Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wrapping My Brain Around Breeches

I am not doing any sewing this week. I am prepping my kitchen for a much needed painting and trying to, generally, de-clutter and tidy things up in preparation for spring. The kitchen is my main concern right now, though.

I love this house, but whoever made the kitchen was lacking in common sense. Or perhaps it was a non-domestically-inclined man, who was not acquainted with the peculiar needs and desires of one who spends a great deal of time in food preparation. A room which would, if left open, be fairly large enough, but with the addition of an oddly shaped "peninsula" has made it so that whomever is in the kitchen is required to walk awkwardly round the jutting out counter top to reach anything at all - cupboards, refrigerator, sink. The whole thing was paneled at some point in the dim past and the cupboards are plain, and made of, probably, a type of plywood, perhaps laminated on the outside. To update this, some one, at some point, probably quite a while ago, splashed a lot of lime colored paint onto the paneling (getting a lot on the trim and the ceiling in the process) and slapped some white paint on the cupboards. White paint which, when scrubbed, comes off. It is in dire need of a good paint job with good quality paint. Then, at least it will look better and feel fresher and I won't mind the awkward arrangment so much.

So while I scrub and throw away things I think about David's regency outfit. The Cut of Mens Clothes finally came in at the library so I've been spending a few smuggled moments reading through the book and gulping hasty cups of coffee. I love it. (the book that is, not the coffee, although I am very fond of coffee) I need it. This book is Gold.

Before I make the tail coat (which I am most excited about, I must say) I first need to make the garments that will be worn beneath it. I have fabric for two sets of breeches on hand and am trying to figure out completely exactly how breeches are put together before I start cutting. The shape seems simple. It's just all the finishing details I am not sure of.

Note: The above image is from Please see this fab site for other gorgeous original examples!

I absolutely love how this book gives tantalizing excerpts from period tailors manuals. I loved this in particular:

"When the cloth is laid before you, do not omit to have recourse to the plate of the analysis of coats, and pay particular respect to the separated parts, the different modes and turnings that they effect. . .After you have sufficiently digested the plates, and your cloth being before you, mark down the back seam, as the plate directs, adn strike the shape of the back upon the cloth, bearing teh same similarities as the plate, and take care it answers to your measure in every part."  - The Taylor's Complete Guide 1796

I read it and had to read it again a few times before I dimly understood it. But now I'm very relieved to discover that my method of pattern making may not be too far off the mark. I'm very prone to taking diagrams and pattern shapes and making patterns based on those, substituting my own measurements (or those of the person I'm sewing for) to make the shape of the pattern. I never grade up patterns since I'd have to modify it anyway, so why not just start out with a good idea of the shape you are going after and use your own measurements for that? I was also glad to know I may not be absolutely insane and crazy and obsessed for going over, in  my mind, each particular pattern piece required and mentally putting them together to see what the finished garment will look like. Modifying a shape or angle here, adding to a piece there, to get the desired effect. It's so much easier and more practical to do all this mentally than to go through many many mock ups and time to get the right shape. It's probably because I can be abominably lazy, but, well, it is what I do.

So I have been researching breeches and trying to wrap my head around them. I came across this link to a pair of extant breeches c. 1790-1820. I am really appreciative of these photos being put online. They help SO much with knowing how to go about putting David's breeches together. Once I figure out the placket for the fall front (which, to me, seems difficult since the placket only extends the length of the slit front, and not to the underlap portion which is finished off by the underlap pieces being sewn on) I will go ahead and get started.

Anyone have good tips or links for an amatuer breeches maker?

Happy March to you all,


  1. I've made two pairs of breeches in my life, but I can't remember how I did it... It looked tricky before I started, but it all sort of came together when I worked on them. Not much help, I'm afraid.

    The pictures you refered to seemed good to use as references.

  2. Thanks Sarah! It helps to know that someone who also thought the construction seemed tricky was able to get through making these without a problem. Of course, you are awesome and amazing at everything you make!

    I pulled out my 1830's fall front trouser pattern and read through the instructions. I'm not making trousers, but the fall looks to be the same, and the illustrations really help. I think I understand how the placket works now. Then the lining is felled in after that. So. . .on to washing the fabric now. And measuring David later tonight. I just can't decide if I want to do a 1-seam leg construction or 2 seam. . .I think a 2 seam would be easier for pockets, but if David isn't going to use pockets, the 1 seam might be better. WHY does he have to go to work everyday? :P I wish he was here to measure and answer questions whenever I need him for that!

  3. I have made several pairs of costume fall front breeches and trousers and I have a lot of research saved that I would be happy to share with you. Here are a few sites that were helpful to me: ttp://
    Several other sites are no longer active, but I have the information saved for future reference.
    I have so enjoyed your blog, and am amazed at all you accomplish with three little ones to care for!

  4. Sarah,
    You popped into my head immediately this evening as I sat down to look at my new copy of "Early American Life". There are 8 pages dedicated to men's clothing of 1700 and 1800's. They have lots of pics(including pants) and lots of info. I haven't read it yet, I was just so excited to see it and remembered this post of yours that I had to come share it with you. If you can find the magazine, definitely take a look. If you can't find it, I would be happy to photo copy the whole section for you.



Thank you for your lovely thoughts!