Corsetry is currently experiencing a bit of a revival – which is great ( if you still think they are torturous, rib-breaking, garments-from-hell, please read this first…). However, since they were out of fashion for quite a while, people nowadays … Continue reading
A recent post by Wearing History shed some light on the weird phenomena that social media create – what people usually show is just the good sides of their lives, creating the illusion that this is the only side. But reality is in fact far from perfect:-)
The blog post is well worth a read – and Lauren also threw a gauntlet asking other bloggers to help dispel the myth that everything is always ideal ( another one by American Duchess here)- well, this is my contribution.
I must admit that I am a very optimistic and at the same a very pragmatic person – and to start with I just couldn’t find anything worth mentioning – yes, there have been good times, and bad times, but in the end, it all worked out ok, and that’s all that matters. I think I have been very lucky so far – no partucularly serious injuries, illnesses, tragedies, etc – just some boring everyday reality, really…. So I suppose a few of the bits below may seem trivial – but trivia are also a part of our lives, so, for whatever it is worth, I decided to include some banal thing here too.
Here we go!
York, circa 2006. Had a horrendous toothache – to such an extent that I spent half the day trying to get an emergency appointment with a local dentist – and then the other half with my jaw frozen up and dribbling – but at least pain free…
Wideacre muster with Grenvilles, August bank holiday, 2008
A fantastic event – made even more interesting by the fact that one of the troopers brought viral gastroenteritis with him… he spent the first day and practice in tent, recovering – the following day our CO got and and was busy ‘purging’ and so unavailable for action. The day after ( luckily Tuesday, so no battle) I spent early morning hanging out of my tent, looking at the contents of my stomach. Then had to drive back home, stopping ever few miles for some more stomach action ( though my man had provided me with a bucket, secured in the passenger’s seat. very helpful). I was able to get back to solid food 3 days later, was off work for a week. In total, half the regiment succumbed to the virus. And oh, one of the troopers came back with a broken hand ( and he wasn’t even riding.. )
2 more Grenville events – just before and after my wrist operation, when was in such pain I could hardly grip my sword… My right wrist is in a brace, carefully hidden in the gauntlet.
Peterborough, Katherine of Aragon festival – looking serene, but my car broke down on the way to the event, on A1. I was already in full kit, and spent 15min trying to coax the pile of junk into some semblance of life. A few well placed hits with a spanner did it in the end, so was able to get there, albeit late – and had no guarantee that I will have a car to go back home in….
Holkham Hall 50ties event. It was June, but I was freezing ! more on the event here – Being MM. Also, being a sex symbol had its price – some of the comments from the public, whispered, were indecent – and there were a few older gents, who, why posing for photos, cuddles with me and the rest of their family, let their hands stray…. not a big deal, just unpleasant.
Fortunately the company of friends made up for it:-)
On my birthday, 18th April. I had a very painful operation on the 13th – just a few days before. Heavily drugged with painkillers, suffering from blood loss and not able to move my hand, the shoot was not much fun – especially since I had 2 more models to dress up too. I had to stand in a very peculiar way to hide the dressing….
Medieval pageant. The owl crapped on my new silk surcoat. 3 times….
My wedding. It was the first time Lucas hunted with me in the morning – and then we rode after the ceremony ( more on the event here – Victorian Wedding) . But a few months later he fell of a horse when we were riding in Pland, and fractured his vertebrae. He spend 3 months in a corset, and it healed but the picture above is one of the last pictures ever of him riding – the risk to his spine is now too great :-(((
A very hot day in Hereford ( more on that here ). It was boiling hot and I was drenched in sweat. Moreover, with a heavy period, I suffered from cramps all day long – but the real problem was the fact that throughout the day I felt liquid running down my thighs, straight into my boots- and could not check whether it was sweat or blood…. Was happy to find out it was sweat, and was not leaving bloody footprints…
Holkham 2013 – just a fortnight later our garage caught fire. Lost all my stock, lots of private stuff and despite insurance cost me a few grand. Still we got a nice photoshoot out of it!
One of the effects of the garage fire was having to move house – we found a nice place, a pricey one, but just on the borderline of affordability. We moved on Friday, and on Monday my husband was made redundant. We did the shoot for the Summer dress while we we living off savings, in a limbo of unemployment, staying n a house we could not afford to rent. It did turn out ok in the end, but these were 5 very stressful months!
Georgian Ball, March 2015. Completely lost voice. Some may argue though, that it was in fact a blessing on that occasion :-))
Well, there you have it – life is not all beer and skittles, silks and balls – reality does creep in. And so it should, it would be boring otherwise! 🙂
And oh, the last one – my workroom looks like that. About twice a year. For about half a day. Then creative chaos creeps in – and on every other day it looks like a fabric bomb has exploded. A few times… and sometimes there is too much work to spend time tidying… :-((
We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)
Over the winter I have been working on a bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.
Another bespoke habit for another client is happening too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.
In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.
It all happened as I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and 6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian, roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice – based on this look.
The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As you can see, the skirts are very long to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking. Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree
btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board
I was wearing a corset, white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit to achieve the look:-)
Once we were done with shooting, I shared the photos and put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady who bought it – just in case she returns it….
As a business minded person, I just couldn’t ignore this situation – and since had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it. Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…
A very busy time with a sewing machine followed – and I just managed to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard
I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was based on a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)
I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.
Work in progress…
The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here
The second habit was based on this one from the MET
I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination
and it fitted me well – really like the look!
Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too – and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of a secret video project I am currently working on..)
and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!
This habit is also available in the shop – Here
I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items, each habit will be a little bit different, so that each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings ( and a different price bracket too….)
Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery
A bit of a blast from the past – but I stumbled upon the pictures and realised tat I hadn’t blogged about this ‘traumatic experience’ yet; ( mostly because back then I did not have a blog…) Anyway, the story… The event was set up to re-create the famous civic parade that took place in 1428,celebrating the visit of king James I. Griffin Historical were given the mammoth task of organizing it and supplying riders and ground crew. Over 80 riders and support crew were flown from different parts of Europe – England, the Netherlands, Poland, etc – and the cavalcade itself counted over twelve hundred people in total, all in medieval gear… We arrived the day before the event – most of us were picked up at the airport and deposited in two major hostels in Valencia’s Old Town. Many of us knew one another quite well – from past events, jousting circle, and other historical and equestrian backgrounds, ( I also brought a friend from my ECW regiment – not everybody had medieval kit, but many people shared what they had in order to get the look). We just had time enough to go for a walk, admire some fireworks and visit a few tapas bars…
The next morning we all breakfasted, assembled and were briefed, then the kit was sorted out – we put on our hose, chemises, doublets, boots etc… And since I was a bloke for this event, Griff placed me in a nice padded gambeson, hiding my womanly flesh, and I got a nice piece of headgear too…. Can you see that it is a woman hiding in there? 🙂 A perfect disguise… Then it was time to do some dry training, (not mounted). The folks who were to ride in full armour had arrived a few days earlier and practiced with the horses, so they had a vague idea of what to expect – there were 15 fully harnessed knights, quite a sight! The rest of us were blissfully ignorant, but we had fun discovering our duties… Like marching up in down the training grounds, with long pikes, practicing formations… After hours of that, we had a quick break ( siesta!) and then it was time….. In the centre a huge tent was erected – huge to house about 100 horses and people…. and that’s where we waited… and waited some more…. …and then suddenly it was time to meet the horses and mount up. Yeeesss, about that…….
