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The Macdonald Children

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

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

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

Skeleton suit From

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

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

Pattern

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

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

Measurements to take:

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

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The picture below has the sleeves sewn in.

The jacket has

The jacket has the sleeves sewn in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

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

The cuff is sewn to the sleeve.

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

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

A slit is made through all layers.

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

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

The button placket

The button placket sewn, shown wrong side out.

The placket can then be attached to the cuff.

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

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

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

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

The buttons and buttonholes sewn.

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

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

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

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

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

Related Posts

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s pants

The Making of a Midshipman: Cutaway Tailcoat

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Tailcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

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

Image Source: “The Macdonald Children” by Henry Raeburn

Gallery of Works by Henry Raeburn

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

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

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

Costume for a Regency Child – by The Oregon Regency Society

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