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Patterns for English Civil War clothing (17th century)

Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:46 pm
by X
Does anyone have any advice on where to go for patterns for high quality English Civil War clothing, male and female?

I am in the position of having been invited to an interesting event in a couple of months' time and, as a mediaevalist, I have no kit for the period. While the organizer says that he can provide clothing, the prospect of wearing someone else's linens is not one that excites me, and I noted at the time that he did not say "We can provide clothing that fits." :?

If I can locate suitable patterns in time, I can buy fabric at Tewkesbury and spend the following month making up.

Many thanks in anticipation for your help.

Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:38 pm
by Shadowcat
If you can enlarge patterns from a grid there are several useful books.


Janet Arnold "Patterns of Fashion 1660 - 1860"

Jean Hunnisett "Period Costume for Stage and Screen, 1500-1800" (A misnomer - patterns are taken from original garments.)

Norah Waugh "Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930"


Norah Waugh "Cut of Men's Clothes"

R.I. Davis "Men's 17th and 18th Century Costume, Cut and Fashion" My personal opinion is that this one is theatrical/film orientated!

Only Hunnisett and Davis are geared towards modern bodies - the others are taken from original garments and not altered to fit modern people. Also these are the only ones to come with realistic making instructions.


Re: Patterns for English Civil War clothing (17th century)

Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:14 pm
by Karen Larsdatter

Posted: Tue Jun 06, 2006 6:12 pm
by Tuppence
Personally, I'd go with SC's suggestions.
I tend not to trust commercial patterns, as they don't often have sources.
And you can always scale up paterns from books on a photocopier, then just alter to fit.

The reconstructing history patterns look ok to me, but no more than that, and they have a "costumey" (rather than a "clothingy") look that I always try to avoid.
That said, that's entirely based on the pictures on the website, and it could purely be that the person who designed the covers can't draw very well!!

And they do get a good write up on the great pattern review

While the organizer says that he can provide clothing, the prospect of wearing someone else's linens is not one that excites me, and I noted at the time that he did not say "We can provide clothing that fits."

If ECWS or SK (or really anything related), I can confirm that clothing is unlikely to fit (the breeches I borrowed at my first even were the same age as me, and twice as big as me (and tied up with string).

Do bear in mind, though that in the 17th century, (for re-enactors at least), body linens are really only shirts and shifts - not many people wear drawers (equiv. to braies).

What's the event, just out of interest??


Posted: Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:11 pm
by X
The event is at Arreton Manor; it's not ECWS or SK. However, the likelihood of borrowed clothing fitting is probably about the same. I, too, worry about sources and references - if I'm going to spend hours making kit I want to know it's right, and that I won't have to do it all over again because I can't stand the embarrassment any longer.

I have ordered the two Norah Gould books, since they refer to original garments. If the instructions prove to be too impenetrable, I can always buy the 'Reconstructing History' patterns and make any alterations required to bring them into line with the originals.

And, at last, the cassock someone gave me years ago - I've no idea why, since this is the first time I've ever ventured beyond 1485 - will get an airing. Once I have sewn on all of the seventy buttons it requires.

Thank you all for your help - this has saved me a great deal of time and effort, and now I can get down to work knowing that I'm working in a direction several people who know what they're talking about have pointed me in. :)

Posted: Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:32 pm
by Shadowcat
I hope you mean "Norah Waugh". There are no making instructions - I am sorry I should have made that clearer. There is a lot of text about what is right in terms of fabric etc, but no making instructions. Hunnisett and Davis are the only ones that come with making instructions for making these days.


Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 7:49 am
by X
Sorry, SC, that'll teach me to type without checking previous text. I did indeed mean Norah Waugh. Even lack of instructions probably won't be too much of a problem - after all, if you know more or less what the finished article is supposed to look like, there are only so many ways the bits can go together, and I can always try anything that looks particularly complex in calico first.

This should be interesting.

Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:33 am
by Sophia
If you are going to It's Warre at Arreton then you should have a good time. Various mates of mine and Peter C-H are involved in this and are a great gas to be around.


Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:31 am
by X
That's the one. It certainly sounds enjoyable, although it will be completely different from anything I've ever done before - even without considering that my knowledge of the Civil War period is strictly minimal. I'm a third-person craft demonstrator usually - something that would be, as I understand it, more out of place at Arreton than a whore at wedding.

Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:23 pm
by Tuppence
I've never had a problem with Norah Waugh's patterns - Imean, a back's a back, and a front's a front :D .

Once I have sewn on all of the seventy buttons it requires.

Pah - that's nothing - the last one I made had a hundred and fifty :wink:


Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:08 pm
by Shadowcat
Not the buttons that take the time - but the buttonholes!!


Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 9:48 am
by Nigel
yep she did them and hand bound the buttons too she was rather glad to get that job done

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:42 am
by Shadowcat
I was actually talking about a similar job I did! (Only did it once thank goodness.)


Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:04 pm
by John Waller
A guy once in my unit made reasonably priced cassacks - the buttons came with them in a bag!

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:24 pm
by Tuppence
But presumably the buttonholes were machined.

As SC says, It's not the buttons that take the time, but the buttonholes, when hand finishing.

(of course, unless you're doing the hand made button thing, in which case you're quite, quite mad!!)

Just thought, btw, I'm sure Paul Meekins (the bookseller) sells the reconstructing history patterns, so if you'd rather use a uk supplier...


Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 1:05 pm
by X
No way am I doing handmade buttons. Anyone who wants handmade buttons can either pay me a truly stupendous amount of money or do it themselves... My cassock is a particularly violent shade of red, so I may even overdye it to something that won't frighten children and animals.

Another thought (since you are all being so awfully helpful) - shoes! In the timescale available, readymade shoes are going to be the only option. But from where can I get them? I know there is usually a supplier at TORM, but, being a committed mediaevalist, I walk straight past them without paying attention to who it actually is. Who supplies halfway decent readymade Civil War shoes for both sexes?

My Norah Waugh The Cut of Men's Clothes has just arrived (ahahahaha!) so I shall have fun tonight looking through it...

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 1:46 pm
by Tuppence
There are other suppliers, but Kevin Garlick's are good.

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:28 pm
by John Waller
For readymade ie machined shoes you could also try: do latchets for £60
Gary Soame 01865 300626 machined latchets for a similar price.

Posted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:19 am
by X
Progress report....

we now have one shirt and most of a pair of breeches (I knew that grey wool would get used for something if I just waited long enough). Next job, soldier's coat.

However, I have another question with which to impose on your collective time and expertise. Corsetry. Reading around the subject, boning seems to be a standard part of women's dress. Either you wear a corset or all your jackets are boned. There are references to poor women boning their garments with reeds, which implies that everyone did it - that it wasn't just confined to those with the time and money to adopt the extremes of fashion (although it is conceivable that the reed-boned garment would then only have been worn on special occasions).

So, the question is, am I right or have I got the wrong end of the stick? Is a corset normal underwear or is it a special item only worn if you have pretensions to fashion?

Many thanks for your help - again :)

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 2:17 pm
by Wiblick
Tuppence wrote:That said, that's entirely based on the pictures on the website, and it could purely be that the person who designed the covers can't draw very well!!

this thread is old but in case any one else is reading it I feel I should chime in and say that Kass's patterns are historically accurate, she has in almost every case been to the museum and examined the article on which the pattern is based and does extensive research to supplement her patterns with historical notes. She's the only person I know who has acutally examined the Moy Bog Gown outside of National Museum staff here in Dublin for instance.... Her husband is a cartoonist and I know that such whimsical representations might but some people off but you can trust her patterns.

She is going to be updating her website soon and will be offering her patterns with photo images of the reconstructed garments next year

Posted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:27 pm
by Tuppence
hope I'm not too late, but you're right on the reeding - pretty much all women of the time would have either had corsets (stays, or bodies), or boned bodices.

Loose clothing for women at that time was equated to loose morals, so any woman who didn't wear corsetry was considered indecent. (There are some surviving texts in which the clergy rage against women with loose clothing, and denounce them, so in theory, some women must have gone about without boniung, though I suspect they were in a minority.)

There are quite a few woodcuts which show poorer women (street vendors, servants, etc) wearing what is clearly either a boned bodice or a corset with a bodice over. Generally speaking thoguh, the poorer womens bodices seem to be longer in the waist than the higher fashion stuff - more sitting on the natural waist.

And the reason that reeds were used was simply down to the fact that the whaling industry wasn't that advanced by that time, so there just wasn't enough to go around everybody.

Re. the patterns, as I said, I've never used or seen the patterns close up, and what I said was entirely based on the cover designs shown on the website.
The pictures are very poorly drawn as representations of clothing, (bearing in mind I'm used to seeing very well drawn design sketches), and they don't really show enough detail to enable an informed judgement.
If the artist is a cartoonist, that probably explains a lot, as its a completely different skill, and one not really suited to fashion / costume drawing.

The patterns inside may be perfectly good and accurate, but, for example, the picture of the "hollar" cap on the women's headwear patterns bears very, very little resemblance to the cap in the original picture that it's taken from. As a second example, one of the women's bodices is drawn with a high waist, when it really ought to sit on the natural waist.
As I said it could just be bad cover designs, but having never seen the patterns, I have to assume that the pictures are accurate representations of the patterns inside once made up.

But as I said, they do get a good write up by those who have used them.