Since my 9-year-old son asked to come to the Jane Austen Festival, I have become inspired to make him a midshipman uniform for the occasion. He also seems rather keen to go to “Book Week” as “Mr Midshipman Hornblower”, which could be interesting for him!
There was no sign of anything brewing while dinner was being eaten in the great cabin of the Indefatigable. Pellew was a courtly host at the head of the table. Conversation flowed freely and along indifferent channels among the senior officers present – the two lieutenants, Eccles and Chadd, and the sailing master, Soames. Hornblower and the other junior officer – Mallory, a midshipman of over two years’ seniority – kept silent, as midshipmen should, thereby being able to devote their undivided attention to the food, so vastly superior to what was served in the midshipmen’s berth.
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester
For the second post in this series, I will be making an 18th century boys shirt and stock.
Generally speaking, men’s 18th century shirts were all made along the same lines. They were made from rectangles and squares, neatly cut as to have little offcuts, and rather roomy in the body, only fitting closely around the neck and the wrist cuffs.
In addition to this, midshipmen from this Regency period all seemed to have a front frill on their 18th century shirts, which is often seen peeking out from below their neckstocks. However, they do not seem to have the corresponding frill around their wrists, which was so popular during the 18th century.
Using this information, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt. I last made an 18th century shirt when I was making a Regency costume for my husband, so I simply referred back to my post and followed the same process using the smaller measurements.
There is a basic pattern for a shirt in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes, or there are various places online to look for making an 18th century shirt.
I made this shirt from white cotton broadcloth. It has a front frill and a dorset button on each wrist cuff and the collar. It is rather roomy, but I am hopeful that it will still fit if he grows before April next year.
A black stock was considered the general sign of a military man in this period. Sometimes they were made into a short straight strip, laid on the front of the neck and then attached at the back with ties. Other times they appear to be a longer strip of fabric that crosses at the back and is knotted at the front.
Bush felt the perspiration prickling under his uniform, and his stock constricted his thick neck so that every now and again he put two fingers into it and tugged, without relief. It would have been the simplest matter in the world to take off his heavy uniform coat and unhook his stock, but it never crossed his mind that he should do so. Bodily discomfort was something that one bore without a complaint in the world; habit and pride both helped.
Lieutenant Hornblower, by C.S. Forester
I have previously made a variety of cravats for my husband, but this time I particularly wanted a stock that knotted in front, similar to the painting of Midshipman Michael Daintry above.
From the pictures I have seen, this type of stock appeared to be a long triangular piece that was folded, laid on the front of the neck, crossed at the back and then neatly knotted (with short ends) at the front.
I used black cotton broadcloth and cut it with the long straight edge on the selvedge. The neckcloth is folded lengthways before being put around the neck.
All finished! And looking good so far.
Next up, making a little midshipman’s breeches.
Sources and Relevant Links
Portrait of Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813) – painted by Thomas Lawrence
18th century shirts – from Germanisches National Museum
The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon
Making an 18th Century shirt – the cutting and sewing instructions from 1760
Image (Drawing) Source – from Osprey Men-at-Arms 65: Royal Navy 1790-1970