It turned out that quite a few of the supplied mounts that were brought in were supplied by third parties – from outside of the town. Indeed , as I learnt later, many of them were seeing a town for the first time ever – and it was quite evident. They were lovely horses – many of them stallions, many spooked by the unfamiliar surroundings. It didn’t help that many of the riders were beginners, too – since all we had to do was to sit and walk, no trotting or cantering, Griff’s team had to match their abilities to the horses. As it happened, I was busy helping people to mount up, and when the time arrived for me to get a pony, there were only two left in the tent – a nice chestnut and a lovely gray. There were three people standing next to the chestnut, and none with the gray – good, I thought! so I grabbed the handsome beast and led him out. Only to learn the reason why he was left alone – once outside, he completely freaked out, rearing and panicking, impossible to mount up. Nicky, ( who was doing a sterling job of organizing the mounting chaos and helping folks out), just looked and told me to forget it, he won’t do, sorry, I will have to walk. Well, I didn’t fly all the way there to just to walk! In the end, Nick led the horse toward me, standing on a mounting block, and I sort of jumped on en route… and then the fireworks started… After a few hairy moments of dancing, prancing etc, the horse calmed down and was ok 🙂 Everybody was mounted and we slowly started making progress towards the start of the cavalcade… the steps first though… In the meantime, the weather took a turn for the worse – it started to rain… As a result, ( I think), we were not given any pikes to hold; ( I was very grateful for that, the moment I saw the narrow alleys and slippery cobbles)… Immediately after we started, problems started to pop up – there is no Health and Safety over there, it seems – the public was just next to us, next to the slipping, kicking, biting stallions, and bless them, ( the public, not particularly the stallions), they were fearless, especially the kids. Everybody wanted to pat the horses… Our ground crew, both Griff’s staff and local folk were a great help – trying to calm don panicked horses, shield the public from the riders, and calm down the riders who suddenly decided that it wasn’t their idea of fun and wanted off, now. My horse was doing OK, despite shying and prancing a bit, he wasn’t rearing and bit my support crew bloke only once – So I felt reasonably safe on board. The bloke in question, a weathered chap of about 60, named Jose was not only helpful, but talkative and so we struck a conversation in my halting Spanish. He was the source of my information about where the horses came from, ( mostly farms and gypsy encampments, according to him), and about the festival.
For me the cavalcade was proving fairly uneventful – stressful, yes, but not nerve wracking. Others were not so lucky… The rain meant the ground was very, very slippery – be prepared, some disturbing photos below. Just let me say that none of the horses were injured in their falls, ( a miracle, surely!) and the riders escaped mostly unscathed too 🙂 It does look awful – but all the horses who fell, did get up and continued the parade. They did not even panic, bless them. Apart from a couple incidents like these, it all went fine… The cavalcade was cut about an hour short due to the deteriorating weather conditions, so we missed the fireworks (just as well), and made our way back to the tent, where we dismounted, (many with an audible sight of relief!) We thanked our mounts and left them with their carers/owners… Duty done, time to party – well, at least food was first on the agenda, we were starved! There was some entertainment too:
In in the meantime the weather turned to be of the ‘tropical downpour’ variety… We had to make our way back to the hostels – needless to say we were drenched…. The hostels were flooded too, but nothing we couldn’t deal with 🙂 but all evening party plans, ( we were going to hit a salsa club or two), were cancelled. The city was flooded too, the streets turned into rivers, cars being swept away – and so hostel based entertainment had to suffice, ( chatting mostly and reliving the experiences of the day). The next day dawned clear and most of the flooded drained away overnight – so I ended up on a romantic walk around the old town, then back to the hostel to check out. Our flight was in the evening , so our small party had some time for sightseeing – we ended up admiring the town, drying our clothes, eating, resting, buying Valencian lace (me, mostly…), and socializing. The flight back was uneventful – though there were some scenes of distress at the weighting in of the luggage – water soaked gambeson weighs much, much more than a dry one…. Some paid up the price, some wore theirs on the flight… The whole event was, well, ‘interesting’ is a mild way of putting it! It was stressful, exhilarating, scary, and fun – and I would do it again! Alas, it was a one off, it seems. Still, that 2 hours of a walking taught me a lot about horse riding, dealing with stress, wet surfaces, public etc – so some learning took place 🙂 Hope you enjoyed reading the bit – I enjoyed re-living it again! P.S. the pictures of the cavalcade were taken off the news websites shortly after the event – if any of you know the sources, photographers etc, I would appreciate help with tracing them back 🙂
One of the articles ( well, two in one, actually) I originally wrote for Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – It is a long and a detailed tutorial, hopefully targeted at folks who would like to make their own stuff… I do make historical habits as commissions, if you are interested, please check my website!
1885 Riding habit – jacket
I have wanted that habit since I first clasped my eyes on it – the one from Victorian and Albert museum. The jacket has been on my to-do list for ages, in fact I had hoped I could wear it for the wedding hack, but somehow ran out of time to make it. Still, its time has finally come and in the present article we will have a closer look at how to make one as well as the skirt and the riding trousers !
As remarked in the article on the Regency riding habit, some significant changes were afoot. Due to the fencing off the countryside, it has become unavoidable that to follow a hunt, one will have to jump all the fences and hedges in the way. Not much of a problem for all the gentlemen, but a serious issue for the lady riders.
A bit of side saddle history should cast some light on it: the saddles used so far for the ladies had only one pommel, over which the lady would hook her leg. This has enabled her to sit facing forwards – a technique believed to have been invented by Catherine de Medici , though there is an engraving by Durer (pic.a)that predates the French Queen’s time, showing a lady facing forward as well.
Whoever could be credited with the invention, it was a huge improvement – before ladies either sat on a saddle facing completely sideways, with a planchette to rest the feet on, with little control of the steady palfrey which was often led by a groom (http://thesidesaddlemuseum.com/detail17thcenthermessaddle.html). Or, for a faster ride, they sat behind a man riding pillion (still practiced in Tudor times). Neither way was completely comfortable and neither allowed the freedom of movement. However, with the side saddles with a pommel, it was possible for a lady to ride independently.
And it was all fine until one had to jump. Bolder Regency ladies would strap themselves to the saddles to ensure you would stay on over the fences – but it was dangerous as in case of a horse falling, the rider would be easily crushed. But with the invention of the second pommel, the leaping head, it has suddenly become possible to stay on, quite comfortably so, over all kinds of jumps, fences or ditches. The equestrian minded ladies, for the first time in history, were able to ride independently in all conditions, keeping up with the men – but still looking elegant and ladylike. Indeed the sport became very popular, with several famous equestriennes performing all kind of tricks on the side saddle.
