For: Zachary….at some point….maybe……
Inspiration: Images in Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion: figure 89-A, 1780, on page 124; figure 113-A, c. 1780, on page 144.
Pattern: To be drafted from diagrams in Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion
Lining: None? TBD
Construction: Either hand-stitched or hand-finished; TBD
Status: On hold. At this point, this project is just research and a hypothetical maybe-later. (January 10, 2011)
I’ve done quite a bit of research, and I intend to pursue the project later, but considering that I’m doing far too much, cuts had to be made, and this is one of the pieces being cut. I made this decision in part because of the realization that the fabric I was planning to use really wouldn’t be suitable. Which leads me to an earlier point in the evolution of my plans to attempt 18th century menswear!
Originally I had planned to make a close historical approximation of the extant suit coat, waistcoat, and breeches depicted in Costume Close-Up (#17; item number 1960-697, 1-3; pages 80-88 and following color plate), dating to 1765-1790. The suit doesn’t seem to be included in their online collection, or I would include a link. It’s a lovely suit, and not too elaborate in ornament. And it’s conveniently almost exactly the right measurements for my boyfriend, who could be pressed into service as a dress form and dashing model. (He was more enthusiastic about this than you might think.) So my plan was to scale up the pattern and simply cut it out of muslin with large seam allowances, and fiddle with it until it started looking right. I bought several yards of lightweight, worsted wool, tabby suiting in a nice deep blue from Fashion Fabrics Club, intending it for the jacket and waistcoat, and several yards of beige, or buff-colored, lightweight cotton sateen to use as lining. I planned to recruit silk from my stash to make the waistcoat.
But time, it ran short, and I was trying to do too much. And if I’d made the suit, I would have needed to make a shirt as well! While teaching myself a great many new skills. Given the scope of everything I was trying to do, it simply didn’t make sense. So I scaled back and decided to make a topcoat of the same period instead, having seen designs from the 1780s that I found very intriguing, and thinking I could use the materials I had already purchased. But upon further research into the matter of topcoats and greatcoats, I discovered that such garments were, as far as I could tell, invariably made of tightly woven, densely fulled wool, and were unlined, with unfinished cut edges. That is not something that my tabby suiting would cooperate with. I considered trying to do a historically inspired type garment, but eventually concluded that it would be wasteful to use good materials improperly, and that I would prefer to put both the suit idea and the topcoat idea on the back burner, and eventually make both in the proper fabrics.
So that is the sad saga of my foray into the research of 18th century menswear. I’ve learned quite a lot but nothing three-dimensional will be appearing in the immediate future. Though I did produce quite a nice design sketch of the topcoat! With three capes, no less.
Topcoats and greatcoats in printed resources:
- Baumgarten, Linda, and John Watson, with Florine Carr. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Patterns 1750-1790. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2000. In association with Quite Specific Media Group Ltd., New York and Hollywood. — Unfortunately this wonderful book does not include any overcoats (though it does include a man’s cloak), but the general construction information, historical details, and jacket information would all be very useful for this project.
- Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002. In association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London. — page 212, figs. 311-312: photographs of an extant greatcoat (Colonial Williamsburg accession number 2001-835) from possibly around 1800, with the caveat that “Because few eighteenth-century greatcoats survive for comparison, the date of this important artifact is still uncertain.”
- Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980. — Images: Fashion plates of romantic era (1820s?) men (dandies?) in greatcoats of that period (as a frame of reference for how the garment later developed), pages 179 and 181.
- Davis, R. I. Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion: Patterns for Men’s Costumes. Additional Material by William-Alan Landes. Studio City, CA: Player’s Press, 2000. — Images, information, and pattern diagrams: pages 94-99; figure 89-A, 1780, on page 124; figure 111, 1790s, on page 142; figure 113-A, c. 1780, on page 144; pattern diagram 34 on page 145; plate 87, photographs of a 1780-1800 reproduction topcoat, on page 146. There is a great deal of other useful information as well, and this is the book I plan to use to draft my patterns from, even though the patterns are made for a standard size, rather than directly taken from originals, which I would prefer.
- Gehret, Ellen J. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing: Being a Study of the Wearing Apparel of the German and English Inhabitants; Both Men and Women; Who Resided In Southeastern Pennsylvania; In the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century. York, Pennsylvania: Liberty Cap Books, 1976. — Images (period art): pages 181 and 182. Information (about how limited information is): page 180.
- Ribeiro, Aileen. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750-1820. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. — Images (period art): figure 38 on page 39, figure 107 on page 101 (dated 1807). Useful for more general fashion and tailoring information as well.
- Styles, John. The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. — Images (period art): plate 19, plate 74 (on page 170), plate 89 (on page 200).
- Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt. Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870: Essays inspired by the collections at Platt Hall, The Gallery of English Costume, Manchester. Carno, Powys, Wales: Laura Ashley Limited, 1983. — “The Old Great Coat” on page 63 with quoted retrospective musings from 1859 and images of an extant coat from 1800-1825.
- Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1964. — In addition to general historical and construction information of use, there is a paragraph on “Capes, Great-coats” on page 54; several relevant entries about types of coats in a list of “Other Types of Garments” on page 89; reprinted 18th century tailor’s cutting diagrams including one for a great-coat (fig. II) on page 95; a period fashion plate from 1729 with three great-coats on plate 9 (below); a cutting diagram for a great-coat, c. 1810, taken from a garment in the Victoria and Albert Museum, on pages 122-123 (diagram XXXVII).
- Man’s great coat, 1780-1820, accession number 2001-835, in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, also included in the book What Clothes Reveal and discussed above.
- “Keeping Warm in an 18th c. Gentleman’s Great Coat,” an article at Two Nerdy History Girls, which includes photographs of a reproduction by a tailor at Colonial Williamsburg.
Updated January 10, 2012