Friday, December 4, 2015

First Foray into Menswear

I must say I was rather nervous when, at the beginning of last year, I committed to making a complete Regency outfit (consisting of shirt, trousers, waistcoat, and tailcoat) for my then-boyfriend Brian the Engineer.  (You may remember he wore said outfit when he proposed to me, and we are now happily married!)  I had been working at Colonial Williamsburg for less than a year at that point, and pretty much everything I knew about menswear was from altering 18th Century breeches and waistcoats at the Costume Design Center.  I had made one military coat in the winter of 2013, but a Regency tailcoat is a very different animal from a Colonial military coat.

The wrinkles are because it was on the wrong size dress form, but it was the closest size I could find for a quick photo.

Not really knowing where to start, I borrowed patterns from my friend Stacy from the RSV.  She lent me Kannik's Korner pattern 4202 for the waistcoat:

I played around with different fabric/button combinations, before deciding on the pale green in the lower right corner.
I started work on the waistcoat in May 2014:

My very first pad-stitched collar!

And my first welt pocket!  I was very proud of how well I matched up the pattern.

The waistcoat almost finished, worn over an 18th Century linen shirt:

Checking the fit:

Then came the tailcoat.  Boy was I nervous!  Fortunately, Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern 122 has excellent directions - very thorough and well-illustrated!  I had to read through each instruction at least twice before I started, and even then they didn't really make complete sense until I had the pieces in my hand and started working on them.  This is not a pattern for the faint of heart!

I first cut out a mockup of the main body pieces and sleeves from an old sheet that was ruined with bleach:

I had Brian try it on over the shirt and waistcoat

The fit seemed pretty good, although looking back I should have shortened the sleeves significantly. 

Finally it was time to cut out my real fabric!  I had ordered 4 1/2 (I think) yards of dark blue linen from Burnley & Trowbridge, as I wanted him to be able to wear the coat comfortably in sweltering Virginia summers.  If you haven't ordered from B&T before, they carry really beautiful and high-quality fabrics, and their customer service is excellent!

I took the fabric and pattern to work with me and used the industrial steam iron and large cutting table to press the fabric and to lay out my pattern pieces.  Then I rolled it all up and took it home to cut out the pieces on my kitchen table: 

For the crucial chest interfacing, I chose half-bleached linen canvas - also from B&T, which is one of the fabric options that the pattern recommends.  (Next time I'll order more than a yard, as the canvas shrank quite a bit when I pre-washed it.  I was barely able to squeak out the pieces I needed!)  Here I had finished the pad-stitching on one side of the front lapel, trimmed away the excess interfacing, and catch-stitched the raw edges to the fashion fabric.  The other side is pinned and ready to begin pad-stitching:

Pad-stitched collar all ready to go:

And trying it on for size and lapel placement:

Here is is almost finished, with all of the accessories.  Still needs sleeves, and the buttons are just safety-pinned on for a preview of the final look:

The cummerbund is masking the waistband of the modern khaki pants - I hadn't made his trousers yet!

I ended up not doing the extra decorative buttons, because I ran short on time.  But I like the look without them, anyway:

First worn May 31, 2014 for photo shoot at Jamestowne which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was also to be the wedding proposal!
Because the sleeves were too long, I had to fold the cuffs up and safety-pin them because I hadn't had time to sew on the buttons yet!

I'm grinning like a fool because we just got engaged.  He looks rather pleased with himself, doesn't he?

He wore the ensemble again the very next day (June 1), when we attended our first Fabulosity Club outing (which I never got around to blogging about - oops!  Here's Maggie's post about it, though.) at the Riversdale House Museum in Maryland:

Of course, the main reason I had made this commitment to begin with was so that he would have a full Regency outfit to wear to the Regency Society of Virginia's Gentleman's Duel last September.  He had been invited to participate as the doctor, and as such he needed a proper ensemble.  I left it a bit last-minute, but I had his new trousers finished in time, and his attire was finally complete:

I couldn't help noticing that Brian's tails are significantly longer than the other men's.  I planned to remedy that with his next tailcoat.

I also remember being a little uncertain about the color of the bottom-weight cotton (from JoAnn's) I used for the trousers, wondering if it was too light:

But it turned out that his trousers were practically the darkest ones there!

I don't have any in-progress photos of the trousers, as I made them in a huge hurry, but the pattern I used was Kannik's Korner 4303.  Thank you Stacy for lending me all three patterns!  I liked them so much I bought copies for myself after I returned them to her, so I can make more wardrobe pieces for Brian in the future. 

All in all, I'm pleased with the way everything turned out.  We got his boots on ebay, the top hat is an antique my dad got at a flea market many years ago, and we used a cream silk scarf for his cravat.  I have since made him a hand-hemmed linen cravat, which works much better.  And he now has a second tailcoat and a second waistcoat, which will be the subject(s) of my next post! 

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