The riding habits reflected the changes in the saddle design, especially as far as the cut of the skirts was concerned. I remarked in the previous article how difficult it was to arrange my regency skirts on a later Victorian saddle – the skirt would simply not lie properly as the leaping head was in the way, hooking the fabric. So firstly the skirts were cut much fuller – not a problem in the crinoline age skirts – but that still didn’t completely solve the problem as the skirts would bulk up and get tangled around the rider’s legs .
Later Victorian skirts are cut very differently – they are much more fitted, hugging the hips, and having darts at the knee, shaping the garment to match the shape the rider’s right thigh would assume on horseback. It was still not completely safe as in case of a fall a lady could still catch her skirts and be dragged behind the horse – but it was the first step towards the later much safer apron skirts which are still worn today.
The bodice changed as well, though here the changes simply reflected the changes of fashions. A few things remained constant however: the cut was simple, utilitarian, resembling man’s jackets and uniforms – and the braiding so popular on men’s attire was no less popular amongst the ladies. The riding habits were worn on shirts or chemisettes, and corsets. Indeed a ‘riding’ or a sport corsets were used – shorter, with hips cut much higher to allow the rider to sit comfortably. The corset, boned either lightly or more heavily depending on the rider’s requirements does not restrict the movement – if anything, it provides a terrific back support.
There is quite a lot of extant habits to be found online- I compiled quit e a lot of images of the habits throughout the ages on my Pinterest board
Background information and research.
Well, not much here on this habit apart from the images from the V&A – there are a few photos of the same jacket on the web but in different light, so although it is difficult to be precise about the hue of the jacket and the braid, it is at the same time easier to see some details more clearly.
The original shows the jacket in grey/blue fabric with a grey braid decoration – as the description says, ‘Flannel trimmed with mohair, and lined with sateen’. Indeed the style of the jacket is described as ‘Hungarian’ or ‘Polish’, so I found it very fitting, considering my Polish origins! It was made by Messrs Redfern and Co. For May Primrose Littledale.
1.5m of the top fabric – flannel, broadcloth, superfine would be best. Here broadcloth is used. ( for great cloth have a look here)
1.5m of lining fabric- cotton, sateen, silk, linen. I used flax linen.
If you are using thinner fabrics, interlining is recommended.
3m of narrow cotton bias binding
17 buttons – here lovely silk wrapped buttons by Gina Barrett
Hooks and eyes – optional, I used mine to secure the underside front
A strip of buckram for lining the collar
4 bones and bone castings
15m of braid – I made my own out of cotton yarn. Simply couldn’t find one that would work well as most of the braids nowadays contain rayon etc. Still, if authenticity is not the priority, there are a few that would do – there are excellent links in Gina’s article on frogging. I had originally planned to make mine out of silk yarn, but I didn’t have enough and couldn’t find the same colour anywhere. Still, the cotton seems to work!
Tracing paper to transfer the pattern
Calico for mock up
Well, for once, it was a bit easier. I used the pattern and the mock up from my wedding bodice – the sleeves, back and sides. All I had to do was to experiment with the asymmetric front. Easier said than done – the experimenting did take some time!
A similar pattern can be found on Vena Cava website:
I actually bought this one, as the skirt and trousers will be based on that – and maybe one day I can have a go at another jacket too!
Cut your pieces in calico and sew them together. As mentioned, I used my existing mock up, and simply drafted an overlapping right front on a calico instead of an original part.
- Try it on, making sure you wear the underwear you intend to wear it with – in this case a corset. Not so good here -needs a few adjustments on the front.
- Once you are satisfied with the fit, transfer the changes to the pattern and cut the jacket in top fabric and lining. There are a two options as to the method of lining – you can either flat line it, or make the lining and the top separately. I decided to flat line mine as it gives a bit more stability, seems to be more accurate for the period, and it is easier to attach any bones if needs be. So I placed my top pieces on top of lining, pinned them together even before I started cutting the lining out – as a result they are ready for sewing the moment you finish cutting
- Start with the darts in the front parts. Pin them together and sew through all layers of the fabric. If your fabric is flimsy, it is a good idea to baste the layers together first.
- With the darts sewn, trim the lining to reduce bulk and press
- Sew the rest of the bodice together – start at the back and add part by part, making sure the seams lie flat – careful pinning or basting is recommended, especially on the curved seams. If you need, draw the seam line on the lining – will help if you don’t want to rely on the machine’s gauge
- Trim the lining along the seams to reduce the bulk. Notch them too – the seam, especially any curved seam will work better. It is also easier to iron them flat.
- Try the bodice on – there is still time for adjustment, and in fact, mine needed a few! Back needed taking in more and the front didn’t look fantastic either The front was an inch too high and it turned out that it was necessary to insert a horizontal dart to facilitate the transition between the bulk of the bust and the neck area. Darts like that were used in 18th century riding bodices and in some Victorian bodices too – so I decided to insert on here too. And it worked nicely.
- Once all the alternations are done, press the seams open and either pink the seams allowance, or couch them down.
- Sleeves next. Again, pin the two parts together and sew. Reduce the seam bulk and press the seams – not an easy task but can be achieved with the help of the tailor’s ham and sleeve ironing board
- Insert the sleeve into the armhole, pin it safely – and if you plan to have the sleeve head slightly gathered (like mine – gives me that little extra freedom of movement!), secure the gathers with a thread. Sew, then treat the seam like all the others – trim the lining seam allowance and notch on the curve. Repeat with the other sleeve.
- Tidy all the edges of the bodice, preparing for binding. Pin or baste the layers together and then pin on the bias binding’
- Sew the binding on. Trim the edges to match the edge of the binding Encase the edge with the binding, pin and hand stitch. ) Press the finished edges flat. Repeat on the sleeves.
- The collar – pin the layers together (here 2 layers of wool and 2 of interlining) and sew. Grade the seam allowances to reduce the bulk and trim the edges inside
- Pin to the bodice and try on, ensuring that the collar is even on both sides. Sew, right sides together, through the bodice and collar layers (all except the collar’s lining). Grade the seam allowances.
- Secure the collar’s lining – i used the same fabric as the top fabric here) and hand stitch in place
- Buttonholes. Mark the buttonholes on the overlapping fabric – the original had 17 buttons, and it so happened that mine was a perfect length for it – a button every inchJ work the buttonholes either by hand or machine.
- Add the bones. Use either ready-made bone casings or make your own in your fabric. Then stitch the bones to the seams and the front darts.
- Back pleats – pin the pleats in desired place and secure with stitches – all you can add a bit of fabric to strengthen the place.
The bodice is basically finished, it simply needs some decoration.
I followed Gina’s advice on the type of braid and made mine out of cotton yarn. It is easy to make (7 strand braid – I have done 8 and 5 strands before), but the required length meant there were some complications. Usually, if a short length was required, I would prepare my threads by tying the excess length in little bundles. It works, but the threads tangle quite a lot. So for the rest of the braid, I simply used lace making bobbins – the braid can be much longer now and plaiting is smoother.
