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.


DPP progress

Well I’ve pretty much resigned myself to not getting this finished in time for the contest deadline. I’m still hoping to enter, just with a much plainer entry. Here’s the plan:

  • Combinations – complete
  • Corset – complete
  • Train supporter – complete
  • Petticoat – complete
  • Skirt – complete except for trimming
  • Bodice

The original plan was to have an additional overskirt but that’s not going to happen and neither are the trimmings on the skirt or the bodice. I want to have the bodice put together though. I made up the pattern this weekend and started construction this evening. I’ll just have to see how far I’m going to get.

And can I saw what a dream it has been to drape this bodice?? Relatively speaking of course! I sized up an example from The Cut of Women’s Clothes (which I left at home so I can’t look up the page right now) and it fit really well in a lot of ways. I only really needed one mockup! Of course my failure has always been over-fitting which is a definite advantage for this type of dress!

I’m super proud of myself for not putting pressure on myself about this. I’m really proud of the work that I’m done so far and the super-accurate details. I’m really not concerned about the deadline. I mean, it would be nice to have the bodice finished in time but if not oh well! I’ll still have a fabulous dress in the end. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the other entries!


A few pictures

1870’s hair mockup

In preparation for my Douple Period Project entry I did a mockup of my hair today. I used the series of articles poublished in YWU as my starting point and source for ispiration. For the hair pieces I used two straight falls that look like this. Mine are synthetic and I got them a couple of years ago when I worked in a costume shop. I twisted both into chiognon’s and layered one on top of the other. This forms the real mass of the haistyle.
The Hairpiece

Life and School update

So my grad school applications are done. I ended up applying to two schools, Queen’s for the Art Conservation program and UAlberta for the Textiles and Clothing program. I really don’t know which would be better for me. Who knows if I’m going to get in anywhere? The term is progressing quickly and I have a ton of work to do *sigh* I don’t see how I’m going to accomplish it all. My next big event is my french midterm this friday. Lots of revision to do over the next couple of days.

Issues with the Medieval Studies program have recently been causing drama on campus. Essentially, cost cutting measures taken by the administration are going to result in negative effects on many of the interdisciplinary programs offered at Laurier. As sad as I am to hear this I have come to the conclusion, after much thought, that these changes are inevitable. The budgetary situation at Laurier is dire and the time to remedy that is long past. The Faculty of Arts administration is doing everything it can to preserve the programs but there really isn’t much they can do. I’m just thankful that I am graduating from both the Archaeology and Medieval Studies programs when I am and before these significant changes.

In  costuming news, I’m making an 1860’s day dress in a slightly different style.

I got this image here: http://earthlyangelscdvs.blogspot.com/

What struck me about this image was the incredible simplicity. No piping, not even a waistband! I’m reinterpreting this simplicity into a day dress that could have been worn by an average woman. Although upon further reflection it might be quaker garb… I did a significant amount of piecing at the hem of the skirt in order to keep the skirt as long as possible. I only had 4 meters of the fabric to work with and I have used up nearly every scrap! I’ve got the bodice put together although I put pleats in instead of the darts in an effort to make it more of a work dress. I’ve tried grathered bodiced and they just don’t seem to work for me! I will post pictures of the finished project when it’s done. Did I mention I’m had sewing the whole thing?

So that’s the state of the nation here in Brenna-land. I hope those of you who had a reading week enjoyed it!

1860’s ball gown

So in the interest of continuing my trend of posting I decided to post about my current project, an 1860’s ball gown.

So I had this silk… I bought it when fabric.com was having at sale on silk taffeta a month or two ago. It’s a bit dark for my taste but it’s the first silk I’ve bought so I’m darn well going to use it! They sent me a few meters extra of the stuff because they had to send it in several pieces so there is plenty to go around. I decided to make a separate day and evening bodice that share the same skirt. See under the cut for my sketch and more details.


The design for the day bodice and the skirt trimmings come for this 1856 fashion plate here. I’ve already got the bodice mostly put together but I shortened the front point and used 1860’s seam lines and such to update it a few years.

The ball gown bodice trimming is from this example from Montreal’s McCord Museum which I highly recommend you check out if you’re ever in montreal. I’ve visited the past couple of summers and their special exhibits have always been excellent. Anyway, my dilemma comes from wanting to maintain the blue(ish) and black colours of the original fashion plate but I’m not sure what the third colour for the lacing and organza trimming would be. For now I’m thinking white but it might just come down to what fabric I can find. I’m interpreting the decoration as pleated organza and net on the bottom of the ribbon with lace on top. I might even work up some simple scalloped needle lace for that.

So far I have been working on the day bodice. I need to pick of some for hooks and eyes before I can get much farther. Next up are the chemisette, and undersleeves which I will post about as they progress

I’m way tired so time for sleep now. Good night!

More corseting

So I managed to put in all the reed into the boning channels yesterday. It took far longer than I like to think to finish that step. Especially considering my growing fears about fit! I’ve my fingers crossed that it will all work out! Today I got all the eyelets done on the back and marked the eyelets for one side of the front. All this hand sewing is starting to get to me. It’s frustrating because I now have all the materials I need to complete this outfit but my fingers won’t sew quickly enough! I also left my camera up at my field school so all I have are crappy phone camera pictures. Oh well!

Oh and I also rediscovered some pictures on my phone that I took of the buckram form I made for my 1860’s bonnet

In this image you can also see my lovely basement 🙂

The finished product!

I really need to finish that essay of mine thats due on Tuesday… Think stock buckles, not sewing!

P.S. I have no idea what I should lace this corset with, anyone have any suggestions?