Friday, January 17, 2014

1830s Dress Coat - Drafting and skeleton baste

Don't let the name "dress coat" fool you here - although it was certainly a coat for wearing to fancy occasions (and has today become the standard for white collar wear), this tail coat shows up in William Sidney Mount's work tattered and full of holes as well. It was pretty much the only alternative to a frock coat. Short jackets were less common.

The one I'm making is single-breasted, which means that it doesn't actually button in front. It will have buttons and fake buttonholes. I chose a design from around 1830, instead of closer to 1840. This means that it doesn't have a separate side panel, but instead the front and side are cut as one. I haven't decided yet if I want side pockets, but I've cut some pocket flaps just in case.

The canvas is prepared much in the same way as the linen frock coat, except that because of the earlier period it doesn't have additional canvas pad stitched into the chest. Instead it gets chest padding like the 1830s vest. I cut the canvas:

Chalk out where I want the padding, and add wool batting. You can also see where I added gores to shape the canvas:

After covering the batting with a piece of linen I pad stitched the whole thing:

The linen side of the padding:

Then the canvas was basted into the fronts. You can see at the shoulder seam how the canvas is already shaping the coat. It looks as though the basting wrinkled the coat, but it isn't really that bad. The camera flash really brought out the worst of it.

Don't I look grumpy? This is the skeleton baste: everything is only basted together, with no lining or collar. The sleeves aren't set right - they need to turn forward a bit, and I don't like the puffiness at the sleeve heads. I may have to do some serious gathering.

This example, from Augusta Auctions, shows how drastic the sleeve head gathering can be:

Anyway, I made lots of chalk marks. The diagonal slashes at the waist are where I want to shrink out some fullness, and the armscye is going to be drawn in below the right shoulder.


  1. It looks great so far. The pattern looks somewhat similar to those of the 1780's and 90's. They had the same sort of small back piece and big front/side piece. I love the way the back seams look on that kind of coat.

    You will thank yourself later if you do put pockets in it, a coat without pockets is a very frustrating thing.

    1. I was already planning on putting in tail pleat pockets, but you're right - more pockets are always better. So now I'm putting in side pockets also.

  2. This looks very good. What system did you use for the draft?

  3. Excellent; that book is an amazing resource.

  4. Great blog. I'm new to sewing. Finished two pairs of knee breeches and two Regency vests. Worked with published patterns. Your photos are super!

  5. Oh, my, I've been through your posts and your work is amazing! Are you going to show us the finished dress coat?

    1. I will, I promise! We've just bought a house, and the process is overwhelming!