Monday, November 20, 2017

Inside the Navy Wool Habit

As I mentioned in my last post, the habit jacket and waistcoat are patterned from J.P. Ryan's riding habit pattern. Fitting this habit was one of the classes I took at Costume College this year. The jacket is barely changed, with only some modification to the lapels. The waistcoats use the pattern as a base, and are modified from there, for style.

I didn't use the directions in the pattern, just the shapes. The construction is mainly based on the men's garments in Costume Close up. I did my best to understand 18th century tailoring, but as it is new to me, I'm sure I made some mistakes. I won't go into great detail on how I constructed it. Better to reference period sources, than me try to explain what I did and give wrong information.

In short, the jacket and waistcoats are hand sewn, and constructed with a separate lining, which makes it quite different than mantua making. As I understand, this is to allow the linings to be replaced easier when they wore out. I chose fabrics I had on hand to make this. The navy and buff are wool, and the lining is yellow silk left over from a ruffle I cut for my 1902 gown, which I didn't end up adding. This meant a lot of piecing!

The lapels, and jacket and waistcoat fronts, are supported with buckram. 

The jacket and blue waistcoat were adorned in two sizes of death's head buttons. I think I made 43! They're fun and relaxing to make, though they did take a lot of time. And they use soon much thread. Everything was stash except for these buttons. I had to order extra twist twice! I thoroughly misjudged how much they use!

As I mentioned, the linings are made easy to replace. For the waistcoats, the linings were the last thing to go in. The button holes are worked into the wool and buckram, the silk is laid over, and then slashed and stitched under, so the silk can be removed without affecting the buttonhole. I only opened the buttonholes to the top of the stays. There seemed no reason to do the work when the top buttons would not be used. The backs of the waistcoats are linen.

I don't know if original waistcoats had working pockets, but I love me some pockets! So I made all the pockets in the habit functional.

I had made the habit shirt back in 2014. This time, I added ruffles to the center opening and the wrists. The wrists close with little "paste" links.

For neckwear, I made up a stock tie. I used a Kannick's Corner pattern, but had I known that the stock tie is basically just rectangles, the pattern wouldn't have been really necessary. Ah well. The stock tie is made of very fine linen, with a sturdier linen where the buckle fastens. The buckle is from Wm. Booth Draper.

The hat was interesting to figure out. I decided on the style by looking at period prints and paintings. My favorite were these:

Lady Francis Scott and Lady Elliot.
Paul Sandby RA, 1731–1809, British, ca. 1770.
N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA), Yale Center for British Art

Starting of Game. Anonymous, 18th century.
1971.600.22, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Family of Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet (1741–1787).
David Allan (British, Alloa, Scotland 1744–1796 Edinburgh)
2013.253, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I settled on the rounded crown hat because, traditionally, bowler hats were worn for riding as protection for the head. I wanted a sturdy hat that would actually hold up if you were to ride in it. I used a wool hat blank. I would have liked the crown to be taller. The top picture looks like the hat has a pencil roll brim. Today, these types of brims can be seen on some cowboy hats. The pencil roll reinforces and strengthens the brim. You can buy a rolling tool for this, but I just rolled it by hand. I boiled water, dipped the edge of the brim, and then made a small roll with my fingers.

My biggest aha! moment was when I asked myself, how does this stay on your head if you were actually riding? If you look at a lot of riding hats, not the really frilly, fashionable ones, you see two little strings going up each side of the hat from brim to crown. These reminded me of a stampede string. When I go out on a speedy trail ride now, if my hat doesn't have a string, it's not staying on. 

So, I interpreted these strings for this purpose. They tie on top of the crown, lifting the brim into the shape you see in the above pictures. I guess you could let down one or both sets of strings to tie under the chin or back of the head.  In looking at later riding hats, from the 19th century, you see a lot of prints with a string tied under the chin. I used wool tape for this, as I thought ribbon would be too flimsy. 

And lastly, my favorite accessory: shoe buckles! These got to come out since I was just taking a few pictures in my backyard. I'd be too afraid to wear them out to something, they're so beautiful! Many years ago I found these beautiful buckles on eBay. I swoon just looking at them! 

The equipage is also antique. I posted about it previously here

I'm so happy I finally have a riding habit in my collection! Now I just need to find an event to wear it to!


  1. What a fabulous and gorgeous ensemble! It's so beautiful and all the accessories make it extra great!

  2. As the song says, "You're My Inspiration!" I love this outfit and all the things that go with. Ingenious about steaming that hat, and the myriad of buttons is too much to believe! A lot to aspire to!