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Full-size downloadable patterns with complete instructions and historical notes for common man's jacket circa 1680s-1740s based on extant examples and the Admiralty Slop Contract specifications for 1690-1740. Appropriate for Sailors and Lower Class Men of all descriptions Fits chests 34"-54". All sizes included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.
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coat weight wool
linen for lining (optional)
Yardage Requirements: 3 yds at least 45" wide
15-20 - 5/8" brass or thread buttons for front
6-10 - 5/8" brass or thread buttons for sleeve
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Common Man’s and Sailor’s Jacket
In the 1640s, probably in response to the need to cut military-issued jackets more efficiently, fashion took its final step away from the doublet and eliminated the waist seam. This new jacket only buttoned to the level of the old waist seam (just below the bottom of the sternum) and the back was open from the same level down as well. This style paved the way for the long frock coats of the late 17th and 18th centuries. This easy-fitting jacket required much less fabric than its antecedents, making it an economic alternative for clothing issued to soldiers and sailors as well as the choice of lower class people who couldn’t afford more.
The Soldier’s Coat of the English Civil War
Unfortunately for the reenactment community, no extant soldiers’ coats from the English Civil War have come down to us. Equipment orders from the beginning of the Civil War in 1642 and issues to the New Model Army in 1644 provide evidence of how much and what kind of cloth and notions went into the construction of the garments issued to the common soldier. Unfortunately, the construction of the garments was dictated by “the model on display at the Tower” which has not survived.
The most frequent mention of upper body garments in the equipment orders uses the word “coat”. Modernly, we think of a coat as an outergarment that is removed once we are indoors. This was probably also true of the English Civil War era coat, at least in the beginning. As the war progressed and resources became scarce, modifications were necessary. We have already discussed the movement away from attaching the breeches to the upper garment by means of hooks. Now we see an elimination of the doublet and cassock combination and replacement by the coat alone. Of course this was not true in all cases, but certainly the stores stopped issuing as many pieces of clothing as they once did. The coat therefore had to function as an outergarment and an upper body garment at the same time. It had to be supremely functional above all else. And it had to be made from the least amount of fabric possible.
Equipment orders are rather consistent regarding the amount of fabric used to make up a coat. Coats were made of one to one and a third yards of broadcloth (approximately 63” wide) or two yards of kersey (around 36” wide). Broadcloth weighed anywhere from 1.3 to 1.9 lbs per square yard while kerseys weighed about 1.4 per sq. yd.
One might wonder how a coat could be made out of such a scant amount of fabric. Many conjectural constructions have been put forward by other researchers. However, it is better to rely on primary evidence whenever possible.
Not contemporary with the English Civil War but useful in our search for the Common Man's Jacket of the late 17th century is the Gunnister Find. The Gunnister burial was found on 12 May, 1951 in a peat bank on Shetland. Coins found in the clothing give a date of no earlier than 1690. Discovered thirty inches deep in the peat, the find consisted of the body of a man, his 2/2 twill woollen clothing, and pieces of leather and wood objects. It is thought that these are the remains of a traveller who died from exposure and was buried where he was found later in the year.
His garments include a wool coat, wool jacket, wool shirt, wool breeches, knitted gloves, knitted stockings, knitted cap, and bits of leather indicating a belt and shoes. The garment most pertinent to our discussion is his jacket.
The jacket is 29” long including a 1 ¾“ stand collar and 20” across the shoulders with a 39” waist. The side and back seams are vented or left open for the last 6”. The skirts are widened by two small triangular gussets, making the circumference 64”. The front, faced edge of the coat is straight and closed by 12 buttonholes approximately 1 ¼” apart and one on the collar. Four are missing, including the collar button. This must have happened in life since a hole replaces it through which a two-ply thread is knotted as an alternate closure. Another thread is knotted through the seventh buttonhole from the top. It is 10” long and has a loop at its bottom. It’s use is unknown.
The right sleeve measures 17” along the inseam. Both sleeves appear to have been closed by four buttons. The coat is lined except for the sleeves. The lining material is a napped 2/2 twill similar to the outer material. The napped sides face each other in construction, allowing an “air sandwich” which would contribute to warmth.
