Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inspiration and Research

My initial research on this Regency tailcoat project takes two paths - first, looking at the period in detail and finding inspiration images, and second, finding construction resources (books, sewing patterns, etc.) to help recreate the look. This list is by no means comprehensive – it’s just the resources I’ve found to be the most helpful so far. Please comment on any other men’s Regency resources you’ve found!

Inspiration & Period References
After spending some time trolling the internet, we found this image on Wikipedia. It's listed as "Portrait d'un artiste" ("Portrait of an Artist") by French painter Michel Martin Drolling, from 1819. My husband, Chris, likes this look best of anything we looked at. (I'm going to start calling him by name because saying "my husband" every time is going to become tiresome!) He specifically mentioned that he likes the double-breasted jacket, with the low front drop, and the turned back cuffs. The shape of the waist - nipped-in - also reminds me of the 1930's jacket silhouette that he's so fond of. Wikipedia suggests that the sitter in the portrait was wearing a corset – luckily, Chris is a slim guy, so no corset's necessary for him. Whew - that would be *quite* the blog entry!

Portrait of an Artist, Michel Martin Drolling, 1819
Strictly speaking, this look is probably too casual for an evening ball, but at most historical recreation events there is quite a bit of leeway for interpretation. I feel that's it's more important to feel comfortable in your clothes than to be "just-so", so if Chris wants to wear a green coat instead of blue or black, skip the hat, turn back his cuffs and leave the coat unbuttoned, I think those are all good things. To me, that's when it stops looking like a costume and starts looking like clothing.

Other sites & books I've found valuable in researching the proper Regency look are:
Wikipedia Entry on Regency Fashion
Oregon Regency Blog: Outfitting the Regency Man
Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion
19th Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnson - mostly women's clothes, but there are a few beautiful men's coats, photographed in detail. I highly recommend this book and its V&A companions.

Construction Resources

Reference Books/Websites:
Tidens Toej Regency Suit - not only do they have an actual suit to examine online, there is a free PDF of the pattern
The Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600-1900 by Norah Waugh -  contains images, descriptions, and scaled patterns - including a scaled down pattern from a 1825 tailcoat
Men's Garments 1830-1900 by R.I. Davis - Written for theatrical costumers, this book takes historical fashions and simplifies them a little for modern users. Contains scaled drafts, but the earliest pattern is an open front tailcoat from 1830, so it doesn't meet Chris's double-breasted requirement.

Commercial Patterns:
There are a few commercial patterns available for Regency tailcoats, but I’m a little hesitant to try them. The two primary companies that I’ve come across are Reconstructing History and Rocking Horse Farms – I’ve never used patterns from either company, and I haven’t found many (any?) favorable reviews of these patterns. Plus I think the illustrations and photographs are terrible – completely uninspiring. Still, I’m having a little trouble figuring out the proper construction of the tails, so I might wind up purchasing a pattern for construction reference if nothing else. If you have experience with either pattern, please comment!

Pattern Reviews:

Costume Diaries:
Wearing History Blog – Although her blog posts don’t go into detail, the Wearing History blog has been been a helpful starting place for me, as resources on making regency tailcoats are few and far between…Plus the finished coat is beautiful – probably the best Regency tailcoat I saw at last year’s Jane Austen Evening. Excellent fit, construction, the whole nine yards. (I'm trying to not let her statement that this coat "nearly killed me" intimidate me too much!)
Victorian Tailcoat Construction – this coat is a slightly later period, but I’m hoping the detail of the photographs will be helpful in figuring out the tail construction

**Whew! Finished this monster post, and now hopefully I can start sharing some of my actual work!**


  1. Hi Beth, it's Queenie! I was talking to Lauren today and she sent me a link to your blog, which is now definitely part of my daily blogroll. I can't wait to follow your coat-making adventures, and hope someday I will be skilled and brave enough to join the club.

  2. I don't know about the Rocking Horse Farm pattern, but I bought the Reconstructing History one...and wish that I hadn't! Blood, sweat and tears was an understatement!!!
    In the end I made several mock-ups, re-jigging the pattern each time until I was happy with it.
    As for the tails, I was completely flummoxed by the instructions and pattern, so resorted to Norah Waugh's brilliant book, and the photos in V&As Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail.
    For a first attempt, I was fairly pleased with my efforts, but hope that next time I will know what I'm doing.

  3. Ooh, thanks for the tip about the pattern. Someday I hope to get my hands on both those patterns to review them - it's too bad that there isn't a better regency tailcoat pattern, considering how popular the period is right now!