18th Century

The 18th century man’s jacket: finishing details

With all the patterning, construction and fitting of the 18th century jacket done, I could now do the finishing touches.

Or more accurately, I could send out a panicked call to a few friends who owed me favours, and get them to do a bunch of the finishing touches for me.  This was the week before the Grandeur & Frivolity talk, and I was a just a little overwhelmed and busy.

I sewed the neckband on myself, and did all the buttonholes too.

The collar and buttonholes

They are machine done for now, but I will probably do them over by hand at some point.  You’ll notice that they aren’t actually opened: this seems to be the case on most 18th century jackets (at least for all but the top few buttonholes).

The reverse of the unopened buttonholes

Darling Shell sewed on all the buttons.  She didn’t hide the threads between the layers as I probably would have done, but I’m not sure which is historical.  Anyone seen a actual 18th c jacket and how the buttons were sewn on?  And am I the only one insane enough to be interested in stuff like exactly what is the proper historical way to sew on buttons?

The back of the buttons

Shell sewed all the buttons down the front, and the ones on the top of the pleats.  That’s a lot of buttons.

Buttons at the top of the pleat openings.

I tacked down the pleats from the back so that they hung properly.  There is still some raw fabric showing, and I’m not sure how to finish that nicely.  Is this how it’s supposed to be done?  Did I cut the jacket properly?  What is the correct way to finish the top of jacket pleats? Lauren I’m looking at you!

My messy-raw, tops of the pleats

Finally, the false pocket flaps got sewed on.  I was so busy at this point I really can’t remember who did the sewing.  Was it me or someone else!?!

I didn’t measure the flap positions: I just eyed where they went, pinned the flaps on and basted them on.  You can see the basting stitches show through the lining.

The stitching line for the pockets (and another look at sewn-down pleats tops)

I may go back and make these real pockets in the future, but for now the faux pocket flaps do the job.

Whether or not to make real pockets is still up in the air, but the one thing I definitely do want to do is to bind the edges of the armholes so that they aren’t raw.

Must be finished prettily!

First I want to try the jacket on a few more men, to make sure that it will fit a range of models if the amazing Daniil isn’t available.



  1. Lady Liz says

    Actually I recall reading or hearing something completely different re: attaching buttons from someone who had looked at extant examples. Many times men’s jacket/coat buttons were all attached to the same thread or cord that ran between each shank and was affixed underneath the outer fabric. Sadly my memory is foggy beyond that, but it’s something to look into.

    • Wow…that would be a really long thread/cord for a jacket this size! I wonder if that was what they did for jackets with detachable buttons, where the jacket had small holes down the front for the shank to fit through?

    • I’ve seen/heard this too–yet I’ve also seen people who went with this method lose a whole line of buttons when one fell off! Whoops! They must have tied off between each button in some way I haven’t figured out yet–or, like D. said, they were intended to be detachable 🙂 Or they were more careful!

  2. Stella says

    My experience suggests 18th century tailors weren’t bothered about raw edges, especially on outer garments. Outer garments were probably not washed – some wouldn’t survive the washing process – and this meant there was less need to prevent fraying by securing raw edges. In contrast, shifts and shirts and such that were washed used flat felled seams or French seams that enclosed the raw edges.

    • I agree with you that this is the case for some 18th century outer garments, but certainly not all, or even most. Many women’s gowns (at least 50% of the ones I have seen) were lined in the bodice, and every single example of an 18th century men’s jacket that I can find is fully lined. In addition all the ones that have any information on them indicate that the lining is sewed on in a way that would make it easy to remove and replace when it got soiled and worn. So I know the lining is accurate in idea (if not in construction). I just don’t know what they did at the top of the pleats.

  3. I would love to know about these details too… Some day I’d like to try to make men’s clothing but it’s things like these that just put me off (among others…).

    What you’ve done is beautiful though 🙂

  4. Very lovely! The color is droolworthy 🙂 Interesting that they didn’t open the buttonholes! Most of my experience is with military coats, where the buttons were very functional–the coats were often intended to button in multiple ways for adjusting to different temperatures, etc., so buttonholes were open and user-friendly (well, as user-friendly as 18th century clothes get). So fascinating how uses of clothing informs construction!

    Where did you find the gorgeous filligree buttons?

  5. I have some photographs of extant examples that may be of interest to you. Is there somewhere I can email you?

    • I always love extent photographs! Hit the ‘Contact Me’ button at the top of the page and it will let you email me (or at least send me an initial message that I can email you from).

    • Welcome back btw! I haven’t heard from you in ages, and of course there are no updates on your blog 🙁 What have you been sewing lately?

      • I’ve been sewing my wedding dress and 3 out of 4 bridesmaid dresses for my wedding, which was a week and a half ago now. It almost killed me (mostly my dress did this) but it all came together in the end. I’m happy to show off some of the initial pictures we’ve got if anyone is interested ;o)

        I really do need to try and make time for adding to the blog. There’s still a few pages that need doing. Within a year I hope to be starting a new, related-but-not-identical project as part of my PhD. Dress historiography needs more experimental archaeology I say! :o)

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