly and straightened the bottom of the waistcoat. I had to make the armholes a bit deeper underneath the arms and the neckline a bit lower all the way around. Because the neckline was adjusted, I also had to make the collar a little longer. I also added an inch in each side seam.

Pattern pieces cut out, slightly adjusted, with seam allowances added

Construction steps

Step One: In order for the lapel to be reversed, the front lining piece is made up of half lining fabric and half outer fabric. Allow enough for a seam allowance to join the two when cutting them out, and then sew them together.

Front lining piece, with a section of outer material sewn inside to create a rever.

Step Two: Taking the markings from the pattern piece, sew the front lapel section to the front piece using a dart. Repeat for the lining pieces.

A close-up of the dart which forms the top of the lapel

Step Three: Sew the centre back seam. Repeat for the lining. It was common in the Regency to have the back of a waistcoat made and lined in the same material, and in this case I have used the cotton broadcloth as the lining and the outer.

The back outer, with centre back seam sewn

Step Four: Sew the shoulder seams. Repeat for the lining.

The shoulder seams sewn

Step Five: Lay the lining and outer pieces down on top of each other, right sides together. Sew around the arm holes. Sew from the top of the front lapel down to the bottom of garment and across the bottom to the side seam. Turn the right way.

All turned inside out. The un-sewn neckline can be seen pinned. The un-sewn side seams can also be seen.

This creates a nice finish for the armholes.

Step Six: Sew the side seams of both the lining and the outer at once, repeating for the other side. The pinned seams should form a circle to sew around.

The lining side seams are pinned, ready to sew. The outer side seams are not (see below).

Both the lining and the outer side seams are pinned here, forming a circle to sew around.

Step Seven: With right sides together, pin the collar facing and outer together on three sides, turning up the facing on one of the long sides. Sew and then turn the right way.

The collar sewn, with corners clipped, but still inside out. The turned up edge of the lining piece can be seen.

In hindsight, this collar piece should have had the ends cut on more of an angle, which I did not realise at the time. I made this adjustment when I made a Regency waistcoat for a midshipman uniform.

Step Eight: Sew the un-turned edge of the collar to the neckline. Turn the collar facing to the inside, folding under the raw edge, and hand stitch along the inside of the neckline.

The collar has been attached and is pinned ready to hand sew.

At this stage I put small (invisible?) hand stitches all around the edge of the hem, lapel and collar to keep the edge defined and flat, as the brocade would not stay properly flat with just ironing.

Step Nine: I decided to do a pair of welt pockets on each side, using the instructions from Slightly Obsessed. It can be less fiddly (and probably recommended) to do these first, but one of the benefits of doing it later is that you are able to make sure they are even, as the garment is basically finished.

Step Ten: Finishing off! Using some small strips of lining material, make some ties for the back. Sew the buttonholes and cover and attach the buttons. Hem the bottom edge of the back with a hand stitch or machine topstitch.

Here are the finished pictures, and I am really pleased with how it turned out!

The back

The front, all finished!

Next in my Regency man’s wardrobe is a tailcoat. A bit of a challenge for me!

You can read all my posts in order at My Regency Journey, under MY Mr Knightley.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Neckcloth

Sources and Relevant Links

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy through Amazon. There is a pdf version online as well.

Kannik’s Korner: Regency waistcoat pattern for sale online

How to make welt pockets – From Slightly Obsessed, specifically for a Regency waistcoat.

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An 18th Century shirt, from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The sleeves are finely pleated to enable the tailcoat to fit over the top.

My first item of clothing in my husband’s Regency wardrobe is a white shirt.

Throughout the 18th century, men of all classes wore long white shirts with off-the-shoulder sleeves as a basic undergarment underneath their clothes. The shirts often doubled as nightwear and were usually made from linen or cotton. The only visible part of the shirt during the day was the upper edges of the collar peeking out from underneath the cravat, and maybe the frills on the cuff, which extended below the jacket sleeves in the 18th century. The tails of the shirt were also extremely long, designed to be pulled between the legs as an early type of underwear.

By Regency times, little had changed. The frills on the cuffs were beginning to be dispensed with, and by the end of the Regency the frills on the front opening of the shirt had begun disappearing as well.

The Pattern

The pattern of a man’s shirt was relatively simple. It was made from a series of squares and rectangles sewn together to form an unfitted and comfortable undergarment. Norah Waugh has a pattern in her book, The Cut of Men’s Clothes, and there are also patterns available online (from Kannik’s Korner). All of my pattern measurements below DO NOT include seam allowances.

As the garment is so loose fitting, I found it unnecessary to take oodles of body measurements, but I would suggest taking a few.

Body Measurements to take

  • Neck circumference (to make sure the collar fits)
  • Wrist circumference (to make sure the wrist cuff fits)
  • Armhole measurement around upper arm (I adjusted for this later)

My pattern pieces

The layout of the pattern pieces (not to scale).