Eons later, once you have all your braid ready (or if you are less of a martyr and bought some nice readymade one!) the real fun begins – applying the braid. Again, I used Gina’s instructions from her excellent article on frogging. I drew the pattern on the paper, based it to the fabric, sew the braid on and then removed the paper. Note though – removing the paper from those tiny nooks and spaces between the braid took ages – many thanks to my husband who spent at least an hour with tweezers…).
Repeat for all the other decorations – on the sleeves, back and collar.
Add the buttons and the jacket is ready to wear!
Skirt and trousers
The original jacket is displayed with a plain black skirt. I have decided to go a bit further and get a skirt in matching wool. As pointed out in the previous article, the skirts for the equestriennes have been undergoing substantial changes in the period. By 1880 gone were the full skirts of the earlier periods – they did look lovely, draping on the side in a gentle curve, but they could also be uncomfortable and dangerous: the fabric would bulk up and in case of falls, the folds of the skirts could be easily caught on the pommels of the saddle, dragging the unlucky rider. The new generation of skirts featured a completely different construction; it was asymmetrical, with the shape of the skirt reflecting closely the shape the amazon’s body would assume on horseback. Although not as safe as later apron skirts, this type of skirt was safer and more comfortable for riding than the previous models, and they also enjoyed the benefit of being elegant, and easy to adapt for walking.
The trousers, based on men’s garments, were sometimes worn underneath. They provided a valuable layer for winter hunting, and, if a fall occurred, they kept the lady decent. I wasn’t really sure if wearing 2 layers of wool would be comfortable, but since I got the patterns for both, I decided to give it a try as well and experiment with the layers, trying to find the safest and most comfortable way of dressing a Victorian Amazone.
3.5m of wool (broadcloth, twill, etc, medium to heavy weight) colour – blues, greens, black and greys were favoured, with lighter colours being worn in summer or in hotter climates.
3m of mock up fabric – cheap cotton, calico etc
2m of lining – here cotton/linen mix
7 – 10 buttons
1m or tape for waistband
1m of tape for loops
0.5 elastic for the stirrup
Pattern: as mentioned before the one from Past Patterns
Note: the pattern provides instructions, but I admit I found some of them tricky to follow and employed alternative solutions – hope you will find them useful!
Preparing the pattern and mock up.
- Trace the size you require on a pattern paper. If you are making the pattern only for yourself and will not need other sizes later, you can simply cut the pattern in your size straight from the commercial pattern. Piece the pattern pieces together (front skirt upper and lower, back skirt upper and lower)
- Transfer the pattern onto your mock up fabric. Mark the darts and notches carefully, it also helps to write on each piece which is front side left or right side, which is back, again, left or right. I know, how can you confuse 2 pieces, but trust me, you can.
- Cut out mock up fabric – do not worry about facings at the time. If you cut the darts on mock up, it is easier to transfer them onto the patter/top fabric later.
- Sew up the darts on both parts first, then sew the side seams.
- Try it on. Make sure you try it on either the same or similar undergarments you will be wearing your habit on. If you are planning to wear the trousers, either make the trousers first, or wear trousers of similar weight and shape under your mock up. Essential – do wear your corset. The pattern is cut to modern sizes and does not take corseted waits into consideration, you may find you need to make the darts bigger and take in the side seams to fit a corseted waist.
- Mark any adjustments on the mock up, both in standing position and in sitting, side saddle position. If you are lucky enough to have a saddle and a horse handy, do get on and check the fit on the real thing – will work great on your hem line as well. Here, alas, I only had a sofa readily accessible…
- Transfer any adjustments on the pattern if you plan to use it in the future ( you can also save and use the mock up for that purpose)
- Trace your pattern on the top fabric and cut – cut out the two main pieces plus the facings. Make sure you marked all the darts and notches clearly on the left side.
- Cut out the lining pieces (front, back and the pocket). Again, transfer the darts and notches on the lining’s right side. Pink the bottom of each lining piece.
- Place the lining on the wool, left sides together. Match the dart lines and pin.
- Baste the two layers together, including running a stitch through the middle of each dart, stopping about half an inch before the darts ‘point. You can baste on a machine or by hand, hand basted shown here. On the back piece, at the top opening, pink the wool, then top stitch the lining
- Sew the darts on each piece.
- Slice the darts open (all but one- the big horizontal dart on the back should stay shut), trim the bigger darts, press and hem the edges. Press the horizontal dart down.
The side facing–
Put the facing strip on the front piece, right sides together. Sew, press the seam open, flip it over the seam onto the wrong side. If not using the selvage, pink the edge and secure it to the lining with regular stitches.
Put the pocket facing along the straight line of the pocket piece. Sew, press, fold over the seam and secure.
Repeat on the other piece.
Place both pieces together with the facings outside sew around the pocket.
Turn inside out – the facing will be inside the pocket
Place the pocket on the facing, half an inch below the top line. Stitch to the facing using strong thread. Remember to leave the facing part open!
Assemble the skirt
Place the skirt parts tight sides together, pin and sew the side seams. Press the seams open (you will need a tailor’s ham for the knee part seam!) and either pink them or overcast the edges.
Turn the skirt on its right side. Try it on again – make sure the waistline sits snugly – if you need to adjust the darts, you can still do it at that stage.
Finish the top
Connect the facing parts by placing them right sides together and sewing. Open and press the seam. Pink the bottom part of the facing and pin the facing on the left side of the skirt, left sides together. Run a basting stitch half an inch from the top.
You can place the top of the pocket on the facing, or enclose it between the facing and the pocket. Here I decided to keep the pocket between the layers, looks nicer.
Take your tape and pin it to the right side of the skirt, slightly below the line of the basting. Sew.
Trim the seam, cutting notches ion the curved part, then fold the tape over the seam and stitch it onto the facing.
Here fabric covered buttons were used – cut a circle of fabric bigger than your button, run a stitch around the edges, place the button in and pull the thread. Secure with stitching and attach the button to the skirt.
Use as many buttons as you want on the side of the skirt- I used 6 big buttons.
Make one button for adjusting the skirt for walking. Sew it on at the bottom of the lower knee dart, on the back piece.
Cut your tapes to form loops – 2 loops will be used for hanging the garments, one loop, placed at the centre back dart, will be used to hook the knee button onto.
The original skirt also has 2 pearl buttons at the back darts – they were used to secure the skirt to the jacket (the jacket would have 3 small loops at the waistline)
Note – it might me more convenient to place a loop at the knee dart and a button at the centre back. Both arrangements were used at the time.
Work the buttonholes on the other side of the opening,
Try the skirt on again, and mark the correct hem position, if you can, on the horse.
Mark the hem depth with a line – the hem should be at least 4 inches deep. Press the edge inwards – it will make sewing the hem up easier later.
Place your weights in the positions indicated by the pattern. Stitch on either by hand or on a machine
Fold the hem inside, along the marked line. Secure to the fabric with small stitches, just catching enough fabric to be secure, without leaving a big mark on the right side. There will be some excess fabric – simply fold it into shallow darts and stitch them on.
Press the hem.
