Updating My Wardrobe: a New Black Silk Coat

Greetings to you all! This blog has been resting since the end of last year. Not because I had to take a break. I simply haven´t had any costume projects to share. True, I have been to one or two events, but nothing new there.

However, I have felt the need to add something formal to my wardrobe, as well as something versatile, since there are a lot of these Gustavian (late 18th century) events around here. So I have decided to make myself a new coat. I have hoarded some black silk taffeta for a while now, not quite knowing what to do with it. But now I am about to turn it into a 1780´s-1790´s frock coat. It will make a nice ensemble with the black silk breeches and one of my formal waistcoats. It can be accessorised with or without a wig depending on what decade I chose to represent. It could even be appropriate for 18oo-ish.

As usual I try to do my research before cutting anything. Black garments were perhaps not all that common with the upper set but more so among the affluent middle classes. I am going for something formal but not too extravagant; I will not travel to Versailles nor the court of S:t James anytime soon.

Whenever possible, I try to consult the following sources: portrait paintings, fashion plates and extant garments.

Here´s a wonderful, well known David-painting from the Met:

Jacques-Louis David: Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife, 1788. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monsieur Lavoisier was a prominent chemist and wealthy administrator in pre-revolutionary France. He was not an aristocrat but nevertheless lost his head, at age 50, in 1794 during the terror. In this portrait none of that had happened. He is wearing a black suit, buckled shoes, white frills and a powdered wig, sitting at his desk surrounded by carefully arranged Important Instruments and his lovely wife Marie-Anne. I like Lavoisier´s understated elegance.

Then there are quantities of fashion plates online. I cannot remember where I found this, but it is a fashionable French gent modelling 1781 fashions. He is fancier than Lavoisier, with an embroidered waistcoat, he is apparently a member of the Aristocracy since he is nonchalantely carrying a rapier. Anyway, I like the black silk coat-and-breeches-ensemble. He is also wearing a terrific wig.

Fashion plate, French, 1781

This coat is in the Skokloster Castle collections. It was worn by Count Brahe somewhere around 1800. (It is impossible to be more precise, unfortunately.) It is in perfect condition. It could have been made today, but then anything ordered by Count Brahe was always top quality. Of course it is a fancy amber silk with white silk piping, but the narrow silhouette is similar to the coats above, and I can study important details such as buttons, collar and pocket flaps.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Silk coat, 1790-1810. Skokloster Castle, Sweden.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Silk coat, 1790-1810. Skokloster Castle, Sweden. Note the impeccable buttonholes and the gathered sleeve heads.

Here is my black silk taffeta, and a glimpse of the brown linen that will give the coat some body.

Work is pretty straightforward, I just use my old toile from the blue tailcoat as pattern.

Cutting the pieces: the back and one sleeve.

I always prefer hand sewing, but I admit the machine came out for some quick interfacing, A strip of canvas is sewn to the linen lining. Normally I would do pad stiches here, but these seams will only show if you look very closely on the inside of the coat.

 

I basted the taffeta to the linen, treating them like one piece when assembling the coat. Here the centre back seam is ready to be stitched.

Et voila! The centre back seam is done.

A closeup of the back seam. After opening and pressing the seam allowance, I added a strengthening prick stitch on both sides.

Shoulders and side seams are done. Closing the lining.

Like so. Next I need to work on the tails.

This is how far I got before going out of town for the week..

Oh, about one month ago I went to a costume ball in the Royal Armoury, and then I began styling a cheap wig I found…

Photo by Regencygentleman.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Advertisements