Sunday, 29 March 2015

Stashbusting; or, the 1790s waistcoat

Me trying to look dapper, and failing

The waistcoat

This project is a case of not actually historically accurate, but too good to pass up.  I got a fabulous blue and orange cotton last year at a sale, with a view to making a waistcoat out of it, and it's been sitting in my stash ever since.  Although the fabric isn't actually right for the 1790s, the bold colours and small diamond pattern are similar to some existing waistcoats from that time, and I think it looks good as a 1790s waistcoat.

Close up of the fabric
The nice thing about this fabric is that it is double-sided.  The reverse side provides an attractive colour contrast, which I've used for the pockets and lapels.

There were cotton waistcoats at this time, but I don't think any of them used fabric like this.  They were printed calico.  And you wouldn't have used a black lining either because period dyes would rub off on your shirt, but since this wasn't going to be a totally accurate project anyway I made some compromises, and one of these was using black lining because I preferred the look of it.  It contrasts nicely with the face fabric.  All the seams that don't show are machine seams, too.

The pattern comes from Norah Waugh's The Cut of Men's Clothes, page 80 (diagram XXIX).  I've used the pattern pretty much as is; I just added a couple of inches in the center back.  I know 18th century waistcoats were cut tight in the back, but there are limits.

Although I've seen plenty of these waistcoats on the internet, I've never seen one in person.  As a result I've had to guess about some parts of the construction, like how to do the pockets and the lining, and I've probably done a lot of things wrong.

The Challenge: Stashbusting.

Fabric: Half a meter of blue and orange cotton, and a bit under a meter of plain black calico.

Pattern: From Norah Waugh's The Cut of Men's Clothes, page 80.

Year: 1790s.

Notions: Thread buttons I made for the previous challenge and some silk thread for the hand-sewn parts.

How historically accurate is it?  Probably only about 40% - 50%.

Hours to complete: Around five.

First worn: For photos yesterday.

Total cost: About $18.50, including the cost of making the buttons.  The coloured cotton was $3/meter, and I'm pretty sure my mum gave me the black calico at some point in the fairly distant past.


  1. I think you look *very* dapper in your new waistcoat, and that it's a handsome garment even if it isn't a spot-on replica for the period. Your blue Dorset buttons look great on it, too.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I'm really pleased with those buttons. Next time I need buttons, I'll definitely consider making some.