Take the elastic for the stirrup, form a loop big enough for your foot to get in, secure the loop with stitching.
Place the ready stirrup at the place marked on the pattern and sew it on. You can later adjust the length and position as necessary.
Your skirt is now ready!
I believe a warning is necessary here: these equestrienne trousers will not make you look pretty. They are the scariest pair of pants I own, and I do have a few. If you ever ask yourself whether your posterior looks big, be prepared that in these scary pants, it will. Big time. It will be noticeable with the skirts on too…. Having said so, they were not worn on their own and are very comfortable for riding, so a good trade-off here.
1.5m of wool
1.5 of lining ( cotton or linen, here linen)
1.5m of calico for mock up
Elastic for the stirrups
- Trace the pattern on your mock up fabric, marking all the darts and notches.
- Sew the darts.
- Place the front pieces over the back. Sew on the outside leg leaving marked opening on the right side), inside legs and outside the other leg.
- Now sew the centre back and centre front seams.
- Try the mock up on. Mark the length, waist size (the same notes as with the skirt apply here – if wearing a corset, you will need to make bigger darts!)
- Mark any corrections on the pattern
Making the trousers
- Trace the pattern on your top fabric and lining, making sure you mark the darts and notches. Also mark clearly which leg it is, as right leg will be longer!
- Cut the parts out.
- Place the lining parts on the corresponding parts of the top fabric, pin and baste together, as you did with the skirt.
- Sew the darts on each leg, using the same method as the darts on the skirt: sew, open, trim, press, overcast.
- Place the facing over the right front leg piece, right sides together, on the outside seam
- . Sew, trim the seam, flip the facing onto the inside and secure.
Assemble the trousers
The instructions will tell you to sew all the seams together and then press them. I prefer to sew seam by seam and press as I go – much easier for the outside seams pressing!
- Right leg: place the front piece on the back piece, right sides together.
- Sew the outside seam up to the facing.
- Press the seam open and either pink or overcast. Pink the back opening( opposite the facing part)
- Sew the inside seam, press (you will need a sleeve ironing board for that), finish the seam
- Repeat on the other leg
- You should now have two separate legs. Turn one leg out, on the right side. You now have one leg with the lining on top, the other one with the wool on top.
- Place the wool on top leg inside the other, so that the right sides are together. Pin the crotch seam, and sew from back to front.
- Take the leg out – you now have the trousers on the left side. Finish the seams
- Fold the hem of ach leg in, secure with stitching.
- Cut elastic and secure the stirrup as indicated on the pattern. You may have to adjust their length later on, but primarily they are to prevent the trousers riding up.
- Prepare the waistband – fold in half, length wise and press. To prevent rolling, either stiffen the inside of the waistband with iron on fusible, or baste in a tape.
- Place the waistband on the trousers, right sides together, matching the balance points.
- Sew together, open the seam and press.
- Fold the ends in and whipstitch together, then proceed to stitching the waistband to the inside of the trousers, hiding the seam.
- Add hanging loops at the centre back and front.
- Add buttons and buttonholes on the right side.
The trousers are ready!
They are really meant to be worn with riding shoes, not boots, but since I didn’t have shoes, boots had to do. The trousers just about fitted inside the boots, and, surprisingly, that improved their look, at least to our modern sensibilities, giving them a rather steampunk look
They do make your posterior look big but I found out, once you have the entire outfit on, you completely forget about them. I didn’t feel any hindrance while walking or for riding, everything worked exceptionally well.
The whole outfit looks rather impressive and is comfortable: it is easy to adjust the skirt to walking length and the get on and arrange it on the saddle. The saddle we used for the photo shoot was an antique and didn’t fit the horse at all, so we did not dare do more than a walk, but the seat felt secure. There was no extra fabric bunching up around the pommels that would interfere with the grip – something that was proving a problem with my regency habit. I would be happy to canter around and jump without worrying too much about what the skirt is doing. Definitely a winner!
and a few pics from another occasion, showing the habit in motion..
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009
Vena Cava Design, http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1880s-1890s_Riding_Habit_Ensemble.html?q=riding habit
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Gina Barrett, Making braids and Cords, DVD
Gina Barrett, Continuous Frog Fasteners, Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, 2012; http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/costumemaking/fabricsamaterials/601-continuous-frog-fasteners
Jill Salen, Corset: historical patterns and construction; Batsford, 2008
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009
1810 Riding habit.
Today we are looking at yet anothern of my favourites, a Regency riding habit, closely based on the exhibit from the Kyoto Costume Institute ( if you have the book, it is on page171-173, inv AC5313, 86-2AB – or simply find it here. I am not really a fan of Regency fashions as they are not exactly flattering for my figure, but this habit did catch my eye and my imagination because of its simple elegance and surprisingly, not such a high waistline. And so, after craving it for the last two years or so, the time had come for me to tackle the project about 2 years ago – and if you fancy having a go as well, I hope you find the information and the instructions below useful.
Background information and research.
Those two photos were all I really had to go with. I did write to the Institute asking if it was possible to obtain more information regarding the cloth, lining or the buttons – or maybe just a few more images, but was very politely told that the museum did not provide that service. So all I had was a short description stating that it is ‘a Riding Suit, c.1810; black wool broadcloth; set of tailored jacket and a skirt of appropriate length for horse riding’.
Not much then – but a start.
The decoration on the front of the jacket is very similar to another item from the institute, a hunting Jacket – a spencer (INV.AC3187 80-8-1, dated 1815). The length of the spencer is also reminiscent of the one of the riding jacket.
The back of the jacket closely resembles that of the riding habit in Salisbury museum described in detail by Janet Arnold in her Patterns of Fashion 1 (page 46). The Salisbury museum skirt features there would also be suitable for my project – there are differences between the original I had in mind, but after careful deliberation, I decided to stick on to the well documented source and pattern instead of doing more improvising.
The idea was then to use the pattern from Janet Arnold for the skirt and the back of the bodice, and improvise the front of the jacket – and as i have discovered a little bit later on, exactly what another excellent costumier had done before – though she seemed to have opted for the hunting spencer front instead (http://www.koshka-the-cat.com/riding_habit.html).
Black broadcloth wool – 3.5m;
Silk taffeta (lining of the jacket, plus skirts bodice) – 1.5m
Linen (lining for the skirt bodice (0.5m)
40 Wooden moulds for the jacket buttons (or just use ordinary buttons)
2 small and 4 tiny buttons or moulds for the skirt bodice closure
A strip of buckram for lining the collar
Black and white linen thread,
Beige silk thread
2m of linen tape for the skirt ties
Hooks and eyes if you plan to attach your jacket to the skirt
The skirt is attached to a small silk bodice, lined with linen. There is no mention of the skirt being lined at all – not surprisingly though, since lining the skirt with silk or even linen, would render it even more slippery and compromise the rider’s grip. My 18th century habit has a skirt lined with silk, as that’s what the original had for lining, and whereas it rides well and I wouldn’t have problems riding in a show in it, I would not take it out hunting. Considering the fact that in the Regency period side saddles were not the safest contraptions (the leaping head that provides so much more secure grip was yet to be invented), and taking into the account the fact that due to the fencing off the countryside jumping the fences became a necessity, a spirited lady who wished to follow the hunt needed all the help she could get. Indeed, it is believed that some were even strapping themselves to the saddles to help them over the fences – not the safest idea really. All things considered, it looked as the lack of lining made sense – many thanks to Gini Newton and Becca Holland for helping me out with this issue! )
The pattern – Janet Arnold. I scaled the bodice pattern to fit me, but left the skirt as it was without any changes.
