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Adventures in 18th century Tailoring

Having wanted a 1780s jacket and being rather tight (I prefer frugal), I recently decided to retailor an old 1730s style sleeved waistcoat into a 1780s jacket.  Not only did I think this would be a way of not having to purchase new fabric, but I have a number of early sleeved waistcoats already and this was my second ever and was not well made.  I made this waistcoat 10 years ago (of a fabulous light blue/slate linen).  I handsewed the entire waistcoat, but I used modern tailoring methods.  I also never used an interlining/facing which made the front flimsy and hang wrong.  In spite of this, I always loved the fabric and how it has faded over time as well as I have loved some of my make-do changes to it.  For example, the sleeves were originally a bit short, so I had pieced in another piece of the fabric to lengthen them.  This was the same fabric but unfaded (I had/have a few small scraps in a plastic tote from when I made this garment, many years ago). 

To add to my desire in “retailoring” this coat is the fact that many original garments were retailored to meet newer trends in fashion (although 1730-80 is a large jump).  The following will show some of the steps I took in trying to revamp this garment.

The first step I took was to tear out the stitching that attached the lining to the shell of the garment.  I had originally done this as a modern bag lining and wanted to re sew it using 18th century tailoring techniques.  Additionally, I wanted to add in an interfacing and facing while everything was torn apart to make this a better garment.  I also removed the pocket flaps, the buttons (small cloth covered), and tore out the button holes.  Once this was done, I recut the shape to a shorter, cut-away 1780s style.

Next, I pressed everything and added an interfacing to stiffen the front of the jacket.  For this, I used a hempen canvas that I heavily startched.  For thread, in order to match the outside of the garment to my best ability, I pulled threads from a scrap piece of the fabric. I also had to reshape and do the pockets to fit the new shape of the jacket.

I then reattached the lining and added a facing piece of the same fabric (again from small scrap) to the inside.

The final major addition/change I had to make to this jacket was the addition of a collar.  I decided that I wanted to make a stand-fall collar, which I had never done before.  To figure this out, I pulled out my copy of Kathleen and Fritz Kannick’s “The Workman’s Guide to Tailoring Stitches and Techniques.”   This as well as the two guides to handsewing are invaluable books and are MUST HAVES for anyone interested in sewing.  Using this guide, I more or less figured this out and all of the associated pad-stitching.  WOW does the pad stitching make a difference!

The garment nearly complete, I reworked all of the button holes and remade buttons.  I too scraps from the bottoms I cut from the original garment and used larger wood moulds to make larger buttons than what were originally on the waistcoat (in an attempt to create the later look of this garment).

Anyway, this was a very educational project.  It was more work than I had originally anticipated but it was fun and I learned a lot.  I also now have a somewhat servicable jacket from an older one that was not nearly as well constructed.

Before and after…

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