Buy our easy Justacorps pattern and make yourself this gorgeous 1680s coat.
Full size paper patterns for Men's Justacorps or Waistcoat for the 1670s-90s with plain or dog-ear cuffs. Upper class and lower class instructions included. Fits chests 34"-54". All sizes included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.
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wool, heavyweight silk
lightweight silk or linen for lining
heavy linen or canvas for interlining
3 yds at least 45" wide
30-150 5/8" buttons for front and vents
7-5/8" buttons for arm closure (optional)
braid and cording to taste (optional)
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
In the middle of the seventeenth century, a strange costume prevailed among fashion addicts. Extremely full breeches adorned with sometime hundreds of yards of ribbon called Rhinegraves or petticoat breeches came into style in the 1650s and spread throughout Germany and the Low Countries. In France they reach their height of fashion, becoming even more ostentatious and being worn with a cropped form of doublet that showed the white shirt at bottom. Upon the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, this style reached England and Charles II can be seen in petticoat breeches in his coronation portrait. It is preserved extant in the Verney Costume housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This outfit dates to 1660 and demonstrates the typical cut of doublet and petticoat breeches at that time.
But this style was not to last. In 1666, Charles II attempted to introduce a costume based on flowing Eastern robes. Some say he was inspired by the clothing of a recent Polish delegation. Others claim his attempt failed completely. Nonetheless, a new silhouette came onto the scene at this time.
The Justacorps is a long, waistless coat that can be thought the progenitor of the 18th century frock coats. As mentioned above, some claim it is based on Eastern robes and brought to Western Europe by Charles II. The French draw our attention to a gentleman in the Gobelin Tapestry wearing a Justacorps over his petticoat breeches in 1660s surrounded by others wearing short doublets. The Danish might point at King Frederick II’s costume dating to 1655 which includes a long coat split up the back. And costume historians will remind us that the Justacorps in the 1660s is not unlike the Soldier’s Coat and Cassocks worn during the English Civil War.
Regardless of the origins of the Justacorps, it was in widespread use by the 1670s and 1680s. The wedding suit of James, Duke of York (soon to be King James II upon Charles II’s death) when he married Mary of Modena in 1673 is listed as accession number T.711:1, 2-1995 in the Victorian and Albert Museum in London. The suit is made from fine brown wool richly embroidered in silver and silver gilt threads, couched outlines, wrapped parchment pieces, and padded areas. Like many Justacorps, the sleeves are 3/4 length and would have shown the full-length waistcoat sleeves. The large “dog-ear” cuffs are faced with reddish orange ribbed silk and silver bobbin lace and embroidered coils. The silk matches the coat lining. It is thought it was worn with a matching red silk waistcoat figured in silver with long fitted sleeves buttoned at the wrists and with cuffs that extended beyond the coat cuffs. It was fashionable for cuffs of a dress coat to match the waistcoat. This could be faked by detachable cuffs made of waistcoat material and attached to a dress coat by hooks and eyes.
The seams of the coat are open from the front hem at center back and sides. The photos show the sides sewn closed and pockets at the side seams. It is not known if this is a later alteration or not. Seam pockets are not usually seen in this era.
The buttons and buttonholes were never used. Surviving records show that all James II suits required 19 dozen (228) buttons for the coat, waistcoat and breeches.
V&A accession number 175-1900 is the wedding suit of Sir Thomas Isham (1657-81) who died of small pox in 1681 a week before his wedding day. This suit consists of coat and breeches of white ribbed silk brocaded with leaves and sprigs in silver gilt thread. The buttonholes are worked in gold thread. The dog-ear cuffs are cut in one piece with the sleeves and turned back to reveal a pink brocade facing. The coat is lined with cream silk.
There are 42 front buttons spaced approximately 1” apart along the 38” long front edge. The side vents carry 15 buttons in 14” and there are 15 back vent buttons along 13½”. 10 pocket buttons adorn the pocket slits, the end ones are on the flap. None of the pocket buttonholes appear to open. The shoulder seams are on the ridge of the shoulder. Sleeves are made in two pieces with inside and outside seams.
The coat was worn with a unique pair of breeches. They were not petticoat breeches per se, but flounces of material were attached to the outer surface of the garment to give an appearance of the use more yardage of cloth. The Justacorps reached low enough to completely cover the breeches so they could barely be glimpsed at the vents.