The skirt bodice construction:
1. Cut out the pieces in calico or linen to form a mock up. If you are lucky and your mock up doesn’t require any serious changes, your linen mock up can serve as the lining.
2. Pin or baste the pieces together, leaving it open on the right side. Try on – either on yourself or on a pre-prepared dummy. Make sure you try it on the underwear you are planning to wear with it – especially if you are wearing Regency stays – the bust position is very different to the one the modern bra gives – particularly true for more ample bosoms.
3. Adjust as necessary till you are satisfied with the outcome. Unpin the pieces and use them to draw the pattern.
4. Cut out the bodice in your top fabric and lining.
5. Sew the top pieces together: first insert the little gussets in the front pieces, and then sew the back pieces and left front together. Add the shoulder straps. The right piece with the gusset is on its own for the time being, it will be stitched directly to the waistband of the skirt later. Press the seams open. Repeat the same steps with the lining pieces
4. Fold the top edges of the silk and stitch it down. Snip the curves and notch to avoiding bulk- the fabric should lay flat on the curves
5. Pin the lining to the top pieces and stitch them together. Press.
Note: if you prefer to save time and use the sewing machine, simply skip the step 4 and 5: pin the lining and top fabric right sides together and sew alongside the top edges. Turn outside out and press.
You now have the bodice ready, time for the other components – the skirt, bustle pad and the pocket.
- Cut the fabric according to the pattern.
- Sew the pieces together.
- Hem the skirt – an inch wide hem seems to work fine, giving it enough weight, but smooth finish too.
- Place the skirt on a flat surface and pin the tapes into position.I used the same position as in the original, but do try it out first to make sure that the tied up skirt is not too short or too long. Stitch them securely, but make sure the stitches do not show too much on the right side.
- Cut small tabs and place them on the hem directly below the individual ties. Stitch firmly into position – only at the short sides, making sure the tapes can pass under them freely
- Cut out the waistband – it should be long enough to go around your high waist with a small overlap, and quite narrow.
- If you plan to have a watch pocket , cut it out now in two layers of silk or linen – it should be big enough to accommodate your watch (or a ph0ne….). Place right sides together, sew, turn out and press.
It is time to put all the pieces together – and it is not an easy task!
- Pin the bodice parts onto the waistband. Try to waistband on and make sure the pieces are in the right position. You might discover it is easier to simply put the waistband on the dummy, then pin the pieces onto it – saves time. Mark the final position of the bodice on the waistband and sew – make sure you sew only through the top layer of the bodice.
- Pin the skirt onto the waistband– the front part is mostly lying flat, the back will be cartridge pleated. At that stage you are simply making sure where to start the pleating!
- If you are happy with the position and know how much fabric has to be pleated into how much space, prepare a needle with a long and strong thread and sew a running stitch through the skirt to be pleated. The pleats should be small – depending on how much fabric you have, you should have your stitches around 1cm long. Draw the thread to see if the pleated section matches its place on the waistband. If it does, tie a strong knot in the thread to make sure the pleats stay together.
- Sew the skirt onto the waistband – use the machine for the front parts where the skirt lies flat, and then, with a strong thread attach the cartridge pleats
- Try the skirt on – again a dummy is a good option as well.You can now mark the position of the buttons on the shoulder straps – do not do it earlier on as the weight of the skirt will change the position of the bodice a bit!
- If everything fits snugly, attach the pocket to the waistband. Then sew the lining onto the waistband, covering its insides
- Cut out the little bustle pieces, place right sides together and sew along the outside edges, leaving part of the inside open. Turn inside out and stuff with some scraps. Pin or sew shut and stitch to the waistband at the back of the skirt
- All that needs to be done now is to sew the buttons on ( I covered mine with taffeta, using tiny ones on the shoulder straps and bigger ones at the side closure then make the buttonholes.
The skirt is ready now! Here worn tied up to facilitate walking around..
As mentioned before, I decided to use the pattern for the back from Janet Arnold and to improvise the front.
- Cut the back pieces in calico using a scaled pattern from J. Arnold. Cut all the back pieces including the peplum gussets etc. Also, cut out the sleeve.
- Draw a simple piece or the front – the important measurements here are the width – front to side seam at the bust and the waist level, the shoulder seam and the front length.
- Pin the parts together and put the jacket on the dummy. Pin the back piece onto the dummy and start working on your experimental piece. Mark the waist position, the length in front, back and sides. Mark the darts. Once the front starts to resemble a piece of clothing, take it off the dummy, adjust the corrections, and sew the mock up parts together.
- Put it on the dummy again – if the back and sides are ok when the front is closed, you can now work on the shape of the lapels. Mark how long you want them to be, where is the best place to attach the collar, how high you want it to button up. Draft a collar pattern and experiment with that too.
- Adjust as many times as necessary till you are satisfied with the look. Then take the mock up off the dummy – it is a good idea to try it on now on your own body too.
Note – it hugely helps if you have another person who knows her/his way around patterning helping – then you can skip the dummy process and have the patterns adjusted directly on yourself.
- Unpick the seams, perform any necessary corrections and voila! You have a pattern. You can now use your calico pieces as a stock pattern or use them to copy the pattern on a paper.
- Cut out the pieces in your lining fabric
- Just on the safe side (if you are not lucky enough to have another costumier at hand…) pin the lining together and try it on your stays and skirt. Any corrections here should be small, but better to see them on the lining than on the top fabric. Here, although the mock up seemed fine, I discovered the shoulder seams still needed adjusting
- Adjust if necessary , transfer any corrections onto the pattern and then and sew the lining pieces together
- Cut out the top fabric pieces. Stitch the darts in the front parts first. Sew in the back gusset, then the front pieces and then the little side and back peplum pieces. Sew the shoulder seam.
- For authentic looking finish – and if your fabric is difficult to open seam press, couch the seams down with linen or silk thread. Fold the edges and stitch them down.
- The sleeves – sew the top fabric sleeves – you can leave the cuff part open, or closed. Couch down the seam. The lining: stitch the cuffs to the lining of the sleeves first then sew them shut.
- Insert the sleeves into the armscythes. Pin carefully from underside first. When you reach the top part of the shoulder, you will see there is some fabric left. Either form it into small pleats to fit the armhole, or, as I did, use a strong thread to sew a running stitch near the edge and gather the pleats as you would have done for cartridge pleating – though here is simply helps to control the tiny pleats. Pin the section in place. Sew the sleeve in and repeat for the second sleeve and for the lining sleeves.
