Thursday, June 11, 2015


L'Hermione arrived yesterday. If you are on the East Coast north of Virginia you really should go see her. My friend Adam spent over a month aboard, learning to sail and speak French at the same time. He was the only crewman in period dress, so it seemed fitting to greet him in late 18th-century Virginia summer clothes. Green cotton velvet small clothes were an early effort, and they have been out of rotation for awhile.

Great as photography is for the ego, it's also good to figure out what's wrong with your clothes. The crease that is just visible in the left stocking is the bottom of my kneecap. That means the legs are too short. The waistband buttons should be covered, so the tabs that connect the waistcoat and breeches have stretched. Other problems are less obvious.  

The pile on this cloth is delicate. There is no way to prevent the dreaded butt mange. Burnley and Trowbridge doesn't have any more of this fabric. There isn't enough left to make coat, but there is plenty for piecing. In a time when fabric was expensive  and labor was cheap, it was easier to stitch scraps of cloth together than use more yardage. Sometimes the pattern didn't fit. Sometimes cloth was narrow. Holes were fixed with internal patches with all the edges turned. Disposable clothes are a new phenomenon, and it wasn't just the poor who were frugal. 

John Hancock's beautiful velvet coat can be seen at the Old State House in Boston. Look closely and you will see enough seams to make Dr. Frankenstein proud. This technique can be used to fix fit problems.

The breeches will require added bits to bring them below the kneecap. The mange will have to be cut out and patched. Rather than replace the tabs on the waistcoat, the internal waistband buttons can be moved down. Last, a center front tab will hold the waistcoat to the external waistband buttons on the breeches.

Time to get to work.

(Update: some conservator friends pointed out to me that this coat was folded for a long time. Some of what looks like piecing may actually be loss of pile on the folds. It's important to remember that even well-preserved objects can be ravaged by time and poor care.)


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  3. Do you have any more information/sources on the waistcoat tabs to keep it from hiking up?