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A 1770s Coat for Andrew

Look, you can only sort of blame me for this one. I found myself mysteriously at my local Field's Fabrics one day over the winter, circling their stock of wools--60% off! I whipped out my cell phone and called Andrew. "How d'you feel about another coat?" He's already got one, but it's embroidered silk and he can't raise his arms in it.

The coat is a fine navy blue 100% wool, a thinner fabric than for some of the coats I've seen. The lining is a blue and white striped linen/cotton blend, also from Field's. The buttons are pewter reproductions from Roy Najecki. I learned from the mistakes of my first attempt at 1770s menswear and interfaced the front edges of the coat heavily. I also made a muslin and re-draped the center back and armscye directly on Andrew so that the shape of the garment would reflect the shape of his body. That way, he would have full range of motion in the coat, unlike his previous one. I also lengthened the back skirts, altering them so they started farther up, near the small of the back rather than their original, lower position.

As a note for those interested, we used the Smoke & Fire military coat pattern. It's got all the trimmings to make a British Regimental, but the basic shapes for military and civilian clothing were very similar. This coat is simply the body pieces, minus the turnbacks down the front and all the extra buttons. As I mentioned, the center back and armscyes were reshaped so as to fit Andrew more comfortably. That's a problem I've seen consistent problems with in both my attempts at 18th century menswear and in some of my friends' endeavors as well--the shoulders tend to be quite narrow and the armscyes are usually very small.

I'm all for a small armscye, since generally the tighter the sleeve follows the shape of the body, the more freedom of movement there is. However, there is a point at which the armscye becomes too small, and that's where this pattern treads. I think I cut off a crescent from the top of the shoulder down the front and around to the back of the armpit, about an inch or so wide at its widest point and tapering at each end. I also added at least an inch to each side of the center back. There are arguments for both ways--having a narrow back forces the shoulders down and back, which is proper posture. Once again, though, there is such a thing as too narrow. If the coat is uncomfortable or too much of a hindrance, it simply won't get worn. That's the case of Andrew's silk coat--it's gorgeous, but nonfunctional. This coat may be slightly less period in cut because it allows for Andrew's natural slouch, but he's only owned it for two months and has already worn it for longer than he's ever worn the silk coat, which was made for him in 2006. I'll let you decide which you think is the more successful garment.