- Time for the collar. You should have the pieces cut out – both top side and lining in wool
- Take the top fabric piece and attach a small piece of buckram using parallel rows of stitching.
- Sew the reinforced collar onto the jacket.
- Put the lining in. Pin it carefully to the bodice and sew. Once you have done the bottom hem, and attached the lining in front and upper parts, do the same do the wool cuffs at the sleeves
- For the front, I have decided to use a facing. Cut the facing part big enough for the front part of the jacket, you will need 2 pieces. Stitch them carefully to the front, upper and lower edge of the jacket – and to the lining near the dart.
- Pin and stitch the collar lining into place. Mark the position of the front buttonholes than set to work on them – either on a machine or by hand.
- If you are lucky enough to have appropriate buttons ready – all that remains is to sew the buttons on. If not – make the buttons using moulds and bits of your top fabric.
- Sew the buttons to the front edge, then proceed to add the decorative ones on both sides of the bodice, at the cuffs (if you want to have buttoned cuffs, that is), and at the peplum
Your habit is now ready!
The whole outfit is worn over a chemise and stays (here once made using a Mantua Makers pattern – minus the lacing on the hip gussets. The others I had with lacing on tended to dig into the flesh when riding…).
Then a linen petticoat, and a habit shirt with frilled cuffs, with a simple silk stock.
My hat here is a simple silk topper with some rooster feathers attached.
and the result – photos on foot – from an event in Hereford
And with a mount..
Side saddle pictured here is of a Victorian design – much safer to ride in than the Regency ones, and the skirt works reasonably well, although it has to be said that without a help of a groom who would hoist me into the saddle and help the skirt lie flat over the pommels, it was very difficult to get the folds lie correctly and to adjust the length. Still, the skirt seemed to be reasonably secure to be ridden in, though the cut means it is not perfect for the Victorian saddle. but more about the Victorian habit in a few days time…. 🙂
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan, New York, 1984
The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute; Fashion, a History from the 18th to the 20th century, Taschen, 2002
Digital Archives of Kyoto Costume Institute: http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/index_e.html [Accessed 8/01/2012]
1475 – The Hanse House in King’s Lynn is build, following the treaty of Utrecht granting Die Hanse privilages and making King’s Lynn one of the Hanseatic trade towns. To celebrate the event, we teamed up with a variety of folks, all brought together by Black Knight Historical – and spent a day participating in the festivities and talking about 15th century life in the town.
I used to do a lot of 15th century living history, but not recently – so most of my kit was old – or too posh for the role I was going to play – a hanseatic merchant/apothecary’s wife. Danzig-bred wife to be more precise – and since I spent most of my youth in Danzig ( Gdansk), it was a most appropriate role. It called for a suitable garment – wealthy, but not over the top, a bit behind the high fashions, but practical and stating my status clearly. A decision was made and I settled for a version of Rogier van der Weyden style frock – wool, lined with linen, very, very full, trimmed with fur.
the inspiration board on Pinterest – here
The frock took 7 metres of fabric – and the same amount of lining – the hem circumference is over 6m… It was relatively easy to make – it as the veil that was more problematic. I set my heart on making a frilled veil you can see in the portraits – I and making the frill ( 14m of linen was frilled…), hemming it and hemming the veil took almost as long as making the frock… not particularly happy with it, so will look for other ways to achieve the look I think. Still, it looked ok for some pics.
It was very warm, so I wore the frock only for the procession and riding (and pictures), and while at the stall, I was a bit cooler in my kirtle:-)
very happy with the new garment – and love the way the wool drapes – a few pictures below…
Was also happy with my new belt from Bayley Heritage Castings, and shoes and pattens from NP Historical Shoes
Lucas spent most of the day at the stall as well, chatting about late 15th century medical lore…
His services were sought out by the nobility as well…
But before we finished, he quickly changed an assumed his other role – that of a photographer, and captured some of the people at the event…
On Sunday we stayed long enough to take part in the parade…
and shoot some product pictures of jewellery for Gemmeus… which, by the way was the easiest robbery ever – it was enough to say we are having a photoshoot and the rings and pendants were safely deposited in my purse in no time at all. it robbery was somehow hindered by the fact that Nicky from Gemmeus knew where I live – so alas, had to return all that lovely bling after the shoot…. 😦
And take some good photos of my posh frock – Memlinc brocade, lined with silk, silk velvet trim – all handstitched on holiday a few years ago….
All together , a great weekend was had by all – hoping we will be back next year!
frocks – Prior Attire
Jewellery – Gemmeus
Belt and a ring – Bayley Heritage Castings
Shoes and pattens – NP HIstorical Shoes
event organization – Black Knight HIstorical
Horse s& team – Steamhorse
I have always admired the simple elegance of 18th and 19th century riding habits. They were practical, sturdy garments but with undeniable air of sophistication and grandeur. Especially the 18th century ones- How can a girl resist one of these?
More habit pictures across the ages on the Pinterest board…
So when I stared learning how to ride side-saddle, I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to make one. My heart was set on the later 18th century one, found in Victoria and Albert museum.
It was made in glazed red wool, lined with glazed linen and faced with wool.
Since I intend to use my habit for hunting, red wasn’t the best option – too similar to the pink coats of the hunt service folks! Dark green was the second best choice.
The materials I used were:
Thick wool for the jacket – 2 m- I chose to make the jacket thicker than the skirt mostly because of the temperatures one faces during winter hunting
2 metres of left over wool for toile
4 metres of regular wool for the skirt and waistcoat
6 metres of silk taffeta
0.5 metre of linen for the waistcoat
16 buttons for the waistcoat
35 buttons for the jacket
Gold metallic braid for the decoration ( I used up about 6 metres)
Gold metallic thread and some embroidery silks
Silk and linen threads for stitching.
The whole outfit was hand stitched – but obviously if you prefer modern techniques, machine can be used to save up on time!
That was the easiest part. . I made mine out of a big rectangle of fabric, lined with silk and cartridge pleated to a narrow waistband. You can fins detailed instructions in my article on the 17th cent banqueting gown – I used the very same techniques – though I made the hem folded deeper and lining is shorter. (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/417-a-banqueting-gown
I could not actually see much of the waistcoat worn with the original habit, but I found images of a very similar one and used them as my inspiration. Apart from the collar, both waistcoats seem to be double breasted and the cut wouldn’t be that different.
It was relatively easy to work out the pattern from the pictures I cut toile first, experimented with it and amended it till I was satisfied with the fit. I wanted mine to fit me with or without stays, which was a bit tricky. I decided to line the front layer with wool as well – as it can get quite cold on longer rides! The back is made of two layers as well, though this time of linen .
I started work on the back first – stitched the top and lining layer together at centre back ( leaving about 4 inches undone – that’s when the two parts will be joined later) and bottom hem, turned over and pressed. Repeat on the other half of the back. Once ready, stitch them together at the top and worked the eyelets in linen thread. Lace them together – it is easier to work with the bits being laced instead of flapping around.
Next, add the two fronts on each side – only the top layer first, on both sides. Try it on and make sure the front is flat and the lapels are even.
