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Reconstructing History 1820s Tailcoat Pattern

October 30, 2010

A pattern was found and purchased, now all I had to do was find some suitable fabric, preferably a light close-woven wool.  I had been looking for over a year…to no avail.  Then I found some navy blue fabric in a bin-bag in the shed, which I’d had for years and forgotten about.  It might be suitable.  But then I compared it with some other navy blue fabric that I’d bought the previous year which looked even more suitable.

Anyway, fabric sorted, time to get on with the calico toile (mock-up).  Pattern laid out and traced…Robert cut them out…pieces pinned  to calico and cut out…then let us begin!  Back pieces pinned and basted…front pieces pinned at shoulders and basted.  I nipped to the loo, and when I came back…Robert had it on already!!  He insisted I take photos!!!

Having read through the instructions, I discovered a lot of discrepancies when I tried to make it up.  For one thing, there were no notches for matching up the seams, the detailed instructions were anything but, and the collar just didn’t look at all right!

OK, I thought, either I am just not getting it or something is seriously wrong with this pattern!  It turned out to be the pattern, as a friend had used one of RHs patterns before and had the same problems, and said that she ended up having to make it up as she went along…which is what I had to do.

Out came the books, the most helpful being V&As ‘Nineteenth-Century Fashion In Detail’, and Norah Waugh’s ‘The Cut Of Men’s Clothes, 1600-1900’.  Portraits of the era found in other books and online were also referred to from time to time, as I needed to check details…one such website being You might wish to turn the sound off, as the little tune can grate on the nerves after a while.

Several metres of calico later, and a lot of tweaking and twiddling, re-drawing and re-cutting, I think I had finally sussed it.  The collar and lapels gave me the biggest headache, as the picture on the front of the pattern shows the coat with an ‘M’ notch, but the pattern as was just made up as lapels and fold over collar…that ended up falling down and looking like a small cape!!

Re-jigging this took time, which was running out rapidly!  Finally happy with the re-modelled collar, I was able to proceed with re-drawing the pattern pieces before commencing with the actual coat.

By this time I was beginning to panic!  I still had Robert’s fall-front trousers (or ‘trowsers’ as it was spelled at the time), and my spencer and reticule to make, as well as finishing off the bonnet that I had started…I was turning into the Mad Sewing Woman…!!!

Would we get to the Jane Austen Festival’s Grand Regency Promenade in completed costumes, or would we have to forfeit this year???  Find out in the next exciting episode of Mad Sewing Woman’s Crazy Quest…!!   

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2010 1:31 pm

    The right sleevehead wasn’t quite right, so I had to undo it and do it again…until I’d got it right. Even the actual coat needed a lot of fittings and re-jigging to get it to fit better.
    Anyway…more photos to come in the next blog post.

  2. Patrick Andrews permalink
    October 30, 2010 3:32 pm

    I have never found any pattern that did not require alterations or “tweaking”.I think you are doing quite well! Pattern-makers seem to rely on 21stc grading w/ a computer aided drafting system and from experience I know that all results need to be finely “tuned”.And all fitting,also. You are doing quite well!!!!!!!!!1

    • October 30, 2010 4:27 pm

      Thanks…more photos to follow in the next post.
      I am fairly new to historic costuming, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from making costumes for pantomimes and other stage productions!! I never did get into dress-making in general, but I’m now wishing that I had!
      Sharing a weekly class with the C&G fashion students, when I was a college (doing soft furnishings and upholstery) taught me a lot, as I paid a lot of attention to their work and methods, not least the making of a toile!

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