Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Early Victorian Boy Clothes: The Sewing Part

I had Very Grand Plans to make his entire wardrobe (two whole outfits!)...and then a combination of "running out of time" and "boy clothes are stupid boring" and "my pathetic attempts at tailoring are disheartening" led to just buying a good chunk of it. Still, I think he ended up looking rather nice!
Nothing like a gaggle of ladies to keep a chap awake in the afternoon...

Made by Yours Truly: Shirt, underpants, standing collar, stock collar, striped cravat, pink day vest, embroidered evening vest, and blue wool frock coat.
Purchased: Suspenders (not shown - Amazon), both checked and black trousers (Historical Emporium), top hat (Amazon), tailcoat (bought on ebay, very slightly tweaked by me).
Shoes, socks, sideburns and mustache: provided by Mr Dedicated Follower of Fashion.
I gave up on construction photos about halfway through making all of this, so this mightn't be the most exciting explanatory blog post; my apologies. I'll do what I can!
Linens: I used the Black Snail 1830-60 Shirt Pattern for the shirt and collar. I actually bought most of her range of early Victorian men's patterns - shirt, trousers, vest, and tailcoat - when she was having a sale back in December (I think). And despite not having used them for everything, the instructions and background information contained in the patterns were very helpful, so I don't regret buying them at all!

I used a lightweight linen-cotton blend for the shirt, and as with pretty much all the rest of this outfit, did a mixture of machine sewn and hand finished. In this particular instance, the main seams are machine sewn and hand-felled, and anything visible is done by hand (the buttonholes are truly terrible, by the way).

I ended up having to piece the tucked front; well strictly speaking I didn't HAVE to, but if I didn't piece it I'd have had to cut into a whole 'nother length of linen, which just seemed wasteful. Piecing is still period! Plus it's down at the bottom and you can't see it with the vest over it anyway.
"Let's try on your shirt and collar!" "Great..."
The drawers are funny, just by virtue of their being drawers! Up til I was planning this outfit, I'd never really stopped to consider men's underpants, circa 1840. (I mean...not many people have, I'd think.) But there are underpants, and some extants are still out there! And, shockingly, they look just like pants, made out of linen or cotton, that go...under your pants. Whoda thunk. This was all set into motion by my thinking about how trousers didn't seem to be lined at the time, and wouldn't that possibly make for itchy legs (especially considering my modern options for wool), so did I want to line the trousers, but the pattern doesn't call for lining, so let's figure out the period option! Drawers, duh!

Mr Dedicated Follower of Fashion will not be modeling his drawers for you, as they're made of a mid-to-lightweight linen and are somewhat I went for the bargain-basement option and didn't bother with a fly, so they gap. Which is fine for wearing and is mostly filled in with the shirt-tail...but we're not putting that on the internet. He wants to stay somewhat respectable! ;)

I started with the Black Snail trouser pattern (fitted leg version), and just took out all the extra stuff and put the basic leg pieces on a plain waistband. They ended up a hair tight in the calves, but I let them out as much as I could in the outside seam, and told him he wasn't going to be running any marathons anyway. Of course they stretched after a day of wearing anyway, including in the waist...where they are now about 3" too big, entertainingly. No great fuss, just move the buttons over, but, ahhh, linen.

Vests: From the Black Snail pattern. Mix of machine and hand sewn; everything visible is hand done.
Day vest is made of pink wool-cotton twill, evening is cream silk satin. Backs/linings are linen. (The pattern calls for cotton, and I believe that is more common by this point...but I have a ton of linen remnants hanging around, not so much the polished cotton, so...linen.)
Piles of backs and linings; those I assembly-lined.
Back of the day vest has a buckle; the evening one is cut just a bit shorter and doesn't have the straps/buckle.
I had the worst time with the welt pockets. I started with the day vest, natch, and those pockets are pure awfulness. On the evening vest, I was quickly running out of time, so they're not actually pockets! Which worked nicely. Means he has nowhere to put his pocket watch, but...he hasn't got a pocket watch at the moment, so we'll survive with no vest pockets for now!
On the other hand, I am very pleased with the embroidery on the satin vest! I have a minor quibble with the placement on the bottom edge - I should have moved it all up at least a half-inch; as is, it looks somewhat stumpified, with too much empty space under the pocket - but other than that I think it gives a very nice effect.
As mentioned, it's silk satin, and is embroidered with silk floss, using stem stitch, satin stitch, and French knots. (So many French knots.) I'm not an embroiderer, per se, but I figured those were basic enough stitches that I wouldn't screw them up too badly! There are a bunch of white/ivory/cream vests out there from this approximate time period, and I based my design primarily on these 1850s and 1840s vests, respectively. I wasn't interested in trying to exactly copy any one vest (see: limited embroidery skillz), just an approximation.
And I didn't keep track of my hours...I never do that, but I'd solidly stick it in the "yes, it did take a fair amount of hours but not a crazy amount" category! Not like a Katherine C-G dress or anything. ;) And having made this vest (and, ahem, a pair of not-quite-finished suspenders!), I have discovered I do quite like having an embroidery project around for some handwork to pick up, so you may see more of it around here.
(Oh, and the button forms are pennies. With tiny balls of fiberfill glued to the top so they look domed rather than flat. And then covered in silk. Yes, really. The Dritz forms are absolute rubbish anymore, and refuse to hold! So...pennies.)
Frock Coat: Is not awful. Is certainly not great, but for a dressmaker who doesn't know what she's's wearable. I used the Wingeo 1830s-50s frock coat pattern, in tandem with the instructions for the Black Snail tailcoat, because the Wingeo instructions are...somewhat light on the "instructions" part. Definitely not for beginners. I would only recommend if you're an experienced seamstress and/or are familiar with 19thc menswear already! It did, however, mostly fit; the only major fit adjustment was to bring up the armscye a solid couple of inches ("what is this, an 1860s bodice pattern with a dropped shoulder seam?"). Also I adapted the Black Snail interfacing instructions for a lazy seamstress (me: no building up padding or twill-taping edges of interfacing here) rather than following Wingeo, which I decided to ignore once I got to the "iron-on interfacing" part. Hahahaha NOPE. That stuff and I do not get along, esp. in period costumes. Newp.
So, all in all, I'm not totally embarrassed by his frock coat! Unless somebody who actually does tailoring looks at it closely. (Please don't.)

(Also, button forms are quarters and dimes on this one.)

Tailcoat: A cheapo Ebay find (yay satin lapels...blergh), decidedly not perfect, but about a third of the price of the next-best "Victorian" tailcoat, which wasn't perfect anyway. I chopped off a couple of inches from the fronts (they were lower-waisted with the "points") and moved the actual "tail" part back a few inches. If I'm feeling industrious before he wears it again, I may go in and nip in the side-back seams for a better fit, as all the coats of the period that I've seen are much less loosely-fitted. But I'll have to unpick the lining to do that, so that was more of a commitment than I wanted to make for this first wearing, and therefore left well enough alone!
Look at that non-curve at the back. Will fix. Sometime.
Mr Dedicated Follower of Fashion was what is often referred to as a "good sport" this weekend; this is very much not in his wheelhouse! But he didn't mind it too much, I think, and now that he's got some clothes, Mr. SewLoud won't always be the token male at our fancy events! At least...the early Victorian ones. I do a lot of different time periods, you know...
Oh, the humanity...

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