Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Benjamin's First Tunic

I've been working on getting the kids clothes ready for this living history season and although I was hopeful I wouldn't have to make many new things, well, my kids got tall! (who wouldda thought?) When I made Malachi his clothes and took pictures Benjamin wanted to try on his clothes, too. And that made me very aware of the fact his dress skirts were just a little too short and his bodices just a little too tight. 

Little Rose has also grown tall and she needed new dresses. Passing down Benjamins gowns is a practical and period appropriate solution as they fit her very nicely (hooray for non-gendered childrens clothing no matter the time in history!) That left me having to decide whether to put Benjamin in dresses for another year or to have him go into trousers. Since he is almost four trousers are a reasonable and appropriate clothing option for him.

We looked at various styles for young boys his age. At his age, his clothing options in the 1860's can be divided into 3 basic outfit styles: 

1. A dress

2. A "skeleton suit" that has the top buttoning to trousers all around the waist, and

3. A tunic/overshirt worn loose or belted over trousers. 

I considered Benjamins preferences in his daily life (for instance, he is very independent, having to go to the potty by himself and wanting to dress himself without help) so we ended up going with the third option. He needs a little help with the buttons and buckling his belt but otherwise can dress himself and perform all the activities he needs to do on his own. 

I drafted a loose tunic based on his measurements and inspired by this original cotton tunic from the Met:

The fabric came from an XL mens dress shirt I picked up at Goodwill during a 99 cent sale a few months ago. It's a really high quality woven plaid and the green color looks fantastic on Benjamin! I had *just* enough room on the shirt to cut out the pieces of his tunic with nothing left over. I had to face the front opening with scrap fabric instead of doing a turned facing and had to piece the under-collar but it all worked out in the end. The tunic is very large and roomy now but will fit for a long time, which is the goal!

Benjamin really, really wanted something red on his tunic so I used some cotton cut from a dress shirt that belonged to my Grampie to trim the front opening, hem, collar and sleeves. While the current general opinion is that it is uncommon for "wash" garments to be trimmed with contrasting cotton I liked the look well enough to go with it and it made my little boy quite happy. 

My favorite part of the tunic is the buttons. I got these little antique green glass buttons a while ago and have been waiting for the perfect project to use them on. I used some of them on this tunic and am so happy with how they look! 

His trousers are made of green cotton leftover from Malachi's new trousers and are pleated at the waist and at the legs. They should fit him for a while. 

For these pictures he is wearing his big brothers hat but since then we have made him a new one that has no brim and is smaller all around. Anne's shoes from last year fit him this year and he likes that he can put them on by himself and there are no laces to tie!

Lastly, his belt is plain black leather with a roller buckle. It's actually a blanket-roll strap but who needs to know, right? ;) 


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