Add the collar – I interlined mine with buckram to make sure it looks and is as still as the original seems to be, and lined it with wool. Once the collar is in place, you can line the front with another wool layer. Finish off the inside seams and the hem, put it on and mark the position of the buttons and buttonholes.
Buttons are a story into itself.
I couldn’t find any decent metal buttons that would be correct for the period, so decided to cover and embroider my buttons for both the waistcoat and the jacket. In the hindsight, I should probably have allowed for a more time – they do take quite some time!
I used the same cloth I made the waistcoat and skirts from. I divided it into small squares, each big enough to cover the button plus some extra, and stretched it on a tapestry frame
I worked in stages
- Make a loop using a thick gold thread – make several in one go. My loop was long enough to go around the button twice.
- Couch the loop down with silk thread – took me ages!
- Embroider the stems with green silk thread
- Embroider the flower in yellow silk thread
I worked on several buttons at the same time – I would make around 6 or 7 and then start the process all again.
When the embroidery is finished, detach the fabric from the frame and cut the fabric along the lines. You now have lots of squares with embroidered bit on it. Put your button (I used flat wooden ones) on the left side of the square, covering the embroidered bit. Trim the rest of the fabric so that there is enough left to cover the button. Now you have a circle of fabric – use it on other square pieces so that you do not need to measure things up every time. To cover the button, sew a running stitch near the edge, place the button inside and pull on the thread. Stitch the edges together. More detailed instructions can be found here:
Work the buttonholes and sew the buttons, and the waistcoat is ready.
I had to be bit creative with the pattern. I did not have access to a detailed pattern for a habit from that period, so decided to adapt the slightly earlier one from Janet Arnold. I simply changed the front by adding lapels and adapting the shape of the skirt.
I must add that originally, working strictly from the picture, I couldn’t see any waist seam – so I cut my jacket without one. However, 400 Years of Fashion, presenting the V&A collection states that there is a waist seam… which means I will have to remodel the jacket. Oh well…. If you want to make skirts separate, just follow the pattern from Janet Arnold!
As always, cut out the toile first. – I this instance it was even more important than usual, as I wasn’t using a pattern I was familiar with or a commercial pattern – I had to check if the fabric hung and fitted correctly. That was why I decided to use a thicker fabric for the toile – calico toile would no doubt make it easy to see the fit, however it could not mimic the behaviour of heavy and stiff wool. To achieve that, I used bits of older, low quality wool I had. And it worked! I basted the pieces together – I included the sleeves since I wanted them to fit closely but somehow allow me quite a lot of freedom of movement – and checked the fit. It needed some adjustments, so I undid the relevant seams, corrected the cut and basted the seams again. I had to repeat the procedure twice before I was satisfied, and then I simply undid the basting and used it as a template for cutting out the top layer and the lining.
I started with top layer, stitching first the back and then the sides and the shoulder seams. I left the skirts un-pleated – I will do the pleating once the lining is in place.
Lapels- you have a choice how you want your lapels and buttons done: you can either have real buttonholes on them and sew the buttons to the jacket, so that they do button back – or have a fake buttonhole/button arrangement and secure the lapels with hooks and eyes. Mine are the former.
I market the buttonholes and the line for the braid decoration. I cut the line – just enough to allow for the button – and worked around it to prevent fraying. Then I added the gold braid decoration. Having finished with the lapels, you can now sew on the buttons.
The next step was to make and add the sleeves I stitched the two part sleeve together, right sides together, leaving the cuff part unstitched at that point. I turned the sleeve out, with right sides up, and then finished the cuff – so that when it is turned back, the good side of the seam shows. Proceed to add the buttonholes/button decoration – again, you can have either false ones or the functional option and I opted for the functional way – real buttonholes and buttons on the main sleeve. Repeat on the other sleeve and when finished, set it into the armhole.
The pockets were next. Start with the pocket itself – mines are from silk. Cut out and stitch the two layers together. (pic.26) Mark the position of the pocket on the skirts, and cut the opening matching the opening of the pocket. Turn the pocket out, so that the left side is out, and set it into the slit, carefully securing the silk to the wool
Pocket flaps – cut them out, making sure they are a bit longer than the actual pocket slit, line them, it you want to, and add the buttonhole/ decoration. Pin it in place and stitch them to the skirts with a strong linen thread.
Lining – stitch all the lining together – back first, then front and sleeves and set into the jacket. Pin carefully and let it hang together for a while. Adjust the pining at the hem if necessary and sew it in – at the front, neck hem, the cuffs (or rather before the turn back cuffs start).
Collar was next – again, I made a mock up collar first and experimented with it until i was satisfied with the way it looked together with the lapels. I stitched it to the jacket, lined with another layer of wool and worked the buttonholes so that it buttons down to the jacket.
All that remains now is pleating the vents – I did it precisely as shown in Janet Arnold, and secured them with the buttons and then added buttons at the top, purely for decoration.
Your habit is now ready – all you need it the undergarments, boots, gloves and a tricorn – and a –hunting you can go!
Here pictured at End Audley Hall – it was rather frosty on the day, with minus temperatures, and yet the wool kept me warm and snug.
This article was originally published in Your Wardrobe Unlock’d over a two years ago – and looking back at it from the time perspective I think i need to make another one, updated…. maybe the earlier version? still have enough of the green wool to make a 1760 jacket…. 🙂
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan, New York, 1984
400 Years of Fashion, V&A Publishing, London, 2010
Craftpudding, http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html [accessed 28/01/11]
V&A museum online: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ [accessed 28/01/11]
Last autumn I was asked to repair an old hunting coat for a friend. I don’t usually do repairs – especially if the items were not made by me, but it was a favour and I agreed. The coat arrived in the post a few days later and I must say it was only then that I realized the scope of the necessary repairs. After a few long phone conversations with the owner we agreed on what could be done. The jacket is vintage and very much damaged – the repairs were to prolong its life, but preserve as much as possible out of the original. Not an easy task. Still – the jacket was quality – after all, it turned out it was made in Savile Row, and the quality of the original workmanship showed. So worth a try…
Working on the jacket was not the most pleasant task ( I did have to air it for a few days first..), but it turned out to be very rewarding – not only because an old and tattered thing was given a new(ish) life, but also because taking bits apart revealed the secrets of the Savile Row tailors – so very educational!
First, the coat before:
There was a lot to be done… and difficult to see where to start – but after putting all the jobs on the list, some sort of order started to emerge.
The list of things to be done:
* buttonholes reinforced
*pocket flaps relined and edges reinforced
* hem tidied ( trimmed and folded anew, taking 1 inch of the jacket length as agreed with the owner
*collar reinforced at the back
*repair the underarms 0 outside and inside lining
*lining – cut away damaged bits, patch up with similar fabric. preserve all original bits that can still work
and the work in progress..
And the results….
It was a struggle, but i have learnt a lot ( i am not a tailor and haven’t got a clue about modern clothes tailoring and construction techniques, so that was definitely something new for me. Plus, I hope the owner will enjoy a few more seasons in her old trusted friend of a jacket:-)