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Downloadable Pattern RH940 -- Gentleman's Victorian Inverness Coat

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Will the real Sherlock please stand up!

Look like you favourite movie star in your own Sherlock Holmes Inverness Coat.  You need our downloadable pattern for this beautiful Inverness coat based on an original pattern from the 19th century.  Fits chests 34" through 54" with instructions for larger sizes.

The Inverness Coat is really more of a cape than a coat.  Starting as a single-breasted variation of the Ulster, in the 1870s the cape stopped going all the way around the back and was instead sewn into the armholes in the rear.  In the 1880s, sleeves were deemed unnecessary and the armhole was cut away to accommodate movement.  Thus the flowing outer garment made famous by Sherlock Holmes was born!

All sizes are  included in one pattern. Detailed instructions, period tailoring directions, embellishment suggestions, and historical notes are also included.  Plus you can call our toll-free number with any questions. 

Just print, tape together, and use!

 Downloadable Patterns are not refundable.

Links to your download will arrive via email as soon as you complete payment.  So please make sure we have a correct email address for you and that we're on your spam whitelist.

Suggested Fabrics: coat weight wool

Notions: thread, buttons for front closure

Yardage Requirements: 6 yards at least 60” wide

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.

Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

The History of Victorian Overcoats

Once upon a time, men wore highly-tailored and some might say “flashy” coats over their garments. In the third quarter of the 19th century, all that changed. How exactly did the modern overcoat come into being?

In the early days of the 19th century, it was common to wear an overcoat that was simple longer and slightly larger than your regular coat. Called “Great Coats” or “Frock Top Coats”, these overcoats had the same waist seam and wide skirts as the frock coat, but they were longer and often included shoulder capes and larger collars to protect against the weather.

By the 1830s a casual topcoat emerged on the sartorial scene. Called a pilot coat and later paletot, it was distinguished by a complete lack of a waist seam. Early paletots were shape-less but soon tailors were cutting them in inventive ways to give the garment more shape. Quite close-fitting paletots can be seen in fashion plates of the 1850s. This shaping was accomplished entirely in the side seams as the defining characteristic of the paletot throughout the 19th century remained the lack of waist seam. And the jacket was born.

Many 19th century jackets can trace their origins to the paletot: the Tweedside, the sac, the reefer, the blazer, the Norfolk, the tuxedo. But the one that has survived until today is the lounge jacket. Formed by taking a vertical dart from the underarm to the waistline, the lounge jacket presented a handsome and put-together appearance without the formality of the frock or morning coat. The first lounge jackets were part of suites or suits -- jacket, vest and trousers made from the same fabric, typically a patterned wool like a tweed. The lounge suit was strictly for casual wear and sport. Office wear was still more formal than this.

As the century ended, the frock coat fell out of favour entirely and the morning coat became formal wear. This allowed the lounge suit to become acceptable day dress as it continues to be today.

But surely men weren’t wearing the highly-shaped Frock Top Coat over this moderately fitted lounge suit. No, they weren’t. An overcoat based on the sac or lounge jacket developed in the 1870s.

Named after “A 19th century Earl of Chesterfield” for reasons no one seems to know, the Chesterfield Top Coat echoed the shape of the lounge jacket and made an elegant companion to it. Absent the waist seam and side panels of the Frock Top Coat, the Chesterfield nipped in at the waist in a moderate way by means of an underarm dart in the same fashion as the lounge jacket.

Made in single- and double-breasted versions, the Chesterfield soon became the casual overcoat of choice for men. A velvet collar added a small amount of flash to the garment. Today most men’s dress overcoats are of the Chesterfield type.

Not to be outdone, the Pilot Coat that spawned the unfitted Sac jackets of the mid-19th century also had an analogous overcoat. The Sac Overcoat was simply a longer version of the Sac. Many modern raincoats preserve this shape.

Two areas of the British Empire not known for pleasant weather lend their names to the next overcoats in our study. The Ulster Coat is a sac overcoat gathered by means of a half-belt at the back waist. Its most distinguishing mark is the removable shoulder cape that protects the wearer from the stormy weather of the North Irish coast. Ulsters are typically double-breasted and the shoulder cape does not close in front.

The Inverness Coat or Cape is that garment made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Generally cut along the same lines as the Ulster, the Inverness Coat is not gathered or shaped in any fashion and has no belt. Indeed its shape is more akin to a cape than a coat and it is alternately called an Inverness Cape. It is also usually single-breasted.

Originally the shoulder cape continued around the back, but in the 1870s it began to be sewn into the armholes as shown in the sketch at right. Once this development occurred, the shoulder cape began to take the place of sleeves, so sleeves were no longer needed. The armhole was cut open wider under the shoulder cape and the sleeves dispensed with in the 1880s. Typically the shoulder cape of the Inverness is also much longer than the Ulster -- waist- to hip-length as opposed only a shoulder covering.


Davis, R.I. Men’s Garments 1830-1900. 1994: Players Press, Studio City, CA.

Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.

Shep, R.L. The Great War: Styles and Patterns of the 1910s. 1998: R.L Shep Publications, Fort Bragg, CA.

Thornton, J.P. he Sectional System of Gentleman’s Garment Cutting. 1896: Minister & Co., London.

Waugh, Norah. Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. 1964: Routledge, New York.


For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2011 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History


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