  • Shirt front – 18″ (on fold) x 20″ – cut 1 on the fold
  • Shirt back – 18″ (on fold) x 20″ – cut 1 on the fold
  • Sleeve – 22″ (on fold) x 18″ – cut 2 on the fold
  • Sleeve binder – see below
  • Underarm gusset – 4.5″ square – cut 2
  • Shoulder gusset – 3″ square – cut 2
  • Side seam gusset – 1.5″ square – cut 2
  • Collar – 4″ x 17.5″ – cut 2
  • Cuff band – 5″ x 7.5″ – cut 2
  • Optional: Front frill
  • Optional: Cuff and sleeve opening frill
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of my pieces all cut out before I began sewing, so I did a simple drawing of how I laid it out on the material. Using this layout, you will need 3.5 metres (3.8 yards) of material, either 115cm or 155cm wide.
I used cotton broadcloth, as it was a heavier weight cotton and much cheaper than the linen available in my local fabric store! You can use the leftover long lengths of material to make some cravats, but make sure they are at least 60 inches long or they will be difficult to tie.

Construction Steps

Step One: Sew the front and back shirt pieces together at the shoulder seams, sewing only 6 inches in from the sides. (I flat-felled – unless stated otherwise – all the internal seams to make it neater and more hard-wearing.) Make a cut 10 inches down the centre front.

Step Two: Fold the shoulder gusset in half to form a triangle and sew it in. (I actually cut it in half instead.)

The shirt front and back sewn at shoulder seams, with shoulder gusset. I have not flat-felled the seams here yet. I also made my shirt 32 inches long (rather than 40).

Step Three: Gather the neckline.

The neckline gathered

Step Four: Sew the two collar pieces together, with one edge turned up.

The collar, with corners clipped and one edge turned up 1.5 cms (or seam allowance).

Step Five: Turn the collar right side out and attach the unturned edge of the collar to the neckline, adjusting the gathers to fit. The turned edge can then be folded under on the inside and hand sewn to the neckline.

The collar attached, ready to be hand-sewn.

Step Six: Sew the underarm gusset to the sleeve underarm. (For greater detail on how to sew square gussets, see my post on making a chemise.)

The sleeve, with sleeve seam pinned and square gusset placed at underarm region.

Step Seven: Sew the sleeve seam, leaving a 4 inch opening in the bottom end of the seam for the wrist to fit through. Gather the sleeve head and the sleeve bottom.

The sleeve, with each end gathered

Step Eight: Sew the sleeve to the body. It can be a good idea to try it on at this point to ensure the arm fits nicely. If it is too tight, you can loosen the gathers around the sleeve head which effectively makes the armhole larger.

The sleeve attached, with cuff attached wrong! Oops! I had to unpick it in the next step!

Step Nine: Fold the cuff band in half longways and sew short edges together, with one edge turned up similar to the collar. Turn inside out and attach the unturned edge to the lower sleeve edge. The other edge is folded over and hand sewed to the inside, just like the collar.

The cuff band, pinned for sewing

Step Ten: Sew the side seams down 17.5 inches from the armhole. (Adjust this amount if you made the armhole bigger.) Fold the side gusset in half to form a triangle – or if you cut in half (like me!) hem it – before setting it in the seam.

Setting the gusset

The hemmed gusset

Step Eleven: Hem the rest of the side seams by turning over the seam allowance and sewing. Hem the bottom edge. (Note: I made my tails much shorter than period examples of up to 40 inches.)

Step Twelve: Many period examples have both sleeve binders and shoulder binders, and these served to reinforce and bind the seams. For the sleeve binder, I cut a length of material 3 inches wide and long enough to go right around the sleeve seam and a little below it. It was sewn on the same line as the armhole seam and then turned to the main body of the garment, thereby covering the raw seam edge in the armhole. (This was a great way to avoid flat-felling or zig-zagging a gathered seam!) Then the remaining edge was sewn down through all thicknesses. I have seen sleeve binders reach as far inwards as the collar. I did not do a shoulder binder, choosing to flat-fell those seams instead, but it is effectively a piece of material with raw edges folded under and sewn on the inside to cover the raw shoulder seam.

The sleeve binder attached to the armhole seam, and pinned ready to sew at edge.

Step Thirteen: The raw edges at the centre front slit are turned over and sewn. (Cutting an upside-down V-cut at the bottom of the slit helps when sewing the bottom part, similar to when setting a gusset in a corset or doing a welt pocket). In order to reinforce the base of the cut, hand-sew a heart-shaped piece of material on the inside.

I thought having a heart-shape inset into a garment was so romantic that I couldn’t resist embroidering our initials inside it! Ohhhhh…! You can also see the binding that covers the raw edge of the front frill (instructions below).

Step Fourteen: Attach a frill around the front opening and/or cuff/sleeve opening, depending on the look you would like to achieve. As a general rule, gentlemen had frills and working class men had none, but this does depend on the particular era you are interested in. I only did a front frill.

The front frill, pinned and ready to sew. After sewing, the raw edge was bound with bias-binding. You can also see the heart-shaped piece visible at the bottom of the vertical slit.

Step Fifteen: Attach a button to each cuff and one to the lower edge of the collar. The collar could have as many as three buttons.

All complete! An 18th Century man’s shirt.

The next item in Mr Knightley’s wardrobe will be a cravat.

To read all my posts on MY Mr Knightley, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey – A group of posts about women’s Regency costumes

Sources and Relevant Links

The details of an 18th Century shirt from the picture above, in the Victoria and Albert Museum

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

A pattern for a man’s shirt available online (as well as other men’s period clothing patterns), by Kanniks Korner

How to Flat Fell Seams

An 18th Century reproduction of a man’s shirt, by Kanniks Korner

An 18th Century extant example of a man’s shirt – at All The Pretty Dresses

Making an 18th Century shirt – cutting and sewing instructions from 1760

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