It started in all innocence by watching YouTuber—costume historian and a maker two years prior to these events I’m about to note down. I took a few pages of notes as sewing actual garments was science fiction to me back then. A year and a ton of videos later I attempted my first mock-up as I set aside slightly old and frail duvet covers for further re-use.
Pirate / poet shirt 2.0
24.4.2022 10:47 P.M.
I somehow managed to create something of shape, followed by a waistcoat mock-up and also stays mock-up. It was fun. I learned what to do differently in my next project. I got convenient duvets, stored in a cupboard for many decades, to play with. It’s almost a year later, sitting one day at my computer, staring into the Internet void, a brilliant idea struck me. I’m going to create Pirate shirt 2.0. Oh yes.
So I did make it happen. I shortened my sleeves, which remained wide enough to give me the puff effect without sliding down over my hands when the cuffs are left open. I also elongated the main body shirt to reach mid-thighs, cut off some shoulder’s width. I also created buttons from scratch. Self-filling fabric buttons from fabric scraps and accompanying loop from universal sewing thread, made into chain. I didn’t want to put button holes in my shirt cuffs this time.
Both cuffs and collar were reinforced. I also strengthened several places as side slits, which were the weakest point when trying out. I enlarged sleeve gussets and made the armhole bigger than in the previous shirt, which resulted in a better looking garment. I added reinforcing stripes of fabric over my shoulder area, which should be done before sewing the collar and sleeves on. I did it after, because I thought I wouldn’t need that in the first place, but with trying the garment out I found out that shoulders carry all the weight and need to be reinforced with additional layers. What else I changed since the first experiment I added small neck gussets and cut the front slit longer to be able to get it over my head easily.
There are still some hiccups. You don’t want to sew the shirt too narrow or too wide. When using thicker fabric, the neck gathering creates ugly effects on the back. The gathering has to be tiny and delicate to sit right, and it has to be covered with a waistcoat or other garments anyway. Some parts are very fiddly. I’ll keep the shirt as it is now and maybe the next one will be the perfect piece. And as I half hand-sewed the shirt I started dreaming of some sort of accompanying waistcoat (vest).
I had this dark grey fabric in my stash, which was a remnant from an old cape I used to wear on LARP. The fabric itself was just too small a piece to make something of mid-thighs length. As I was thinking about it I made a decision that I can use the pattern I made based on the Keystone System and make some alteration to it, so it will look like male garment. I counted on some ease in fitting (so I can wear more under-layers). It would use some lacing or something but I’ll leave it as it is. And of course I made a mock-up first to reassure, re-measure and redo the pattern. It still needed a few alterations in the shoulder area, which I sewed together last with a sort of hidden stitches as I had the feeling that I’ll have to fiddle with it further. Otherwise you just sandwich it with the right sides together, sew everything and leave a small hole to be able to turn the whole thing inside out.
The garment consists of two layers of fabric, sewn together and turned inside out. Inner side is white cotton from the duvet cover and the outer side is that thicker dark grey fabric, which is probably also cotton, but I cannot tell as I didn’t run any test. The front side, where the buttons and buttonholes are and around the neck up to shoulder seam is reinforced from inside with a wide stripe of non-woven fabric with a glue on one side, as I had it in my possession. Not historically accurate material. It is ironed on gently and carefully pressed, the iron is set to 2 dots of warmness, but look for some videos or articles on that matter. It was a novelty for me. But I think it helped to keep some shape. I don’t have any horse-hair fabric or anything, really.
So the waistcoat is quite nice from a distance, two layered garment. I lost one button to a bone-breaking injury as I excavated exactly 10 same buttons, which was truly a surprising find. So I have 9 buttons and 10 button holes at the moment, lol. I would use more of them but alas the source junk drawer has no more.
What I would like to create next is an 18th century men’s coat. Coats are not easy. I already stitched together one mock-up, but it desperately needs some alterations to a front piece. I’ll try to do one more mock-up for that, before destroying a new fabric piece, but I’m running out of materials.
Meanwhile I made an insertion piece with various compartments for my haversack, which I obtained from LARPer’s shop, added buttons and such. And yes, I’m trying to repurpose, reuse, creating my own buttons as I cannot afford much of the new stuff. See, before throwing your money out of the windows do some home archaeology and be mindful when decluttering. Sheets, duvet covers and other second-hand materials ain’t bad for sewing projects, especially for beginners and as it was washed many times it will not shrink on you.
The tricorn hat is just a cheap party hat. I hand sewed fabric straps for it, made from cabbage (which is just all the fabric scraps, there is use for every piece, believe me—as straps, fabric buttons or as a filler in your smexy Victorian hip pad ;).
Once a person falls into making their own garments with a romantic breath of history, it will get easier to hand-sew. It can also be very relaxing (unless you puncture yourself a ton as I did, because that’s what I do) and bring you joy. If you turn on some nice podcasts, you won’t get bored.
I find historical garments very beautiful, everyone who wears them is worthy of utter admiration, but it was always there somewhere as I think about it. Being it LARP decades ago, being it parodies we filmed, being it Gothic clothes I wore sometimes or just seeing nicely pampered-up people of Punk tribe with all the metal pieces and colour, attending appropriate music events during summer days, et cetera.
Oh well. I over-romanticize things, but in such circumstances as a whole world going southward and life being too short, one cannot be ashamed any-more for that one loves costuming up with whatever is available. And friends, do not forget friend’s crazy sides too. Nothing more joyful than being crazy together.
I might update this post with further proceedings later. As I had been informed by my fellow explorers, their coat was already done and they used an old Gothic style coat they already had and updated the thing for a new era. I will demand some photographs of course.
Few weeks later I’m still demanding some photographs. We will have to do some photoshoot one day once we are all at the same coordinates with all the necessities.
In the meantime I ordered very basic cotton fabric of black colour (=cheaper) to try and make something at least slightly resembling the 18th century men’s coat. I made it with very long tails and a full-skirted cut. I kept only one vent, I don’t plan to wear a sword. It went through two mockup stages and many trials and errors as I never sewed anything so complicated, and it doesn’t have a lining layer. It still has many hiccups, but maybe next time, I’ll get it right. You would use wool (light wool), linen and silk for such a garment, plus horsehair to reinforce front pieces. The pattern is my very own based on one small picture in a book Historic costumes and how to make them. It is not a comprehensive guide. I would recommend the pricey and unavailable book The cut of men’s clothes 1600 – 1900 instead and other extensive research (for example in collections of Met Museum, NYC). Other than that I have no idea at the moment as I’m not a part of any Living History group.
Previously (with some links): Waistcoat and shirt mock-ups