MA Week 3: Britches ‘n Hose

Costume Construction, RWCMD

Teehee, I love a good pun. Sorry guys – I didn’t even make any hose (though some of the other girls did and the results were fantastic), but I really couldn’t help myself. Anyway, yes, britches (or breeches) and hose! Or as this week was actually titled, men’s pattern cutting. We worked from a book called Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume by Elizabeth Friendship, and it’s a similar method to how I drafted Ben’s tailcoat pattern at NCC. Instead of drafting straight to a specific pattern, though, we started with basic blocks and adapted those to different period patterns throughout the week.

We started on Monday by drafting blocks for bodices, sleeves, and trousers:

men's basic blocks

On Tuesday we all adapted our basic two-piece sleeve into a period two-piece sleeve (which is just wider at the top, really), and then each chose three patterns to start drafting. Karen wanted us to get through as many periods and styles as possible, so we all chose a different doublet, coat, and trousers or breeches to draft and then make up into toiles by the end of the week. It doesn’t sound like a lot but oh man, after two days of pattern drafting my brain had pretty much turned into mush.

I chose to draft a high-waisted doublet, Henry VIII-style gown, and Venetian breeches, like so:

I’ve always had a thing for Cavalier fashion and so HAD to do the Charles I doublet, and wanted to make the gown since it was so different from anything I’ve made before. The Venetians I bagsied by mid-week because they were super-simple (like, one pattern piece simple) and I was worried about falling behind – the gown kind of took over for a day and a half.

We used a size chart provided in the book and had to do everything in METRIC, which was a bit weird at first but annoyingly quite simple when it came to halving measurements and getting down to the millimeter (as opposed to the 1/16th inch). My head agrees that metric is easier, but I’m all imperial at heart.

I had my doublet pattern drafted by the end of Tuesday, and started on the gown pattern first thing Wednesday. It took until about 2.30 that afternoon, at which point I drafted the Venetians. I stayed late, started early, and only took half a lunch break nearly every day this week, because I know my own pace and wasn’t confident I’d get it all done by Friday afternoon. But lucky me, Ben was coming to visit at the weekend, and of COURSE I’d drafted everything to fit him (I brought his measurement sheet that I’d used at NCC – useful!), so I HAD to finish.

I had everything cut out by mid-morning on Thursday (which was no mean feat – the gown pattern pieces are HUGE), and got the gown mostly made up by Thursday evening. I say mostly because I was stumped by the hanging sleeve and decided to leave it til the next day, so I started on the Venetians.

The gown’s construction is really quite simple, although I had to add some extra seams because the pieces were too big to cut out on the straight grain all in one go. The tricky bit is figuring out the overlseeve, which is just a rectangle pleated up to fit 2/3 armhole measurment at the top, and then pleated at the bottom to fit the slash on the hanging sleeve that arm goes through. Confused? So was I!

I spent about an hour experimenting with different types and sizes of pleats to get it down the required amount, but it was so worth it in the end! You can see on the form that I made it a bit long – I didn’t have an exact neck-t0-knee measurment for Ben, so I went with my usual method of overestimating. You can always chop it off, but you can’t add it on again…

Anyway, time for the fun part!

I feel obliged to mention that I’m least happy with the high-waisted doublet. It didn’t come out with the flamboyance I had hoped for, which I realised today was the result of re-shaping the top of the shirt. I got confused when reading the pattern as it seemed to imply I should cut off the front corner so the shape matched the bottom edge of the bodice, but all that did was give the doublet a rather boring straight edge at the bottom instead of the dramatic pointy bit, as rocked by Charlie I.

Also, I set my sleeves in crooked as I got the idea into my head that the shoulder seams and the overarm sleeve seams should match. I don’t know where that came from, since I have set a few sleeves in my time and should have known better! Never mind, it was one of the last things I sewed and frankly was I thrilled to have both sleeves attached the right way round – and it looks alright from the back I think (though perhaps the skirt could be longer).

But oh, the GOWN. It’s only half a toile that’s too long with one sleeve and no facing on the collar, but gee whiz I am pleased as punch with the result. I wore it on Friday (we all wore what we made) when we went through them all, but it just came to life on Ben – which makes sense, since it’s a men’s pattern for a man with a man shape. I mean, we all know that Henry VIII was a hefty bloke, but that toile just proves that with the right cut you can make anyone look massive (in the best possible way).

Ben hanging sleeve

Coming up: corsetry!

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