The most interesting aspect of this jacket is how it was worn. Instead of underneath the longer coat, it was found on the body worn as an outermost layer. Unlike his coat and breeches that are made from similar material and in good condition, the jacket is thicker and more tattered. He also wore neatly knit stockings and gloves. It is unlikely he would cover his lovely clothing with such a raggy mess of a jacket if it were not out of necessity. The measurements of the jacket imply that it was not made for the person who wore it to the grave, but rather was purchased second hand locally. Since it is posited that this man died of exposure, it is not surprising that he first made an attempt to better clothe himself for the Shetland climate.
Also found in the Gunnister burial is a wool shirt. Although the term “shirt” is used, I think it safe to describe this garment as an inner jacket. It has cloth buttons, a stand collar and two-piece sleeves much like the outer jacket. However it was worn tucked into the breeches as shown at left.
The shirt is 35" long and made from two widths of cloth with triangular gussets approximately 15" long and 8 ½ " wide set in at the side seams. The standing collar is ¾ " tall. The shirts opens center front with a 17" faced opening that fastens with 10 cloth buttons (one on the collar). The left sleeve is 16" along the inseam with a 2 ½" hem at the cuff. It closes with three buttons. The sleeves are shaped like jacket sleeves. Unlike the other garments in the Gunnister find, the shirt seams are flat felled. Wear marks at the waist show this to have worn tucked into breeches.
In County Sligo, the body of a middle aged man was found in 1969. Researchers at the time gave a mid-17th century date to the find, but a late 17th century date is more likely. The find consists of a tabby wool coat, jacket, breeches, knitted stockings, garters, and leather shoes. The jacket is pictured on the following page.
It is made of fine tabby wool, firm and felted and 25 ½“ long including a 2 1/3” tall stand collar. The collar is double thickness and saddle stitched with 2-ply wool. The center back and side seams are vented for the last 4.5”. The jacket measures 18” wide across the back. The front opening has a narrow facing and the buttonholes are cut at a slight angle.
The 20” long sleeves are seamed top and bottom and pieced lengthwise. Below the elbows, a 7 2/3” gauntlet-shaped piece is added with a 5/8” seam allowance. It is fastened close to the arm with four cloth buttons sewn 1 ¼“ apart.
Unlike the Gunnister burial, the Tawnamore man’s clothing appears to be a consistent suit of clothes. This jacket is worn under a coat of the Justacorps type popular at the turn of the 18th century. The end of the sleeves of the Justacorps end exactly where the gauntlets of the jacket sleeves begin, indicating that the clothing was made to go together. The size of the jacket also matches that of the coat, implying that both garments were made for the same person. In this context, the jacket might be called a sleeved waistcoat.
A contemporary burial at Quintfall Hill near Wick, Scotland contains a similar jacket worn without a frock coat. The body was wrapped in a plaid and was clothed in an outer jacket, an inner coat, an outer pair of breeches, an inner pair of breeches, and a pair of cloth hose and a detached, oddly-shaped piece of cloth, the purpose of which is not known. All the clothing is brown homespun wool. A leather purse containing nineteen bawbees (Scottish sixpenny pieces) dating to the reigns of Charles II and William and Mary date the outfit to the 1690s.
The outer coat is close fitting to the body with a 2” high stand collar. The skirts are wider than the width of cloth, the extra being supplied by turning a piece of cloth and attaching it at a 90 degree angle at waist level in back. Triangular gussets at the side seams widen it further. The skirts measure about 2 yards. Unlike the Gunnister and Tawnamore jackets, there is no center back seam. The waist is 32”. The sleeves taper at the wrist and are closed with buttons along a 5 ½“ slit. The front closes with 12 buttons spaced equally along 16” with the top buttonhole on the collar. The buttonholes stop at the waist. All the garments are sewn with thread similar to the thread with which the cloth was woven.
The inner coat is similar in cut and material. There is no additional piece added to the skirt of this example, however, and it is consequentially narrower in width. It closed center front with 12 cloth buttons (all of which are now missing). The sleeves have a 6” vent at the outseam and are closed by 4 buttons and buttonholes. There is no center back or side vents and there appear to be no triangular gussets in the side seams either. It has a small stand collar closed by a single button and two-piece sleeves, much like the previous jacket.
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This information © 2006 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History