Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fur Trimmed Waistcoat

Look at this waistcoat.
Magasin Des Modes, February 1788. (source)
Isn't it awesome? Of course it is, it's got fur trim! The weather is freezing cold here, and a warm waistcoat with fuzzy trim sounds like a great idea at the moment.

The waistcoat in the picture looks like it's made of pink silk with a stripey pattern woven in. I have no such fabric, and it wouldn't be very warm anyway, so I will be making mine out of red wool. It comes from a thrift store coat that was given to me by a friend, who noticed that it was made of nice material. The pieces have been sitting around for months, waiting to be turned into waistcoats.
This waistcoat will be quite suitable for HSF '14 Challenge #1- Make Do & Mend.
Lovely big pieces of red coat wool.
For the trim I'm using this unidentified vintage fur thing. It had a velvet ribbon tacked to one side and the ends fastened together with a big hook & eye closure. It fit around my waist, so my best guess is that it was some sort of belt. When I picked it apart there was a big roll of polyester batting inside it.
A fur something.
 It looks quite nice against the wool.
This picture is a bit washed out.
For the lining I'm using these bits of linen. They were part of the large heap of fabric given to me by Paula Keppie. Like most of the linen she gave me it was torn into strips, meaning it was probably part of an art installation. A lot of Paula's work involves hanging pieces of fabric. This means they also count as Make Do.
The missing rectangle was the piece I used in my jacket belt.
 There was enough linen for the lining, though I had to piece one of the back pieces.
I've been working on a waistcoat pattern with a whole bunch of different front options. The back is the same piece, but by drawing the line a little differently you can make different styles of late 18th century waistcoats. I've got four front pattern pieces so far. The first three are based on extant examples and the fourth(on the far right) is based on the strangely shaped waistcoat in the fashion plate.
The 4 different front pieces.
The cut of the fur trimmed waistcoat looks kind of strange. It comes to quite an extreme point in front. I found another fashion plate waistcoat of a similar shape.
Journal de la Mode et du Gut, February, 1790. (source)
But this is the closest extant one I've found. There are quite a lot of extant waistcoats that are the same shape as this one.
Silk waistcoat, 1790's. The Met.
The pockets are at the same level as the ones on the plate, but the front is cut straight across instead of pointed. It's also from a few years later, so it has a little collar and lapels. I made my pattern pointed in the front, but not quite as much as the one in the plate.
The finished pattern, after cutting out all the fabric, which is why the front piece is in two pieces.
Another feature I was unsure about was the seams. In waistcoats from the 1780's and earlier they are left open at the bottoms, but the 1790's waistcoats have straight seams all the way down. I kept the vents on my seams because the straight seams would not fit very well over my hips. (That would require ties in the back, which would be very lumpy with such thick wool.)
This is probably inaccurate, since the styles with the vents almost never have a front closure that fastens all the way to the bottom. I did find one, but it's a little boy's waistcoat.

Previously, I had thought I would only be able to get two waistcoats out of this coat, but the fur trim provides a way to get three! By extending the line of trim on the pocket opening to go across the whole front piece, I can hide the seam piecing the front together. After cutting the lining out I cut the front piece along the pocket opening line, which makes two pieces that just fit on the tops of the jacket sections, leaving the bottoms for complete waistcoat fronts.
Three waistcoat front pieces, demonstrating this.
The back must be wool too, so that the coziness is evenly distributed. Out of all the wool blankets in the house, this thick pink one was the best option.
The thread and the hair canvas for the front edges is the only thing that isn't made from something else. The pocket bags are cut from a futon casing.
All materials assembled.
Two buttonholes ended up in the top sections of the front pieces. One on each side, which is very annoying.
 I pulled all the threads out and darned the holes shut as well as I could.
One of the darned buttonholes.
It is actually more visible than the photograph shows.
I sewed the two front sections together with a stab stitch, leaving the pocket openings open.
I have just begun the pockets. I folded the welt in half and basted the edges with a running stitch.
All the bits are marked where they need to be attached.
I didn't think the pockets through completely while patterning, so this half of the pocket bag is taller than it needs to be. I'm using a stab stitch on these too, which is about the only stitch that works on such thick wool.
These are the first welt pockets I've ever made, so it's a good thing they will be covered up with fur trim.


  1. Hi

    The waistcoat looks well so far. You mention the seams - can you recommend any books that cover period sewing? All the books that I have got cover modern techniques. Best wishes for 2014. Natalie

    1. Thank you!
      I don't think I've ever found a book that discusses period seams in great detail. The only thing I can think of at the moment is the Stitches and Seam Techniques pdf from Tin Box Patterns.

      It's the third link. It has diagrams of the stitches along with lists of extant garments they have been found on.

  2. Thank you. I've already had a quick look. Natalie