18th Century

18th century menswear: the waistcoat

I’ve told you all about the 18th century jacket I made.  Here are the construction details of the waistcoat that goes with it.

The mostly finished waistcoat

The fabric is a white cotton with a slightly irregular diagonal rib woven in.  The breeches are made out of the same fabric.  There is more info on the fabric and trims here.

Fabric, silver trim, and not-so-beautiful buttonholes

Like the jacket, the pattern basically comes from Costume Close-Up, though I made so many changes that CCU ended up being just a basic guide to 18th century waistcoat construction.

I patterned up the waistcoat without having anyone to try it on, and I was really worried that it would be too small, so I used a clever feature that I saw on an extent waistcoat (unfortunately I can’t remember where from!) and left the back seam open, with ties to make it adjustable.  I’ve also seen images of waistcoats with closed back seams and ties, and waistcoats that laced up the back.  The LACMA has a pattern for one.

Back ties

As with the jacket, I managed to do a clever sewing thing where I finished the two front edges, sandwiched the front between the back pieces, sewed them, and then folded them back and sewed the back seam with handstitching, so that the waistcoat was a bit sturdier than if I had just bag-lined it.

Tiny hand stitches to finish the back seam

Of course, this type of finishing meant that when I actually got to try the waistcoat on Daniil and it was too big the only (well, within the timeframe) way to make it smaller  was to tie the back as tightly as possible, and cut down the front.   Since I had already finished and sewed buttonholes on the front we had to hide the old buttonholes so I killed two birds with one stone and  bound the now-raw edges with the silver trim, which was wide enough to also hide the remnants of any buttonholes.  At least I hadn’t cut them open!

Silver trim to hide fitting issues

The one thing I didn’t finish with the waistcoat was the armholes: I just ran out of time before the Grandeur & Frivolity talk, and they wouldn’t be seen beneath the jacket.  I’ll do a fold-under or quickly finish them off with binding at some point.

Unfinished armholes

So that’s my first waistcoat.  It’s far from perfect, or perfectly historical, but my next one will be much better!


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