1812 Coat

I watched an episode of Sharpe the other day and it got me to thinking about reenacting. Yet another one of those activities that I swear I would be doing ALL THE TIME if I wasn’t busy across the ocean getting a master’s degree. I’m pretty well set for dresses and underthings, despite ongoing experiments with stays, but I lack outerwear. I’m hoping to make it back home in time for the fall events however I need cold weather gear if that is going to happen. So! Commence scheming…

Things I want this garment to do:

  • protect me from the rain with long sleeves and full coverage from the skirt of the coat
  • have a capelet over the shoulders to shed water and add some protection
  • a standing collar that sits close to the neck
  • lined for warmth
  • seam finishes that help repel water
  • have the garment more or less appropriate to campfollower’s station
  • a decent fit that gives me a waist!

I have some fabric picked out: three metres of a pale lavender fulled wool. It’s not much, nor is it a colour I particularly care for, however this stuff is an amazing example of what wool can do. It is so heavily fulled it is very difficult to see the weave (I think it’s a twill of some kind) but that feature is what makes this fabric so perfect for wet weather gear. The fibres are so closely bound that water beads on top! This is also why I’m not going to attempt to dye it. Not only will it most likely not turn out well due to the likely lack of penetration of the dye, but I really don’t want to mess with the finish on the fabric which the high temperatures required for good dyeing probably would. It probably wouldn’t stand up to a true dunking but it pretty darn good for a fabric without a water-repelling finish.

I’ve done a bit of searching online but I haven’t found an extant garment with the details I’m looking for. Ideally I’d like to see something similarin some collection but I think I wider range of sources including images and men’s garments would be useful here. I’m particularly interested in the tailoring details of men’s garment as wool coats of the period generally feature details found on men’s clothing and military uniforms.

So here are a few sources of inspiration.

This is pretty much what I’m going for. The plate is dated to the French revolutionary calendar of year 14 which I think corresponds roughly to 1805/1806.* This is a nice temporal distance from both the up to date high fashions and geographical source for my lower-class, colonial persona. I think it’s reasonable that a lower class campfollower in Upper Canada could have a coat that stylictically is similar in 1812-14. The great big cape over the shoulders should be great protection from the rain and the long skirt offers great coverage. It’s not going to be easy getting that out of 3 metres but I think the length and coverage is really important to get this to look “right”. Oh well, piecing is period! This fashion plate also has super long sleeves that extand over the hands. A nice feature that I’ll replicate if the fabric allows for it. While the white ruffle hides things a bit I think there’s a standing collar of some kind under there.

Sabine at Kleidung um 1800 has numerous lovely examples of outerwear from this period. She is one of those lucky seamstresses able to achieve “the look” of the period with apparent ease! In particular her recent post on a wool spencer has many features that I want to integrate into my coat. Notably, the use of raw edges, although I will not be pinking the edges, as well as the cut and construction of the lining. The use of different fabric for different areas (i.e. cotton for the sleeves to allow for ease of dressing) is worth a thought although I’m prioritizing warmth over ease of dressing with this thing!

A final source is:

Wilcox, David. 2012. “The Clothing of a Georgian Banker, Thomas Coutts: A Story of Museum Dispersal.” Costume 46 (1) (January 1): 17-54. doi:10.1179/174963012X13192178400074. http://openurl.ingenta.com/content/xref?genre=article&issn=0590-8876&volume=46&issue=1&spage=17.

I actually haven’t read this article yet. Someone mentioned it on the h-costume list and said that there were details of the lining and such for the coat. I’m assuming that the tailoring information contained there will be both new information and useful even just to inspire my construction methods.

I’m away from my books (as usual) so these three sources are hardly the limit of my inspiration but the rest will have to wait awhile. I suspect that this coat will end up moderately accurate as my personal highest standard for accuracy is the replication of an original garment, and when does that ever happen?? I also suspect that this coat will appear far too “new” and “nice” for my persona for at least a few seasons but really my goal with this coat is to keep myself warm. I’ll save my highest standards for day wear that the public will probably see. Oh yeah, I’m going to hand sew it. Just for fun!

* See this post for an explanation of these dates in relation to fashion plates of the period.

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