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My 1780-82 Riding Habit Construction

Now that I’ve shared some photos and some of the images that inspired it, here are some construction details for my early 1780s riding habit.

The jacket is made from a soft, lightweight wool suiting. The fabric reads as grey, but is actually a lovely variegated wool, with shades of blue and brown mingling to make an interesting shade that really varies with the light. The jacket is interlined in medium weight linen and lined with lightweight silk, and is constructed with a combination of machine and hand stitching.

To pattern the jacket, I looked at the diagrams in Patterns of Fashion and The Cut of Women’s Clothes, as well as the men’s jackets in Costume Close Up, to help me get an idea of the pattern shapes for the skirt pleats. I used my latest fitted 18th century base, as well as the riding habit patterns I had made previously, then adjusted the shape of the lapels and cutaway on my dress form. Once I had something I like, I made some final refinements to the shape on my own body.

I started by flat-lining all the wool bodice pieces with linen, basting them together by hand to avoid shifting or stretching the pieces.  Using Samantha’s incredibly helpful construction post as a guide. I sewed the center back seam on the machine, including all four layers of outer fabric and lining (the linen and wool being treated as one). The seam allowance was pressed to one side and completely encased between the layers. Then the side and shoulder seams were sewn leaving out the front lining, which was then folded over the seam allowance and whipped down by hand, nicely finishing the interior. After the body of the jacket was constructed, I went back over the seams with a spaced back stitch to define the seams and keep everything laying nice and flat.

I added an extra layer of linen interlining to the lapels and collar, and then roughly padstitched them to add structure and to help them to fall open gracefully. I don’t have evidence (and haven’t done enough research on the subject) to say that it was done on garments this early, but I do like the effect it gives and feel it’s needed, especially on softer wools like this one.

Once I finished the lapels, I faced the front of the bodice and the lapels with wool from the shoulder to where the skirts cut away at the waist. The edges were turned under about ¼ of an inch, pressed, and then topstitch together by hand. For the corners, I trimmed away as much of the extra fabric as possible to help keep points sharp. It’s a fiddly process but well worth it. I did the same for the collar, leaving the facing on the neckline seam free so I could tuck the seam allowance under it once the collar was attached.

The jacket skirts are cut in one with the bodice, like a polonaise jacket, and the pleats are tacked together at the top but left free inside the jacket. Once the jacket was finished I lightly pressed the pleats to help them lay nicely. The skirt edges are finished the same way as the front edges of the bodice and lapels.

The jacket has two piece sleeves, based off the pattern in Period Stage and Screen, finished with peaked cuffs and self-fabric covered buttons. I also added covered buttons at the back above the pleats and down either side of the cutaway front. I ran out of time to do it before my trip, but eventually, I’d like to add decorative buttonholes down the front of the jacket and on the cuffs.

Once I had the jacket body constructed and the sleeves assembled, I quickly realized I didnt have enough range of motion in the jacket. I've run into this problem before. When I'm patterning, I dont bring the armscythe high enough under the arm, resulting in T-Rex arms. Not comfortable at all! To fix it, I added a little crescent shaped piece under the arm and then set the sleeve.
Like I mentioned earlier, Samantha’s blog post was invaluable, but I also found Kendra’s habit dress diary, Merja’s construction post, and Katherine’s linen habit project page incredibly helpful when patterning and construction my jacket.
Posted: 10/8/2017 10:24:58 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s
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Project Details

1780-1782 Grey Riding Habit