suit from the mid 18th century, 2009
other words, the great challenge.
hardly any education or experience about tailoring or
pattern drafting for men in general. On the other hand,
historical fashion needs a different kind of approach to
cut and fitting anyway. When I began this project, I was
still developing my eye for the period look, as I still
am, of course. Nor did I have a very clear idea about the
construction. As for the patterns, there are of course
patterns taken from museum pieces, but unfortunately all I
came across were not even close to Jarno's size, which
makes getting the proportions right a bit more
Once again I was greatly aided by La Couturiere Parisienne's tutorial and also received some advice for friends. The rest I reasoned by myself, probably not always with the best results, but then I can always claim that this is my first one, right? When the suit was finally finished I was actually a bit bewildered that I had ever managed to finish it at all.
suit loosely about mid 18th century was first and foremost
based on aesthetics, as I'm rather fond of the look. At
this point the silhouette had already narrowed a bit from
the flamboyant wide skirts and gigantic cuffs of the 40's,
but had not yet developed into the slender style of the
later century. My own taste runs mainly from the
mid-century to 90's, so Jarno's outfit would more or less
go with everything I wear - you can always be conservative
and wear an earlier style even if your wife goes for for
the latest fashion fads.
the material was very easy. Black is always a safe choice,
and wool is both period correct and nice to work with. I
have to confess, though, that the material I chose (as it
was somewhat affordable) has some polyamide too. The sole
decoration are brass buttons. The waiscoat was originally
planned to be of the same black material as the coat and
breeches, and I was slightly surprised when Jarno declared
that he wanted something fancier after all. We didn't have
much time to search, so luckily we soon found a nice
furnising material which really adds to the look. Even
though the waistcoat is an important part of the suit,
I've chosen to create a page of it's own for it - mainly
to prevent this project page becoming impossibly long.
The patterns are a mixture and interpretation of the following sources: La Couturiere Parisienne, Norah Waughs "The cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900” and the pattern for a mid-century military uniform provided by The Olde Militia of Helsinki. Duran Textiles also had a detailed article about a swedish mid-century suit in their newsletter, which I found very informative.
Let us begin with the
breeches, with which I begun the project even before I had
any idea of the patterns for the rest. It's best to handle
such a big project on smaller units if possible.
I chose the earlier style for
the waist with a fairly modern fly, instead of the later
fall-front style. According to Duran
Textiles the latter only came in use in Sweden on
the 70's, though it was obviously in use in France already
in the 50's - exact dating aside, the main reason was that
it seemed easier to me. Having made this main style choise
I gathered Jarno's measurements and all my pattern sources
together and began to draft a pattern.
One of my teachers used to
compare drafting trouser patterns to dark arts, and I
think she may have been quite right. 18th century breeches
also differ somewhat from modern trousers. They fit snugly
at thigh while being baggy at the hips, especially at the
beck, so one can sit comfortably, and the long coat
conveniently covers the bagginess anyway. Convenient for
the final outcome, not so convenient for research in
paintings. Like I already mentioned, the patterns I had
were way too small for Jarno. My own experiences with
making pants for myself have always been mostly about how
to get them large enough at the hips and bottom and yet
small at the waist, so that didn't particularly help. Even
at this age you can still learn the difference between
male and female anatomy...
One of my biggest questions
was how high the waist was supposed to rise. According to
the patterns the waist seemed still to sit quite low at
this period, but a little bit higher rise seemed somehow
safer to me. Drafting the pattern was very much about
trial and error, and if my memory serves me right the
third or fourth pair of mock up breeches fit to my
satisfaction. Luckily I had bought a lot of muslin from
According to some sources, like La Couturiere Parisienne, the breeches were usually left unlined, but as I have seen museum pieces which seem to be lined I decided to make a lining - it so conveniently finishes everything and hides machine stitching and uneven seam allowances (like anyone would care anyway). I used a thin cotton batiste which I use for most things that need a breathing lining. Being totally pedantic I got the great idea to dye it black. My limited dying experiences include mostly pastel tones, but black was quite another thing. After two dyes it was still a very uneven dark blue. In the lining it would do, but then I realized that with sweat or rain the dye just might come off and stain the hand-sewn shirt. I wasn't very eager to take the risk so I bought some more batiste which stayed white.
After all the hassle with the
patterns the sewing was comparatively easy. The directions
for the construction come mainly from La
Couturiere Parisienne. For the interlining in the
waistband, and everywhere there would be buttonholes I
used linen. Before making the breeches up I stretched the
front pieces a bit at the thigh and tried to shrink the
back pieces accordingly with steam iron.
I made everything I could with machine but all the finishing by hand. On the whim of crazy perfectionism I used the dyed batiste for the pocket bags and the fly, fearing that the white would peek out offensively - which might even have been totally period. I also used fabric covered buttons for the fly though rest of the buttons were brass ones, so that they wouldn't show.
waistband opens at the back and is closed with a lacing -
this gives some room for adjusting the size. The lacing
holes are handmade very tightly, which makes them really
The kneeband should be fastened with a buckle, but as I was in a hurry I din't bother to search for a suitable one but made a buttonhole instead. Also I realized only after finishing the kneeband how it really should be attached (I hadn't understood the directions properly before), but I'm not going to do it again.
|All the edges are finished with hand-stitching, which makes them neat and firm. The biggest job were the 20 buttonholes. I used silk buttonhole thread, which was really nice to work with and din't get annoyingly tangled all the time.|
The finished breeches fit
quite nicely at first, but the first time Jarno wore them
we noticed a big problem. New pants usually stretch a bit
at the waist, and obviously the linen I had used for the
interlining was not nearly strong enough to keep them in
shape. Jarno had also lost some weight. So, after the
first half an hour the pants were literally falling of all
the time, especially as they are loose at the hips. Poor
Jarno managed somehow through the day, and for the next
day of the weekend-event I moved the moved the buttons as
far as I could, which helped a little. Later he has used a
non-period solution of suspenders. Well, at least he is
unlikely to outgrow the breeches any time soon...
Not counting this little
mishap the breeches weren't too hard to make. The next
part of the suit to attack was the waistcoat, which I made
pretty fast - more about it can be found here. When it was the time
to move on to the coat, I became more nervous. That
terrifying project is presented on the next page...