The tailcoat came in a variety of shapes and colours, depending on decade and wearer. For me it was an easy decision. I like the type of tailcoat that was seen a lot in the 1790’s and first decade of the 1800s, both for riding and – when embroidered – as court dress. Its gentle cutaway front and the absence of intimidating lapels seemed a good choice for the novice tailor. (Me, that is.)
Some facts before we continue: The swallowtail-coat or, simply, the tailcoat was a corner stone in the gentleman’s wardrobe. He could not be seen in public without it. In the last decades of the 18th century it gradually became the fashionable dress coat for day and evening wear, replacing the colourful silk frock coat or just au-corps. The understated somewhat militaresque elegance was more fitting for the man of new era with his interest in riding, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. Or the metropolitan dandy at least wanted to give the impression that he did these things when not in town and preferably so at the family country estate. The famous trend-setter was of course Beau Brummel.
The coat was either single or double breasted, always with a deep collar and in sombre colours such as black, navy or green. The front was cut away for riding comfort. At back the tail was divided in half by a centre vent, resulting in two coattails. The tails were cut in one piece with the body.
Now back to work. I am obstinate and can´t just buy a commercial pattern. I am sure they are excellent. Instead I am combining the draping method with diagrams in Norah Waugh’s Cut of Men’s clothes and the free online patterns on LACMA’s website.
This is my toile or mock-up, pinned together. I invested a lot of time on research but once I actually got started this process took me only a few hours.
I found a beautiful wool in navy. Timeless elegance indeed! The lady at the fabric store was unable to say much about it, but my research tells me this type of wool cloth would be categorized as a medium to light weight herringbone tweed, see a closeup of a similar material here. It is real joy to work with this material, so every stitch is done by hand. I am using a fine linen for the lining, found a generous length of dark indigo linen in our stash. Metal shank buttons or self covered buttons?
The mockup is taken apart and is now my pattern. Cutting the left front panel.
Inside view of right front panel. Linen lining folded back to show the stitching of a strip of sturdy linen canvas interfacing to the wool. This is necessary in order to avoid a sloppy edge along the front opening.
Measuring up a pattern for some padding on the shoulder and chest.
All pieces pinned or basted together. Starting to look as planned. It doesn´t show here, but the sleeves need some adjusting.
Ready to be sewn together. Still need to cut cuffs and collar.
Note that the sleeve is cut in two equally sized pieces. That means there is a seam right at the front and one at the back. In modern tailoring the undersleeve is much narrower. After this photo was taken I spent endless hours fiddling with the sleeves to get the best possible fit. They were too high under the arm (armscye was ok though) resulting in awful creases and the top sleeve was pinned too tight to the shoulder. Luckily I cut the sleeves with a generous seam allowance.
Inside of the tails: Sewing the lining to the wool for a neat edge.
- Inside the coat: sewing (with dark thread) along the basting (done in the light thread).
To be continued…