Monday, November 4, 2013

Drunk(er) Tailoring

Well THAT was fun.

I destroyed my first pair of gaiter-trousers and my favorite shoes, but it was worth it. Not allowed to talk about it. Let's just say I understand why Peter Jackson likes Red cameras so much. Considering I only do living history a few weekends out of the year, I've finally reached a solid year of campaigning and it is time for some new clothes. Even my patches have patches.

Making overalls is a PITA. Trying to keep the seams straight on the legs is tiresome. It turns out I may have been doing it wrong all these years. Take a look at these nicely preserved trousers at the MET. The dating may or may not be right. The outseam is nice a straight, probably follows the selvage. The inseam is where all the fitting takes place. It looks like it meanders quite a bit. Clever.

Perhaps I have been too careful, despite my drunken intentions. Which brings me to terrifying thought: how bad did the British Army look in the 18th century?

Corporal Jones of the 13th Foot was drawn by William Baillie in 1753. His uniform is remarkably rumpled for being on a recruiting party. I'm beginning to think even my level of skill is too good for the King. We know that every soldier was generally entitled to a new coat every year, so making them must have gotten as close to mass production as possible.

Pieces were cut in several sizes economically and quickly, and handed off to poor women to assemble. Not tailors. Here is an interesting bit from the Old Bailey. I'm guessing Melckisideck didn't eat that day. So the faster you make coats the more money you get. Can I bring myself to use four stitches per inch?

This should inspire anyone to take up making 18th century military clothes. If it doesn't get laundered regularly don't waste time with fine stitching. The few surviving originals seem to bear this out: Redcoats looked good at a distance.


  1. I saw those overalls as well. Very interesting construction. I have always taken the measure of the circumference of my leg at 2 inch intervalls and transferred that to brown paper for my pattern. I find it works well. The one at the met almost looked like the seam was at the back of the leg, simlar to trews or hosen. Would love to actually see thei piece in person. BTW...tore apart my regimental after reading your blog finally lays right in all places. Thanks for all the posts, keep it up!

    1. Well, dang. Glad it was helpful. I guess we were shooting at each other at the Hook.

  2. Researching garments never fails to be amazing! There are so many interesting details, like piecing, certain stitches and the way to cut fabric on bias or with the and really wearing the clothes gives so much more insight and makes such a lot of details eventually plausible.
    Thanks for sharing your latest research! Your blog is always a great source of inspiration!

    1. You flatter me! I'm glad I can repay the inspiration. Your stuff is pretty amazing.

  3. Very true regarding the quality of the clothes of the average soldier (and also the average citizen). When I see the clothing bloggerati yet again going on about how well-dressed everyone used to be, they need reminding that the average man in, say England (e.g. my grandfather and father) wore 30 shilling suits most of the time and they were not like Noel Coward's suits at all.

    I was just reading your other post about not making things too @%$* tight. I think I must have made a dozen pairs of foolish-looking trousers before I learned that lesson.