Most of the Justacorps to survive did so as family heirlooms of the wealthiest people. However the simplicity of cut and construction of the Justacorps dictated that it would not remain purely an upper class garment for long. One of the earliest depictions of the Justacorps is on a “Peasant of the Paris Region” illustrated by J. D. de Saint Jean in the 1660s (shown at left). It is unlikely, however, that a peasant could afford the fashionably full petticoat breeches, lace-edged cravat, and multicoloured silk ribbons that adorn this gentleman’s hat and breeches. This illustration does show a very early date for the use of the Justacorps and we can assume therefore that it was in use already in Paris in the 1660s as other accounts have suggested.
A Milliner by an unknown artist (shown on the first page of these notes) and Bonnart’s “Homme de Qualité” (shown at right) wear the Justacorps in 1678. The Milliner wears beribboned petticoat breeches and fashionable shoulder knots of more ribbons. Bonnart’s Homme seems much less a slave to style. His Justacorps is held closed by only one or two buttons (or only by his belt) and shows a similarly cut waistcoat fully buttoned closed beneath it. He wears his stockings pulled up over the bottoms of his breeches as would become de rigeur in the early 18th century. He also wears a cloak casually balanced on his shoulders, typically the mark of a gentleman.
A Nonconformist Minister is similarly attired in Marcellus Laroon’s The Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life in 1687 (left, next page). This is no surprise since the subject is meant to depict sincerity — a value prized by Nonconformists. His clothing is stylish and expensive and he wears it openly, unlike the religious figures in accompanying illustrations who dress shabbily but are all too devoted to the riches of the material world. This minister shows candor by openly dressing to suit his station.
Moving down the social scale on the right we have the Merry Fiddler also from Laroon’s Cryes. This character made his rounds on May Day, playing tunes to which Milkmaids danced. His hat, shoes, knees, and even fiddle are adorned with ribbons for the occasion. His sleeves are not cuffed as was fashionable, but are instead unbuttoned and worn open to give the illusion of cuffs or turnbacks. A close inspection of the original drawing reveals that for all the Fiddler’s decoration, a few of his buttons are missing, showing him to be suffering the fate of most musicians — you eat when you play.
During the 1640s and 50s, chairs began to be made with cane backs and seats, and by the 1680s chair menders had regular work. Our Chair Mender from the Cryes (at left) wears a 1680s Justacorps with buttoned pocked low on the thighs. His Justacorps is not buttoned and buttons are missing from his side vents. His coat may have rudimentary cuffs with three decorative buttons on them. His buttoned waistcoat sleeves can be seen at his wrist. This is our first truly non-fashionable man wearing a Justacorps.
Another lower class man is the Cryes’ Onion Seller (at right). Selling onions was a poor existence and our seller’s clothing shows this. his coat is missing many buttons and is torn in places. It is buttoned closed, probably for warmth. We do not know if he is wearing a waistcoat. The sleeves have no cuffs but rather button tightly to the wrists. There is nothing but pure functionality depicted in his dress.
Our last man from the Cryes is the Used Clothing Dealer. He does not appear to have kept the finest clothing for himself, however. His Justacorps is torn off at mid-thigh and the buttons are missing below the navel. His sleeves are turned back into cuffs but they are torn and it is difficult to tell if they are true cuffs or just turnbacks. The sleeves of his waistcoat reach his wrists but we cannot see if they are buttoned.
Before we turn from the Justacorps. we have two more instances of wear in an unexpected place — on women. Laroon’s Asparagus and Sealing Wax Sellers both wear men’s Justacorps. The Wax Seller’s (at right) cuffed and buttoned sleeves indicate that she is wearing a man’s Justacorps. The bottom is ragged but the position of her arm makes it difficult to see if she retains the side vents or if she has sewn them closed. No buttons are visible. She has definitely altered the front of the coat to close without buttons. Perhaps it is pinned, a popular closure method of the time period. It does, however, conform to the feminine figure, indicating that alterations have been made.
The Asparagus Seller (below left) does not seem to be doing as well for herself. Her vegetables have gone to seed in her basket (not shown) and her clothing is in tatters. The Justacorps she wears is torn and missing many buttons. It is held on with pins over her chest, but she makes no attempt to draw it around herself. An apron worn under the jacket protects her ragged petticote. Women who sold seasonal vegetables like this lived fairly hand-to-mouth and she probably made do with whatever clothing she could scavenge.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis. Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. 1972: Plays, Boston.
Hart, Avril and Susan North. Fashion in Detail. 1998: Rizzoli International Publications, New York.
Nevinson, J. L. “Men’s Costume in the Isham Collection” In: The Connoisseur 1934, Vol XCIV, pp. 313-320.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
Shesgreen, Sean. The Criers and Hawkers of London. 1990: Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
Waugh, Norah. Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. 1964: Routledge, New York.
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This information © 2006 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History