Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Regimental Revisited

The mid-eighteenth century British regimental is a strange beast: voluminous, not sleek like those from thirty years later. It can be worn any number of ways. Rich officer types would often unbutton the lapels and shove their hands between the coat and the waistcoat for portraits. The shape is unmistakable: short sleeves, big cuffs, long with full tails, hint of a collar. Even the buttons are unique and stupidly expensive to reproduce. It's the convertible aspect that gives the greatest pains when fitting.

Our specimen is five years old, and was last converted for a full-figure Provincial two years ago. The waist has three-button closure, but the top hangs open. It can be worn double-breasted, buttoned at the waist, or open as seen in the painting above. The collar geometry suffers as a result.

Slowly removing material from the back panel at the shoulder draws the neck hole up and closer. Compare at right, the collar is off the right side and the excess pinned up. Fortunately, the top of the coat is unlined. Unfortunately, adjusting the shoulder seams adds volume to the center back, so the collar needs to be removed even further to correct the center back seam.

The pleats are unacceptable. Not only do they stick out too much when the coat is buttoned, but there is an embarrassing amount of material in the back panels here. The hip buttons might as well be under the arms. All this needs to be cut apart, side seams reshaped, and the pleats refolded.

Adjustments to the shoulder seam make fiddling with the top of the side seam unwise. The sleeves are slightly baggy at the top for a reason. Luckily, the coat's bell shape and three waist buttons make that unnecessary. The comfy X-Acto handle with a #11 blade is your best friend at this point.

  What the hell. Unsightly bulges like this are a good problem to have. Next time, re-pleating and the faux cuff flaps get some attention.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Pretty happy with the belted waistcoat. We'll see how practical it is in the Spring when it gets torture-tested on a movie set. Dangerous territory, this garment. There is documentation and visual evidence for them, but little else. The concept SEEMS sound (what little we know about it.)

Traditional waistcoats have their problems. One solution is to add loops or tabs to the inside to button the waistcoat to the breeches or overalls. Both the British and the French military mention this as a good idea. There are surviving civilian garments with tabs. Eliminating the tails and pocket flaps streamlines the vest further.

What we don't know is what the back looked like. Uncomfortable territory for some Progressive folks, SPECULATION is bad. It is how we separate ourselves from this. But old garments are like fossils, most didn't survive. Ignoring them creates just as inaccurate a picture.

So how much is too much? Two loops to the overall fall buttons DO hold everything together. Lacing the belt like breeches allows for some adjustment. It is possible to put it on yourself. Lastly, the belt acts like a cross between elastic on a sweatshirt and a weight-lifting belt. Practical, yes; correct? Maybe. No farbs were harmed in the making of this garment.

Next time, an old friend gets his third makeover. The F&I Regimental doesn't fit quite right. New skills fix old mistakes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Born Again Hard

So this happened.

The folks who took the real time battlefield tour in Princeton, NJ this year got a surprise.  A Pennsylvania Associator company appeared right where they were in 1776. We maneuvered and fired as if fighting ghosts of the 17th Regiment of Foot. We marched all night to get there.

The scheme started with some young chaps determined to recreate Charles Wilson Peale's Company for one weekend. Seldom do we get to test our gear and clothes to the limit. It all started at the Old Barracks in Trenton on Friday. Thirty-odd souls assembled in uniforms specific to the Philadelphia militia of the period. We drilled, rations were issued and cooking was by mess. We were entreated to sign on for another six weeks to save the cause.

Thomas Paine's The American Crisis read aloud by bondfire is inspiring. Sleep was hard to come by as his Excellency General Washington ordered us to march around the enemy at midnight. The plan was to fall on the rear guard in Princeton. The roads are still there, replaced by pavement and the distance is thirteen miles. A cold moon lit the way.

Those who marched were changed by the experience. A few impressions remain: the drummer with an ice sheet forming under his canteen; blistered hands leaking under the weight of a shifting musket; the hissing of leather shoes; the best pea soup ever; sparkling frost on gaitors at dawn. It's why we do this.